Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Bazaar-- Noon to 4pm tomorrow on UNCA campus

Come look for our flour tomorrow at the Holiday Bazaar (hosted by the North Asheville Tailgate market) on the UNCA campus from noon-4pm.
Also, we are taking orders at the bazaar for larger-- 5#, 10#, and 25# -- sizes to be delivered at the following week's bazaar. Come get your local flour for holiday baking!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Carolina Ground flour available for sale to the public!

Carolina Ground flour will be available for sale to the public at the 10th annual Holiday Bazaar, Saturday Dec 1, 8, 15, & 22, on the UNCA campus from Noon-4

If your following this blog, you likely realize that closing the distance between the farmer and baker is a key piece to the re-localization of a sustainable foods system. It took us over three years of work, but we finally launched Carolina Ground, our micro milling facility linking Carolina grain growers with Carolina bakers. And here at Carolina Ground, we are not only closing the gap between farmer and baker (since most bread grain/flour is shipped in from a good 1000 miles away), but we're doing so in the spirit of artisan food craft. Carolina Ground employs a process known as ‘cold milling’ to produce intact flours-- bread, pastry and rye flour, whole grain and sifted-- that are both nutrient rich and flavor forward

We've been selling our flour to Carolina bakeries since April, but getting our product out to you, the general public, has not really been happening until now...or at least right now, this month, for the holiday season. [Drum roll please....] 

Carolina Ground flours will be available for sale to the public at the 10th annual Holiday Bazaar, (hosted by the North Asheville Market) on the UNCA campus, starting this Saturday, December 1, from noon-4, and continuing every Saturday throughout the month of December heading up to Xmas: Dec 1, 8, 15, & 22, from noon-4.

Manning the table at the Bazaar is our very own Tara Jensen (our newest hire!), who also owns and operates Smoke Signals Bakery  producing beautiful laminate dough pastries and naturally leavened breads made with Carolina Ground flour! She will be selling her lovely baked goods alongside our flour. (And I've heard rumors that in another week or two the Riverbend Malt House may be joining us at our table with some home brew kits for sale.)

from the ground up,

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Of Carolina ground

A month since my last post...  I was readying myself for a trip to the Triangle to promote our flour, was reflecting deeply on the challenges we face with this mill, and that very process of blogging convinced me to head into the bakery (before heading to the Triangle). I exchanged coveralls and respirator (miller's garb) for apron and headscarf (the baker!), fed cultures, fired oven, and mixed dough. Working with new crop TAM 303, a hard red winter wheat grown in Moore county by Billy Carter, blended with Appalachian White, a hard white winter wheat grown in Mt Ulla by Buddy Hofner, I tested two flours: whole wheat and Type 80 (20 parts sifted out)-- so this was a blend of two different wheats-- a red wheat and a white wheat-- milled whole grain (whole wheat), and sifted. With the whole wheat I made pita, hearth loaves, and pan loaves. With our Type 80, I made focaccia, hearth loaves, and pan loaves. I had not had my hands in dough for a couple years, so I was a bit nervous as to how this would play out, but the doughs came together well, felt pliant and easy to work with. I realize that in my bakery I have the benefit of working with long slow ferments, mixing by hand, and being the sole baker. These flours responded well to my techniques. But I am reminded of the Rumi quote which I have always associated with baking: There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth. No two bakeries are alike.  Their techniques vary from straight doughs (yeasted), to sponge with a pinch of yeast, to solely natural leavenings. And within each technique, there are a variety of ways to get there. And most of the bakeries have production teams, not sole bakers. What I have heard from the bakers is that in their production cycle, the NC flours display certain characteristics unique to these flours. [I intend to interview a couple bakers in future posts to get their words, verbatim.] But when tended to properly, the results have been wonderful. The rye flour seems to be an easy win for all the bakeries, although the color is darker than many are used to, the flavor is extraordinary. And really, this uniqueness that we are discovering, is this not the very definition of the term terrior?  That unique quality conveying the flavor and texture of place, of Carolina ground.

So one of the exciting developments that resulted from my trip to the Triangle was an order for 2000lb of flour (whole wheat and rye) that went out to La Farm Bakery in Cary. If you reside in the Triangle and would like to taste the terrior of NC in a well crafted loaf of bread, head to the NC State Fair where La Farm is set up within the North Carolina Education Building through Sunday.

from the ground up,

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We just received our first truckload of 2012 Wrens Abruzzi Rye (from grower Billy Carter/ Moore Co) and Turkey Red and NuEast wheat  (from growers father/son duo, Kenny and Ben Haines/ Chowan Co). We’ve almost emptied our last totes of 2011 rye and hard red winter wheat, so watching our mill room fill back up feels like the natural ebb and flow of this mill, reflective of the seasons. Planting is just a couple months away. We  must assess our acreage and variety needs for 2013. 

One of the many challenges we face with this project is that as a pioneering effort, we have no wave to ride or example to follow. Back when I was a baker, it seemed all I had to do was bake the best bread out there, and the business would succeed. Everyone eats bread. Bread sells. Selling flour is not quite that simple. Comparing our flour to that of the milling industry is like comparing apples to peaches, in that both are fruit, both are round, but they are different species all together. Our wholegrain flours are extraordinary. The 48 inches that span our stones create a fine flour with a uniform consistency. And yet, the brunt of what most bakeries use is not whole grain flour. I tell the bakers, when offering samples of our sifted flour-- a stone ground flour whose germ is crushed into the endosperm, spreading its oils, nutrients, and flavor, with just the larger bran sifted out-- that this beige flour is the flour that those recipes that call for both whole wheat and white flour are trying to recreate. We chose stone because we saw no better way to showcase these regionally produced grains than cold milling between stone-- preserving both nutrients and flavor, and conveying a taste of our region. We are a  tradition of a different time and a different place, so finding our place here and now is part of the work necessary in rebuilding a unique sustainable local food system. 

The other day, a lead baker at one of the larger bakeries we are working with pulled me and Stewart (our new hire/miller-in-training) aside to show us the hamburger buns he’d made with our Type 55 bread flour (45 parts sifted out). Said baker was elated. The quality of this flour had him. He was able to use a half ounce less dough in each bun and achieve the same size through loft. The flavor was pronounced. His eyes sparkled as he described working with the dough made from this flour. He said, now this is quality. And yet this flour-- the more refined flour we are producing-- is a hard stretch in terms of price point for a larger bakery. And so sadly he only gets to play with the samples I offer up to him for experimentation. We, as a craft mill, are hard pressed to compete with the speed and efficiency of the milling industry’s roller milling technology. But we are not trying to be that ‘white flour.’  We are something all together different. We have opted for quality above quantity, and still, we face the challenge of defining ourselves, finding our niche, and simply moving product. 

Next week I travel to the triangle region to meet with various bakeries that have shown interest in supporting NC grain growers.You readers out there from the triangle region, look out of our ‘made with Carolina Ground Flour’ signage we hope to be placing in various bakeries (and restaurants) in the triangle region. And if you don’t see our brand, ask your baker to support this effort. 

From the ground up,
jennifer lapidus

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Our first hire!

It's been an entire month (plus) since my last post. A few posts ago I vowed to post more often, since I'm finally milling and regular updates seemed the stand up thing to do-- more pictures of bread, reports from the bakers, a bird-eye view of grain to flour-- but carving out the time to tell the story has not been so easy, and the story has not been that simple.
A lot has happened over the last month. At the top of the list is the exciting news that Carolina Ground pulled off its first hire-- Stewart Wedthoff. A journeyman electrician and former employee of the  Square D plant (we are located in the former Square D plant), Stewart offers mechanical insights as well as a desire to learn the craft of milling.
Up to this point it has just been me (other than the council I continue to seek from bakers, farmers, board members, investors, and CFSA staff) running this dog and pony show-- grain to flour, bookkeeping, marketing, outreach, and a goodly amount more. Hiring Stewart has meant Carolina Ground can grow, and not simply in sales, but in substance. Right now we are building our foundation-- we are the bones-- and with our weekly friday sit down meetings we bring to the table not just maintenance schedules, procedural policy, and efficiency in production-- since at this point we are heavily relying on manpower-- but we also recognize that this level of production has enabled us to remain quite intimate with our product. We acknowledge the value of this (or looked at from the other direction-- what do we lose when we become more mechanized?) And of course this begs the bigger question of defining ourselves-- as industry, manufacturing of a wholly different sort, this new wave a manufacturing where quality pulls us forward. The numbers, spreadsheets, actuals and projections make a very clear case for quantity over quality, and as a responsible business person, I cannot discount the value of a viable business. And so, what does this new model look like? Efficiency is key. No argument there.  The larger mills bring in 6 or 9 or lord knows how many truckloads of grain a day to be industrially processed into flour-- highly mechanized, highly efficient, albeit lacking soul or substance. As a burgeoning movement in regional grain production and processing, there are not too many of us out there to compare to. Of the few, I have observed the range from close to a million dollar investment in infrastructure to a few thousand dollars and a case of duct tape. We see ourselves as somewhere in the middle. And so this part of our story is just beginning-- with a focused effort, a thin budget, and Stewart's mechanical intelligence-- we seek to attain a respectable level of efficiency while continuing to preserve the quality that must be the signature of this mill.
There's a lot more to say about the last month of Carolina Ground, but I am told to keep blog posts short-- that people don't like to read. Though I am not sure I believe that or want to contribute to this trend, I do need to get off this computer and call our farmer. We are waiting on lab test results, crossing out fingers that though the yields were low (more on that in a later post), the quality will be good.
But one last a very, very important piece I need to report. Going back to how we pulled off this first hire-- we are excited to report that the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC) has award CFSA $25,855 grant for staff support for Carolina Ground. This investment is meant to provide us with the bridge of support as the mill becomes self-sustaining. This funding comes from the foundation's Food and Farming Initiative. Carolina Ground meets several of the goals of CFWNC's Food and Farming Initiative, including revitalizing a NC-based grain economy, supporting the profitability of bakeries and artisan bakers, encouraging the development of a food system that values local food and offers employment opportunities, and promoting and supporting an emerging community-based project.
We are so pleased to be partnering with the Community Foundation of WNC on this project and look forward to achieving our mutual goals.

From the ground up,
Jennifer Lapidus

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Billy Carter's wheat has been cut. Fred Miller is harvesting now. And here's a picture (above) of our turkey wheat which Looking Back is planning to harvest by early next week (barring weather). Below is a picture of that wheat shortly after it was sown. I took the picture (below) when I was visiting the Haines in December. Kenny just sent me the above shot of what it looks like six months later.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2012 wheat harvest begins

2012 wheat harvest has begun. Grower, Kenny Haines informed me yesterday that Billy Carter of Carter Farms in the Sandhills of NC began cutting his TAM 303 this past weekend. TAM 303, though a sad moniker for this regionally adapted hard red winter (bread) wheat (one of USDA-ARS wheat breeder Dr David Marshall’s varieties), was the first of the wheats that our bakers tried when the prospect of working with NC grown grains first surfaced. It’s been over three years since that initial meeting when us bakers pulled chairs into a circle and began discussing the concept of working directly with NC growers. Outside the confines of our bakeries, where fermentation times, hydration, and dough performance rule,  we could entertain the idea-- the possibility-- of working with bread flour grown in the Carolinas. That first meeting took place just after the profound spike in the price of wheat-- later coined the 2008 Wheat Crisis-- which was a big impetus for us,  pushing us to consider stepping outside our comfort zone and take a good long look at our reliance on commodity flours. Even still, it was not until we actually tried the flour made with NC-grown TAM 303 that the momentum for this project gained ground. And now here we are, this many years later, actually doing it. 
Kenny said our Turkey wheat (a heritage variety) and NuEast (another of Dr Marshall’s regionally adapted modern varieties) are just turning from green to a golden hue. Once harvested, samples of the grain will be tested for protein, falling numbers (a test that indicates if there is any level of sprout damage), micotoxins, moisture, and test weight. Joe Lindley, of Lindley Mills in Graham, NC, has offered to do thorough lab testing on the grain. I want to give a big thank you to Joe for this offer, as he continues to show his commitment to NC growers and bakers alike. He is producing an NC-grown TAM 303 roller-milled flour, a foundational flour which is the perfect compliment to the stone ground flours Carolina Ground is turning out. We certainly have it good here in the Carolinas.
from the ground up,
Jennifer Lapidus

Friday, April 13, 2012

We're Milling!

bread from Annies Bakery made with our whole wheat Turkey wheat
the mill in action
samples headed for area restaurants
aren't they cute! baby mills!!Billy Carter farm in Eagle Springs, NC. Our rye (Wrens Abruzzi) in the foreground and TAM 303 wheat in the background.

Things take place instantaneously, but there's a long process to be gone through first.
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

We are actually making flour. Yes, we are milling! Flat Rock Village Bakery, West End Bakery, and Annies Bakery are our first bakery customers, and Over Easy Cafe is our first restaurant. In fact, Over Easy is featuring a pancake this month using our flour (and I hear they're selling like hot cakes!)
It's amazing how simple it is to take grain and mill it into flour. When we conceived of this idea-- a mill that could connect bakers with farmers in the Carolinas-- it seemed like such an obvious thing to do. Why was no one else already doing this? But of course pretty quickly I discover all of the obvious reasons why. It's not nearly as simple as apples to apple sauce, and yet once we got there-- clean grain that meets the parameters of a baker-- grain to flour is so simple.
I think it worth mentioning-- since it took us from mid-February to mid-March to simply get the mill mechanics operative-- that some of the challenges we were presented with in launching this mill had to do with the lack of manufacturing in this country and the deficiency that this has caused in terms of skill level in our population. It was really difficult for us to find someone who could help us with our motor-- someone who understood the mechanics of a large (15 hp) motor and the frequency and the Rpms and how all of this interacts and relates to the speed of the grind (because the mill originally had a European motor on it). So now, we not only have the mill running-- which means we are rebuilding local manufacturing-- but we have also honed the skills of those around us, and (I think/hope) engaged their interest.
Anyways, I am going to attempt to post more-- to let you all know how this unfolds. Not just grain to flour, but flour to bread and pancakes and however else our amazing bakers and restauranteurs use our flour.
from the ground up,

Friday, March 9, 2012

8th Annual Asheville Artisan Bread Festival

So we are finally at the place where we expected to be (months and months ago)-- which is at the interesting realm of problem solving/tweaking that is specific to this kind of start up-- how to get the machinery running properly, determining the most efficient and effective flow, and for us right now-- how to keep flour dust from flying in our faces-- literally. But we’re at least thankful that we are actually able to make the flour dust that is flying in our face. [The reason for the dust-in-face-situation seems to have something to do with changing over from European motor to US motor and from European 50Hz frequency to US 60Hz frequency and how this boils down to RMPS which seem to be resulting in a 44% stronger ventilating current running through the machine. Ja´n our technical advisor at Osttiroler (the make of our mill) in Austria explains, the wind pulls the flour out from between the stones, cools the flour and throws the flour out, but because of our increased ventilating current, it is throwing the flour with increased velocity. The upside is that this is a solvable problem void of personality, politics, or red tape.]

While we are working on getting the kinks out of the system, bakers are gearing up for the 8th Annual Asheville Artisan Bread Festival which will take place on Saturday, March 24th. The theme of this year's festival is “Local Grain, Local Flour, and Local Bread.” Thom Leonard, a professional baker for more than 35 years, and currently a consultant for Heartland Mills, will be presenting workshops on milling and baking with local wheat. Professor Stephen Jones, a world-renowned wheat geneticist and breeder from Washington State University, will be lecturing on the local-grain movement and recent results in the breeding of organic grain and a perennial wheat.

In addition to Leonard and Jones, we will be presenting at the mill, and sharing the stage with Sharon Burns-Leader of Bread Alone Bakery, a highly esteemed bakery in New York that has made a strong commitment to using local NY-grown flour. Dr Jones will also join in the conversation with tales of folks nationwide reclaiming their local grain economy.

For more info:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Main Street

I was in Pittsboro a couple days ago for a CFSA staff meeting. During our meeting, I wrote the words, “slow money” on my hand to remind me to contact our slow money lender as soon as I returned to Asheville to give her an update on the mill. We closed our meeting with a group lunch at Angelina’s Kitchen, The food was amazing—fresh, local, flavorful-- and the atmosphere felt more like a community center than a restaurant. During lunch I looked down at the words on my hand and then remembered reading about Angelina’s Kitchen in the Abundance Foundation’s website, This place had received one of NC Slow Money’s first loans. I mentioned this to our group and Angelina, who happened to be sitting one table away doing paperwork, chimed in. She said that getting a slow money loan was so much more than just getting a loan. It was building community. Her small business loan came from real people. Her lenders chose to invest in her business because she adds something to this community—and so everyone benefits. She and her husband have their business; Pittsboro gets this wonderful restaurant; and she is supporting local growers, buying their produce, meat, cheese, and even flour. And she dishes up the most delectable food.

When I told her that our mill, Carolina Ground, L3C had recently received the first Western NC Slow Money loan, she lit up. With brimming enthusiasm she told us how she had gotten rye flour that had been grown by Bobby Tucker and milled by baker Abraham Palmer of Box Turtle Bakery, And then she disappeared, swiftly reappearing with slices of apple cake made with this flour for all of us to taste. Delicious.

Yesterday I called our lender. I told her we had hoped to be milling by now, but had hit an obstacle having to do with electrical, though we’re addressing it and hope to be milling soon enough. We had planned on beginning the first payment on our slow money loan this month, as it is the first of the year. I told her I still wanted to go ahead and make our first payment. She thanked me for calling. She said it meant so much to her that I was keeping her abreast of our progress. And she said she was not attached to beginning payment in January-- that getting this mill off the ground is what matters most right now.

This is what it looks like when we move our money from Wall Street to Main Street.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

a plea for an angelic electrical engineer...

We, of course, expected to at least be milling test batches of flour by now, but alas, we have hit an obstacle (after clearing a good many along the way)... something to do with amperage and voltage...the terminology continues to ring in my ears even when I sleep-- 480/600; 110/220; 208; three- phase; step down; transformer; sub-panel; bus duct..on and on... and all I really want to hear is the simple, slow rotation of our mill...
What we need-- what would be AMAZINGLY helpful-- is if there were an electrical engineer out there that would be willing to volunteer to meet with us and offer his/her opinion as to the best route to take to get the proper juice to power our mill. For the sake of good and local bread, rustic pastries, and even NC-grown malt balls, please if you are out there, email me. A couple years back a woman reached out and said if we needed help, her husband is an electrical engineer. I have scanned through both of my notebooks and cannot find her contact info. If you are out there, please contact me.

feeling ground to a pulp,