For the last two years our group-- seven bakeries plus one spent baker-- have been meeting around a table every few months to strategize about linking the farmer with the baker here in the Carolinas. We've sampled varieties of grain from Dr Marshall's Uniform Bread Wheat trials. We've given our feedback. We've worked with two teams of MBA students and four teams of law students-- proving to be quite an educational specimen. We brought in a milling specialist from Kansas and then a baking/flour consultant (also, of course, from Kansas) to work with us bakers. We had a bake sale to raise money. Our project coordinator (the spent baker) has met with growers, wheat breeders, crop specialists, grain and seed cleaners, bakers, and spoken with millers nationwide, as well as distillers, miso makers, brewers, and malters. But how did the eight of us come together in the first place?
Well, seven years ago Steve Bardwell and Gail Lundsford, better known as Wake Robin Farm Breads organized the first ever Asheville Bread Festival inviting all the area bakeries to come out and vend. We came, and so did the customers. And not just a few or a reasonable amount of customers-- the customers came en mass-- hundreds-- my memory sees it as thousands, like a rock concert sized crowd (okay, so i have a colorful memory...) Regardless, they swarmed in, bought all the bread, and we knew then that this would be an annual event.
Gail and Steve also asked us bakers to come together after the fest for an evening meal at Asheville's Market Place restaurant. We were provided a large table on the second floor, a space all to ourselves. We trickled in, one baker at a time, and at first we were all a bit reserved, as each of us was basically the others competition. But then we started talking and conversations flowed on and on, as we realized pretty quickly that we really liked each other AND we were much less like competitor than compatriot. We were all bakers, each of us, committed to this life.
So basically, that's where is all began. And this Saturday marks the 7th Annual Asheville Bread Festival http://www.ashevillebreadfestival.com. Fittingly, proceeds from the bread fest will be pledged toward our kickstarter goal.
And a reminder about our kickstarter-- http://kck.st/dRWAuR (If you have not already done so) please help us make this happen!!