Ground Breaking Bread Baking

March 19, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged Grains

In late-February, when Greenmarket farmers could still claim they were in ‘winter hibernation,’ Thor Oeschner and Erik Smith of Farmer Ground Flour and Cayuga Pure Organics snuck away from their farms in the Finger Lakes to make an appearance at the Brooklyn Kitchen. Each presented a series of slides that documented the process that takes place from seed to market to bring local grain and flour down to sell to city customers. It wasn’t so many years ago that they started selling their products at Greenmarket to begin with, and now their whole grains like freekeh and emmer appear on the menu at places like the John Dory Oyster Bar and have graced the airwaves on National Public Radio. With a burgeoning market for their products in the city, their business has been able to expand, meaning new equipment, new varieties in the field and luckily for us, many new loaves of bread around town. Earlier this week, 75 bread baking enthusiasts from around the city made their way out of the woodwork (okay, their pint sized city kitchens) to share what they’ve been concocting with local flour. Into the Home Baker’s Meet-up streamed carefully wrapped loaves of hard red wheat sourdough, whole wheat levain, honey whole wheat, Irish soda bread, sourdough topped with flax, nigella sesame, celery and mustard seeds, and thin sheets of einkorn flatbread, among many, many others. Bakers eagerly shared recipes and ideas: how to use fermented apple peels to make sourdough starter, or how to make a rye and pickle loaf (again, nice and sour). People talked about experimenting with the local flour available at farmstands like Oak Grove Plantation, Cayuga Pure Organics and Wild Hive Bakery to make monkey bread and pizza dough. Professional bakers Sharon Leader of Bread Alone, Terrence Geary of Orwasher’s and Peter Endriss of Runner and Stone talked to the group about what the introduction of local flour to the market over the last few years has meant to their respective businesses. They have adjusted long-standing recipes and invented new ones based on the products that are now available. And they’re literally buying tons. Turning from the commodity hard wheat crop from big mills in the Midwest, these bakers have figured out how to work with varieties that grow well in our immediate surroundings like spelt, einkorn, buckwheat and triticale while still meeting customers’ expectations for superior taste and quality, and at the same time introducing them to products they have never tasted before. Gable Erenzo of Tuthilltown Spirits has embraced regional grain in liquid form: we love him for his excellent Hudson Baby Bourbon, but in the distillery’s reserve he’s got trial bottles of spirits made of triticale and whatever else he can get his hands on. We can’t wait to taste what makes it to the top shelf. Visit our collection of recipes < http://www.grownyc.org> for inspiration to start baking on your own with local grains!

The Northeast Grainshed: 2011 Season in Review – Part 2: Processing and Infrastructure

March 15, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged Grains

While grain farmers in the Northeast grappled with rainy weather and growing demand for regional grains in 2011, off the farm, millers and processors worked to keep up with the expanding popularity of locally-produced flours, malts, and other products throughout this past year. This meant both challenges and exciting new additions to the region’s grain infrastructure. The relative newness of the small-scale grain system in the Northeast presents some challenges to scaling up. According to Glenda Neff of the Farm to Bakery project, almost all of the mills currently processing locally-grown grains are fairly new, small, stone mills. Few have the equipment to test for grain quality, so they have to send out samples to labs to check such characteristics as protein level and falling rate. In addition, access to equipment for post-harvest cleaning is limited; an increasing number of small-scale mills are considering how to add this to their set up. Another challenge to infrastructure is the lack of additional processing equipment for those grains needing specialized processing, like oats. Cut oats need to be steamed and processed, so that the oils in them don’t go rancid. Currently, the set up to do this on a regional scale is largely lacking. Likewise, de-hulling equipment for grains like spelt and emmer is available in only a few locations throughout the region. Only two mills have de-hulling equipment, and process grains that need the hulls removed as a service for other farmers and millers in the region. Wild Hive Farm and Mill is one such processor hoping to provide this service. The need for growth in infrastructure creates an opportunity for scaling up, and 2011 marked a year of significant growth for the Northeast grainshed. According to miller Gregory Mol, for example, over the past six months Farmer Ground Flour has been purchasing additional equipment to expand its grinding capacity from 300 pounds per hour to an eventual 800 pounds per hour. Mol, who describes milling as a process of grinding and sifting, is adding a bigger stone mill and a couple more sifters to his facility. Some of the equipment was purchased used from the old Hodgson Mill facility, a national-scale processer of whole grain and organic products. Mol expects that, once the equipment is fully installed, his increased production capacity will lead to an eventual need for more storage space. Wild Hive Farm and Mill also greatly expanded its processing capacity in 2011. Owner Don Lewis previously operated one 20-inch mill, and in 2011 added a 30-inch mill and a 16-inch mill. This meant he more than doubled his capacity. The addition of the smaller mill also means he can do more specialized orders for smaller clients. Like Farmer Ground Flour, Wild Hive’s “new” equipment was actually purchased used; according to Lewis, used equipment is preferable, since factory standards are low so new equipment often needs significant work to get it functioning properly. Wild Hive Farm and Mill expects to continue expanding in 2012, opening to the public for tours and educational programming. Valley Malt is another processor who made great strides in scaling up in 2011. As one of only a handful of micro-malting facilities in North America, Valley Malt is a pioneer in grain processing in the Northeast. The business started in 2010 when owner Andrea Stanley and her husband, Christian, started looking into establishing their own micro-brewery using all local ingredients. What they quickly discovered was that locally-grown grains would need to be malted before brewing, and the closest malt-house—in Wisconsin—required a minimum order of 30 tons of grain. The Stanleys decided this was a gap that needed filling, and decided to become the first small-scale malt house in the Northeast. This past year, Valley Malt made some exciting additions to their business. One highlight is their Brewers Supported Agriculture program. Eight breweries bought shares of the field where Valley Malt’s barley is grown (the company works extremely closely with farmers like Klaus Martens to produce food-quality barley with appropriate characteristics for malting), and then received distributions of malt throughout the season. One participating brewer commented that adding Valley Malt’s product to their mash caused an immediate reaction to their senses. The aromas produced by the local malt were so distinct and delicious that brewers were taken aback. To Andrea, this highlights not only the growth in awareness for locally-produced grain products; it also affirms the need to make local products that are superior in quality. Like Farmer Ground Flour, Valley Malt expects continued growth in 2012. The company will shut down its equipment for the first two weeks of March to install a new system, which will allow them to increase production from 1 ton of malt per week to 4 tons weekly. This will allow Valley Malt to catch up, to some degree, to current demand. Re-building the regional grainshed has meant a lot of creativity and self-sufficiency. Christian Stanley, an engineer by training, designed the malt vessel for Valley Malt, and did the installation and mechanization work himself. At NOFA-NY’s winter conference in January, a workshop led by R.G. Bell, Tim Baty, and Robert Perry covered small-scale grain cleaning, storage, and milling; a major focus of the workshop was how small-scale equipment can be fashioned out of easily-accessible and re-purposed materials. Finally, growth in 2011 could be seen in the expansion of local-scale distilling in and around New York City. A number of new distilleries opened up this past year, many of whom proudly use local grains in their product. Stay tuned for Seasonal Updates Part 3 – Regional Grains Retail for more on local distilleries.

Regional Grains Project Roadshow

February 27, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged Grains

Greenmarket staff shows off some amazing rye loaves baked by Runner and Stone bakery

This winter, Greenmarket took its Regional Grains Project on the road, to spread the word throughout the Northeast about what’s going on with regional grains, and share the delicious joy of locally-grown, processed, and prepared breads, cookies, crackers, and cakes. The tour began on January 20th, when Greenmarket staff headed up to Saratoga Springs for the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s 2012 Winter Conference. On the agenda for Greenmarket and partners from Cornell, the New York Industrial Retention Network, and several other partners was a day-long intensive workshop focused on scaling up the Northeast grains system. The workshop brought together farmers, millers, bakers, and researchers from around the region to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities faced by each, and to explore ways that these groups could support one another while trying to increase the availability of locally-grown grains in the Northeast. In addition to panel discussions and presentations by some of the most innovative and visionary players in the Northeast grains landscape, the day’s activities culminated in a gathering around a table piled high with over a dozen breads made by local bakers, using locally grown and milled grains. To wash down these delicious morsels, Andrea and Christian Stanley of Valley Malt brought along a wheat wine made by Empire Brewing. The tasting allowed players from all along the grains value chain to appreciate how their work culminates into a delectable end product, and stimulated some of the richest conversation of the day. The next day, Saturday, a wider audience had the opportunity to share the experience of tasting regional grains. Greenmarket and partners hosted a larger tasting event, open to all conference attendees, and featuring an even more diverse pallet of products, ranging from corn crackers made by Wild Hive Farm and Bakery to an unbeatable rye loaf from Runner and Stone Bakery to emmer and spelt pastas from Patty Jackson of I Trulli in New York City. The event was truly a showcase of the wealth of flavors and products that are being produced as a result of an ever-expanding Northeast grains system. Two weeks later, the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project team took to the road once again, this time heading to State College, Pennsylvania for the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture Conference, one of the largest sustainable agriculture conferences on the East Coast. The tasting event at PASA had two goals. The first was to conduct a blind tasting, where participants tasted three identical breads, whose only difference was the grain used to make the flour. The three grains used—Warthog, Red Feif, and AC Morley—were grown by the same farmer, on the same field, in the same year, and tasters had the opportunity to assess qualities such as texture, flavor, and aroma. This blind tasting was part of the Value Added Grains Project’s goal of using consumer input to guide the production of local and organic grains. In addition to the blind tasting, the Value Added Grains Project also hosted a general tasting, much like the one at NOFA. Over a hundred people turned out to sample hits like blueberry buckwheat cake made by Elizabeth Dyck at OGRIN, einkorn flatbreads baked by Greenmarket’s own June Russell, and a variety of other delicious, local products.

David Rowley of Monkshood Nursery on salad shoots, Hurricane Irene, and more

February 27, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged farmer, interview

Monkshood Nursery’s summer selection of cherry tomatoes, herbs and greens has earned a loyal following of customers at the Columbia (Sunday) and Jackson Heights Greenmarkets. This winter, farmer David Rowley has joined the Saturday line-up at Union Square, bringing with him a terrific variety of salad shoots—the perfect greenery to add a little lift to your local winter diet. First of all, can you clear us up on the difference between shoots and sprouts? The shoots are the aerial part of the plant that grows just above the soil—just the first leaves. A sprout includes the seed, the root and beginning of the shoot. Can you explain how you grow them, and when they’re harvested? Our shoots are grown in the greenhouse. First you soak the seeds, then distribute them on trays of potting soil. Then they’re kept in the dark for an amount of time that varies, depending on the variety. Then, we expose them to the sun, and again, the length of time depends on the variety. Finally, we cut them with clean scissors, bag them up, and bring them to market. From seed to finished product, the whole process ranges from eight days to three weeks, taking less time in the summer than in the winter, and of course, depending on which kind of shoot you’re growing. It’s amazing—such a vibrant thing—to see all those seeds germinating so close together at the same time in the greenhouse. How many varieties are you growing now? Seven. And which varieties are new to you this year? Oriental spicy mustard, arugula, and mung bean shoots. And those (the mung bean shoots) are fantastic! I eat them straight off the tray. If I’m making eggs, I just sprinkle them on top for breakfast, or add them to a sandwich at lunch, and I can have them in a salad at dinner. A little goes a long way—the flavor is very intense. What gave you the idea to branch off in a new direction with these products? It was the year of the tomato blight, a really wet year, and we had to come up with products to account for the loss of tomatoes to keep both our CSA members and customers happy. So we started to think about what kind of salads we could produce. We determined by trial and error what grows well at Monkshood. What do shoots offer your diet in the months when local eating relies heavily on squash, root vegetables, grains and proteins? Nutritional information on each variety of shoot is available at the market for shoppers to peruse while they taste the different products. Mung been shoots, for instance, are a great source of protein, Vitamins B and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and amino acids. How do you approach selling in the market during the winter? In the winter, the temps are beneath freezing, and the salads and shoots all have to be kept above freezing at all times. When we thought about selling them the first winter we grew them, we thought ‘What do we need here (to sell at market)? Walls? Heat?’ We made an environment at our outdoor market stand that’s almost like a shop. It’s comfy for the shoots, protected by walls and kept warm enough with a heater, and it’s also comfy for us. The vibe in there feels kind of like it does in the greenhouse at the farm. My motto for customers is: ‘Try before you buy.’ Mix and match your greens—it’s like a salad bar. Or, really, a salad booth. You were hit pretty hard by Hurricane Irene this past fall, how did you adjust your business to continue coming to market? We moved the majority of our salad production from where it had been on the farm, and we’ve just about finished construction on a new greenhouse—with many thanks to the help of my neighbor, a land owner. It’s half an acre in total. We started to build the greenhouse in the end of December, and expect to put the first shoots in it in the beginning of March. Outside of the greenhouse, what’s the first sign on the farm that spring is coming? We’ll start to see green garlic coming up in the ground. See the photo below—that garlic is already peeping through!

2/7 Bowling Green Greenmarket rescheduled due to Giants ticket-tape parade

February 6, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket

The Tuesday, February 7th Bowling Green Greenmarket will be rescheduled for Wednesday, February 8th due to the scheduled ticker-tape parade through downtown Manhattan. Congrats, Giants!

Greenmarket Farmers Receive Hurricane Relief Funds

January 31, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged relief

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee and the destruction caused by flooding throughout our farming region, GrowNYC and Greenmarket reached out to our community of support with the goal of raising funds to support assist the most impacted Greenmarket Farmers.

Immediately upon launching this campaign the public responded in such force that we were completely blown away: financial donations, offers of in-kind support to assist with on-farm clean up, as well as professional services, ranging from legal work to marketing support started pouring in. We are thrilled to have raised a total of $85,000 to date (January 2012); Thank you.

On November 22, 2011 our first round of Greenmarket Relief Fund Awardees were announced. $63,000 was distributed to 29 farmers. In February 2012 all remaining funds will be distributed among this group. The following list of farmers and we at GrowNYC and Greenmarket are incredibly grateful for your incredible generosity and will be, in part, continuing farming, in part, because of it. Your contributions will allow farmers such as Alex Paffenroth to pay contractors to remove debris from ditches, Kira Kinney to purchase seeds for the 2012 growing season, John Gorzynski to pay for tractor repairs, and Gary Glowaczewski’s fuel bills. The list goes on: fence repairs, greenhouse supplies, animal feed, new chickens, and much much more.

GrowNYC and Greenmarket staff are truly heartened by your support, and we thank you for supporting our farmers not only during times of crisis, but every week at your neighborhood market.

Greenmarket Relief Fund Awardees:

Troncillito Farms
The River Garden
Monkshood Nursery
Tamarack Hollow Farm
Rogowski Farm
NFDP Staten Island Family Farm
NFDP Conuco Farms
Lucky Dog Farm
Bradley Farms
J Glebocki Farms LLC
Morgiewicz Produce
Paffenroth Gardens
Gorzynski Ornery Farm
J & A Farm
D`Attolico's Organic Farm

Evolutionary Organics
John D Madura Farm
Tundra Brewery
Nine-Jay Nurseries
Muddy River Farm LLC
R & G Produce LLC
NFDP Jersey Farm Produce
NFDP R&R Produce
NFDP Mimomex Farm
NFDP El Mirador Farm
NFDP Fresh Radish Farm
NFDP Gonzalez Farm
NFDP Perez Market
NFDP Pavia Family Farm

Milk Thistle Dairy Farm to close

January 27, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket

Greenmarket is very sad to announce that, effective immediately, Milk Thistle Dairy Farm will no longer be producing dairy or dairy products, and will not be attending any Greenmarket farmers markets. This is one of the unfortunate and harsh realities of being a small scale grower competing against industrial agriculture. The margins on farming, particularly dairy farming, are incredibly thin and sometimes are not enough to allow for a financially viable business.

For more information, email Dante Hesse at dante@milkthistlefarm.com or call the Greenmarket office at 212.341.2321.

The Northeast Grainshed : 2011 Season in Review

January 18, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged Grains, greenmarket co

Winter wheat coming up at Hawthorne Valley Farm

For farmers in New York and surrounding states, heavy rain was the hallmark of the 2011 season. In many cases, the volume of rain proved disastrous. Grain producers in the Northeast faced a variety of challenges owing to the season’s wet weather, resulting in low yields, poor quality product, and reduced protein content. In Pennsylvania, Fusarium was the biggest culprit. Commonly known as wheat scab or head blight, Fusarium is a fungus, which is found in the ground and infects wheat when rain splashes soil onto plants. Winter wheat is especially susceptible, since it flowers earlier in the season, when rain is more likely. The later growing season in New York this year meant that producers there were largely spared from Fusarium. However, the wet season resulted in a different challenge for these farmers: low protein content. A typical winter wheat grown in the Northeast can have a protein content of around 11%. The 2011 season’s average was below 10%. This may be owing to reduced fertility; heavy rains washed much of the nitrogen that contributes to protein content out of the soil. Given the problems caused by the rainy season, the region’s farmers found a variety of ways to bring their products to the market. Crops infected with Fusarium could, in some instances, sell to outlets like distilleries, which process grains in such a way so that toxins are destroyed. Millers and bakers who could get their hands on high-protein spring wheat blended these with the lower-content winter wheat to create bread flours that met the needs of the region’s bakers. And farmers and millers continue working with bakers to find innovative uses for the diverse grains grown in the northeast. Despite the numerous challenges faced by grain farmers, hopes are high for a better season in 2012. While there isn’t much farmers can do about the weather, planting a greater variety of grains can help hedge against anomalies like excessive rain. For instance, although winter wheat typically produces a higher yield, spring wheat has higher protein content and is more resistant to Fusarium. Increasing the acreage of spring wheat can help balance against issues that make winter varieties more vulnerable. Farmers can also plant more non-wheat grains as a way to diversify. Elizabeth Dyck, founder of the Organic Growers Research and Information-Sharing Network (OGRIN), explains that not a single food-grade grain is being grown in sufficient volume to meet market demand in the New York-Pennsylvania area. For example, there is burgeoning interest in locally-grown rye among the baker community and consumers. Organic brewers and distilleries in the region are seeking out a number of different grains as well. Other farmers and millers point out a similar growth in demand for regional grains. For instance, demand for high-quality bread flour means that hard red spring wheats, which are higher in protein and yield a better bread flour than lower-protein winter wheats, need to see more acres planted in the coming seasons. Emmer is another example of a grain whose supply hasn’t caught up to demand. Currently, the home baker can count on having access to the most diverse array of locally-grown grain products. Outlets like Brooklyn Kitchen carry some local flours and grains, and grain farmers and millers sell their product at several Greenmarket locations citywide. Meanwhile, some producers choose to limit their outreach to larger, wholesale customers until the local supply is sufficient to meet their demand. As the regional grain system continues to develop, organizations like OGRIN can help locate clean sources of seed, work with farmers to order sufficient volume, and give recommendations of good-quality and reliable varieties. Farmers and millers must also continue to find innovative new ways to ensure profitability of grain crops in years where weather jeopardizes quality. As bakers, restaurants, and individual consumers continue to discover regional grains, there will be a need for farmers to continue broadening their offerings to this expanding market.

Warthog is here!

January 14, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged Grains

In January, 2010, Greenmarket and NOFA-NY’s Organic Wheat Project hosted an event at the French Culinary Institute, which brought together grain producers, processors, bakers and chefs. In addition to discussing the development of an emerging regional grain system, the event included a tasting of products baked with locally-grown grains. Of all the wheat varieties showcased at this event, one proved a standout in terms of flavor: Warthog.

Among those present at the 2010 event was Thor Oechsner of Farmer Ground Flour. An organic crop farmer of over 700 acres in New York’s Finger Lakes region, Oechsner was taken by Warthog’s superb flavor, and began planting the variety for the first time that year. Now, Oechsner claims to grow more Warthog than any other producer in the Northeast. Warthog is a hard red winter wheat. Winter wheat is planted in fall, and grows to about four inches tall before becoming dormant in the cold winter temperatures. Then, it undergoes a process called vernalization; this period of dormancy is required for the plant to put up a seed head the following spring. The wheat is then harvested in July. Winter wheat tends to produce a higher-yield, lower-protein product. Oechsner describes Warthog as a hardy, strong, good-looking crop. To top it all off, it is amazingly easy to harvest.

While Warthog is relatively new to the United States, its commercial presence has grown in the Northeast’s regional grain shed since the tasting event two years ago. This is because, in addition to its great flavor, it is currently the best available hard red winter wheat variety. A reliable, clean seed supply has been accessible to Northeast farmers. It holds a high falling number, which means it resists sprouting in seed, an important quality for good baking flour. Its protein content is also considered decent for a winter variety.

Despite its benefits, Oechsner and other Warthog producers did face setbacks this year, owing to the wet weather. The wheat’s protein content was lower than expected. But Oechsner is confident that blending Warthog with a spring wheat flour will boost protein content while letting Warthog’s special flavor shine through. Blending means that Warthog’s traceability in the marketplace is reduced for the time being. However, the hope is that, in coming years, bakers and restaurants will seek out Warthog specifically for its superior flavor, and continue to spur the variety’s progress in the Northeast. In addition, Oechsner will be collaborating during the 2012 season with Elizabeth Dyck of OGRIN to develop grain trials with Warthog. These grain trials could lead to techniques for growing Warthog that will boost protein content and hedge against future rainy seasons. The focus of these trials is timing nitrogen fertilization. By adding nitrogen at a point when most of the plant’s vegetative growth has occurred – called the “boot” stage – the plant’s energy will be concentrated on seed development and protein production.

While Oechsner’s and Dyck’s goal is to learn more about growing Warthog successfully in the Northeast, Dyck continues to work with other producers to explore a variety of grains that could thrive in this region. Warthog is a great winter variety with outstanding flavor, but the hope is that, in the near future, growers will be able to choose among several high-quality wheat varieties.

New York Magazine Declares the Moment in Local Flour

January 10, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged Grains

Bread Last month, New York magazine's 'Reasons to Love New York' issue featured a 14-page spread on this 'local-floured moment in dough', an homage to the artisanal loaves that are being baked in the city's top ovens. Greenmarket’s efforts to encourage more regional growers to start planting grain began back in 2004, when Greenmarket began to assess how and where its bakers could source local flour. Thanks to those early efforts, chefs and bakers have embraced these less familiar grains incorporating them into seasonal dishes on their menus, and even hiring bakers and building bread ovens for their restaurants (Roman's and Roberta's, both in Brooklyn, are two examples). The article's 'Bread (Time) Line', notes 2009’s introduction of Cayuga Pure Organics’ locally grown and milled flour to Greenmarket as one of the most recent milestones in a great history. No less than 6 of the 13 bakers mentioned in New York’s round-up of the baker's dozen best attended the landmark tasting of local grains held by Greenmarket and the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) nearly two Januarys ago at the French Culinary Institute (covered here by Edible Manhattan). This event helped lay the groundwork for New York’s local grains revolution. And since that tasting, three more bakers that made NY mag's list have become involved with Greenmarket's Farm to Bakery pilot, a program which connects bakers directly to regional grain growers. Due to the increasing demand in the city marketplace, Greenmarket's grain farmers are expanding their businesses and encouraging the development of infrastructure like mills and malting facilities. And outside the city, on a regional scale, Greenmarket's work to publicize these farmers, help build demand, and educate shoppers on the varieties of grains that grow well in the Northeast has rippled out to fields in Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, where yet more growers and bakers are embracing this wave of heritage grain. Check out a list of where and when to buy local grain and flour at Greenmarket, as well as a list of Greenmarket grain-forward recipes to expand your baking repertoire.

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