Naga Bakehouse (www.nagabakehouse.com) is a small village bakery perched on a rock ledge in Vermont. Our savory whole grain artisan breads are baked in a wood-fired oven for folks who care about good food. Our rustic loaves are naturally leavened, hand-shaped and made from scratch with local grains and organic ingredients. We use a wood-fired oven to generate a special blend of radiant heat that creates a rustic, crackly crust, moist honey-combed centers and savory crumb. Find us in Vermont at Farmers’ Markets and Festivals statewide.
Happily, the Localvore Movement is furiously gaining speed and popularity inVermont and across the country. Everywhere casual conversations include references to home gardens, putting food up, better food in schools and institutions, supporting your local Farmers’ Market and eating seasonally. We need several new definitions to be added to our dictionaries!
At Naga Bakehouse we already make a huge effort to source many of our baking ingredients from regional farmers or to grow many of them at our Bakehouse. We use these ingredients in the many wood-fired, naturally leavened breads that we bake. We’ve done this for seven years. It is also they way we eat at home. We grow or purchase local vegetables such as onions, garlic, kale, spinach, chard and tomatoes, basil and other herbs, local fruits and berries, sunflowers and many Artisan cheeses. One challenge we face, however, has been sourcing local grains; since most wheat is grown in the mid-west.
With persistence and hard work, we purchase approximately 30,000 pounds of local grains per year, including wheat, rye and cornmeal from local growers. A large percentage of these grains come from a 100 mile radius. We also grow our own grains and are currently trialing several varieties from all around the world. Those varieties that are compatible with our southern Vermont growing conditions will be grown out and will be fit into our crop rotation.
At last count, there are just a handful of growers in the state that grow grains, but definitely a burgeoning interest Researchers from UVM Extension, working in partnership with several Vermont farmers and bakers have formed a fledgling organization called the Northern Grain Growers Association (NGGA) whose mission is “to encourage and support the production, processing and marketing of grains in Vermont and the surrounding areas”. We are honored to sit on the Board and are excited about the interest in local grains we are seeing from farmers, millers, bakers and local eaters. For more information go to www.northerngraingrowers.org.
NGGA promotes grain growing in the Northeast through it’s newsletter, field visits, workshops and a web page. Dr. Heather Darby, an agronomist from UVM Extension has been organizing these workshops and farm field days on grain production throughout the state.
It is interesting to note that Vermont was once known for its wheat production. In the mid – 1800s, approximately 40,000 acres of wheat were
in production from the Champlain Valley through Orleans County. In fact, at that time, the country’s premier wheat breeder, Dr. Cyrus Pringle, resided at UVM. Dr. Pringle developed three varieties of wheat, each of which were planted this spring by us at Naga Bakehouse . These heirloom growing trials will test various wheat seeds to see which varieties grow best in Vermont’s tricky climate. Our hope is to grow out varieties that are hearty enough to thrive in the cold, resist common diseases, and produces delicious flour with the right gluten content for baking. Twelve thousand years ago, ancient farmers began to save wild wheat seed, selecting the landrace wheats that nourished earlier civilizations. Wheat has been the staple food crop of humans for millennia. Discerning artisan bakers in Europe prefer the heritage wheats of their villages. However modern wheats are bred for uniformity and high yield. Nutrition and flavor are forgotten. Today the most delicious, higher nutrition wheats that are best adapted to organic systems are on the verge of extinction.
Naga Bakehouse is also working with the Heritage Wheat Conservancy to restore ancient wheat and bread traditions. We are partnering with the ‘Northeast Organic Wheat Project’ , a consortium of local teams of farmers and bakers in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts and Maine, who are working to restore rare, heritage wheats and hosting field days at demonstration farms in each state. The “Northeast Organic Wheat Project” invites farmers, gardeners, Artisan bakers’ and food co-ops to grow and evaluate heritage and modern wheats, conduct baking tests for flavor, nutrition and baking quality and to host beautiful displays of wheat sheaves, all steps to help restore our heritage of wheat and community bread traditions.
For more information, please visit www.nagabakehouse.com or write to us the old-fashioned way at P.O. Box 1041 Middletown Springs, VT 05757