Monday, March 31, 2014

And another post!!

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you already know a good bit of our backstory-- that Carolina Ground Flour Mill (and it's predecessor, the North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project) was very much a response to the fact the we suddenly had bread wheat varieties that could be grown in the Southeast. Dr David Marshall of the USDA-ARS based in Raleigh, began the Uniform Bread Wheat Trials back in the early 2000s and by 2008, the first varieties of bread wheats were being released, exhibiting strong disease package and yield in the field, and good performance in the bakery (see post). Dr Marshall is a public breeder and the Uniform Bread Wheat trials is a public breeding project. In a world of agribusiness where private breeds have become the norm-- GMOs taking this to a whole other level-- the ability to work with a public breeder, old school breeding (no GMOs), to launch a flour mill, and begin connecting farmer with baker-- existing outside the global commodities market/ finding real and sustainable pricing-- is a pretty extraordinary thing. Because of this mill and other similar efforts nationwide, bakeries are changing/expanding their buying practices. For us, the push to launch a regional flour mill came from our bakeries here in the Carolinas, and our story continues to unfold. The bakers have had great results with our flours. Extraordinary looking (and tasting) breads have been produced as a result of this mill (AND our growers and the fine work of our bakeries). 

But what about pastry wheat?  

North Carolina grows more soft wheat (soft wheat is pastry wheat; hard wheat is bread wheat) than any other Southern state. Most of it lands at the grain elevator, blended into obscurity, and from there, the majority heads to the feed mill. What is traditionally grown in the Carolinas is a soft RED wheat. 

We are a food grade market interested in variety, flavor profile, and performance (in the bakery). We stone grind, and so even our most sifted flours are relatively dark in color. Some months back I asked Dr Marshall about soft WHITE wheats-- lacking the tannin (and resulting bitterness) of red wheats, and he encouraged me to call Dr Paul Murphy, a soft wheat breeder at NCSU (another public breeder).  And bingo--Dr Murphy did produce a variety of soft white wheat but he said there was no market for it. I told him WE ARE A MARKET. He sent me a sample of which I shared with Riverbend Malt House. We were both satisfied, so Dr Murphy sent the 40lbs of seed he had to the Rocky Mount research station to be grown out as foundation seed. We convinced Dr Daryl Bowman of NC Foundation Seed to not spray down the seed with Storicide post harvest so we could get the seed in the hands of an organic grower. If all goes well with harvest, Looking Back Farms in Tyner, NC will get the foundation seed of this soft white wheat come June, and plant 14 acres to produce a double certified seed-- that is, certified seed that is also certified organic-- this will be a seed source for 2015 planting season. 

I was asked by Dr Murphy if we want this to be a private breed or public breed. I said definitely a public breed. It's not just about the market-- Carolina Ground-- but about the growers having various markets and that various markets decide to buy from our growers instead of importing from the Midwest.  

And so from that simple loaf of bread and our intention to close the gap between farmer, miller, and baker, we now have this. We will have expanded seed varieties that grow well in the Southeast and work well in a food grade application-- as bread, beer, spirits, miso, a pilaf... They have offered to allow us to name the variety too, so if anyone has a great idea, send it my way: 

Once last thing-- we-- Carolina Ground-- are having a fundraising event dinner Saturday, April 12th at All Souls Pizza. This event is partly to raise the funds to pay for the foundation seed (that soft white wheat with no name (yet)) . Should be a great event. Click on the pig for more info and to buy tickets!! Please come.

from the ground up,

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