We are joining local farmers, millers, and bakers to re-establish heritage grains as an essential part of the food produced in our region.
Not so long ago, there were small plots of grain grown throughout our surrounding valleys, and all flour was whole-grain and freshly milled. Today, the superior nutritional benefits and extraordinary flavors of whole grain flour are largely unavailable in the breads most of us consume. Along with our fellow farmers and bakers, we want to change that.
Partnering with local farmers who provide the grain — Front Porch Farm (whose fields are shown above), Mendocino Grain Project, and Foxwhelp Farm — we are milling ancient, heirloom, and landrace grains into nutritious, flavorful, whole-meal flours.
It’s kind of a radical act. According to Michael Pollan, such foodstuff as Wonderbread contains 30 ingredients, most of them unfamiliar to us, some of them derived from petrochemicals. An artisanal loaf, on the other hand, is composed of flour, salt, water, and starter — period.
But we’re reaching back beyond the loaf to the very wheat itself and its transformation into flour. It’s estimated that four companies control 80 percent of U.S. flour production. That flour is milled quickly and hot with steel rollers, which negate flavor, introduce oxygen, and overheat the grain. The resulting white flour has so little nutritional value that it must be fortified to be acceptable for human consumption. But it sure does last a long time.
Grain was once grown all across the U.S.; now, it’s mostly grown in Kansas, which boasts 12 million acres planted. Grain used to be a crop that community gathered around, sharing a common mill, enjoying self-sufficiency. While there were once 24,000 commercial mills across the nation, today there are some 200.
We want to help our customers and community take this basic food back and restore it to good health — on every level. This is why we established our own in-house mill. One of a growing number of stone mills in the U.S., our Osttiroler Getreidemühlen mill is hand-built by the Green family in Austria. Encased in carefully crafted pine wood, the millstone operates at low speed and temperature providing optimum flour quality. Our mill also has a combination of sieves that allows us to sift flours from fine to coarse.
There are literally hundreds of wheat varieties, each with a different flavor profile and best use. We encourage you to taste as many as you can. We purvey:
Bolero: Soft White Winter Wheat
Our all-purpose flour, perfect for cookies, pastries, crackers, roux, and more.
Cristallo: Hard White Winter Wheat
Excellent for breads, flatbreads, crackers, and pastas.
Desert King: Hard Amber Durum
With a rich texture and flavor, this is good for pastas and hot cereal.
Foisy: Soft Spring
Use it in breads, cookies, cakes and pastries, salads, and breakfast cereals.
Marquis: Hard red
A terrific for use in whole wheat bread, crackers, and pasta.
Red Fife: Hard red
Also delicious in whole wheat bread, crackers, pasta.
Great to add to any recipe for enhanced flavor.
As well as having lost the taste of our heritage wheats, we’ve also lost definitions once largely understood.
“Spring” and “Winter” wheat refer to the time of year in which they were planted. Higher in protein, spring wheat is also higher in gluten.
“Hard” and “Soft” wheat distinctions also matter to the baker. Hard wheat is typically spring wheat, with those higher protein and gluten levels that lend themselves to yeasted products like chewy breads. Soft wheat is better suited to pastry products like cakes and cookies, muffins and biscuits.
In addition to wheat, we grind corn for flour, meal, and polenta. You’ll find our bagged flours in the reach-in cooler where they’re kept refrigerated for optimum freshness. We’re happy to take special orders for larger quantities.
Once you start working with properly milled heritage grains, it’s unlikely that you’ll go back to that airy white stuff stocked with petrochemicals.
Dedicated to a diverse, resilient food system, we aim to spark a revival of grain production by:
- Contracting with local farms to grow wheat
- Milling grain in-house
- Offering café and larder (take-out) dishes made with whole grains
- Selling freshly-milled grain in bulk
- Offering hand mills for home use
- Partnering with Mendocino Grain Project as their “Grain Share” pick-up location
The best way to get a movement going is to swell its ranks with smart people. Won’t you join us?