Although, thus far this blog has spoken to the history, ideology, and progress toward regional grain initiatives, and specifically to this NC organic hard wheat initiative linking the farmer and the baker, there has been very little mention of the actual bakeries involved. So, with no further adieu, let me introduce the bakeries:
For the last year, these seven bakeries have met as a group every couple months discussing the sustainability of locally-grown organic wheat, and the benefits of a successful micro milling facility devoted to organic NC grains. Benefits identified: the potential for a beautiful, unique product; security for their most essential ingredient; and the ability to have a working relationship with the grower(s). Their fears: quality, consistency, a bad harvest. They all tried the 2009 NC wheat harvest of two wheat varieties from NC's USDA-ARS wheat breeder, Dr David Marshall, and they were delighted with their baking results. I have watched these bakers come together over the last year, as their enthusiasm for this project has evolved from an idea to something real and tangible, something they could bring back into their bakeries and work with. Their continued commitment to this idea and their growing enthusiasm has been vital to the sustained momentum toward a NC organic bread flour. Especially since the arrival of the mill, the enthusiasm keeps growing.
We hope to begin working with the mill, doing trial runs and bake tests with different grains beginning this Spring, and although this past Fall was one of the wettest on record, and many growers were unable to get into their fields to plant their wheat, our hope is to get enough NC grown hard and soft wheat to really see what this mill can do and see what the bakeries come up with...
In the meanwhile, we are spending the winter working on details not quite as appetizing as grain to flour, flour to dough, dough to hearth... this winter we are looking at numbers. Because we intend to treat NC-grown hard wheat as an agricultural product (and not a commodity), centering our endeavor on the growing consumer demand for local, we have been fortunate to have sparked the interest of UNC Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School and have been assigned a team of MBA students from their Student Teams Achieving Results (STAR) Program. The STAR team is working with us this semester to provide a comprehensive value-systems analysis of organic hard wheat in the state from seed to loaf, determining both what the value of wheat is as it goes through its numerous stages to becoming a loaf of bread (plant, cultivate, harvest, clean, store, mill...) as well as what other potential services and needs exist within the value chain of seed to loaf in NC. Okay, so this doesn't sound quite as enticing as a golden crust and the scent of fresh bread made with NC grown organic wheat... but it is no less important. Our hope is to see that the farmer get the best possible price for his/her grain at an affordable cost to the baker.
Etre bon comme du bon pain. To be as good as good bread.