Welcome to Candler, North Carolina, a remote valley community ten miles west of Asheville. Back when wheat was local, Candler boasted thirty stone mills. Now only two remain. Local wheat. Local mill. Local baker. These nested relationships disappeared with the industrialization of our food system, but in many communities across the country local grain producers have returned.
Why the shift? At it’s most basic, people don’t want to choose between wheat or white. They want the most nutritious, most flavorful, most environmentally-friendly food for themselves and their families. On this week’s food list, we’ll meet a cast of characters throughout the United States working toward this goal, reintroducing heritage grains, grains with nutrients, flavor and deep roots in history and culture.
David Bauer of Farm and Sparrow and John McEntire of Peaceful Valley Farm sow landrace wheat, the genetic grandfather of the wheat we know today, but ancient wheats are not the only grains which promote a healthy environment and individual. At Open Oak Farm, for example, the good folks of Adaptive Seeds tell the story of SS791, a heritage wheat adapted only 80 years ago ideal for organic growing conditions. And there’s Wes Jackson. Wes has been domesticating intermediate wheat grass at The Land Institute since the 1970s. Finally, Stephen Jones, a wheat breeder and Director of Washington State University’s Mount Vernon Research Center seeks to find a more self-sufficient, perennial wheat crop that isn’t reliant on chemical fertilizers or excessive watering, but instead is beneficial to local communities.
Perennial Plate introduces us to Doug Hilgendorf of Whole Grain Milling Co. Doug’s a wheat farmer who’s gone against the grain. While most of his neighbors began using industrial methods, Doug switched to organic. Though he farms less acreage than his neighbors, his is a sustainable business.
Grains make some think of gluten intolerance, but that’s a side affect of industrialization. Learn more with the Green Divas.
What does a sustainable crop production like Doug’s look like? Grace Communications takes us on a tour. Sara Fulton-Koerbling, Food Corps volunteer, reveals the pleasures of growing grains with kids, sharing a warming fall recipe alongside her heartwarming story.
Those that grow the wheat add to the terroir of the bread, and so too do those who toil in the kitchen. Together with Southern Foodways Alliance, we meet the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, one of the first groups to plant maize, or corn. Traditional cooking methods for hominy and fry bread tell the story of the Choctaw Indians and provide opportunities for continued cultural growth.
Cooking with the kids is a great tradition, and Chef Ann‘s Apple Date Bars are a sweet treat.
And, in Petaluma, California, the Weber family encourages us to get to know our bakers. Della Fattoria Founder and Weber matriarch, Kathleen Weber knows, “Making bread is like spooning straw into gold: You use very humble ingredients to create something beautiful, nourishing and delicious.”
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