Big Idea: Rising wheat

Milling around: Jennifer Lapidus and the big idea: Carolina Ground, L3C, a mill dedicated to processing grains grown and ground on Carolina soil. Photo by Max Cooper

Jennifer Lapidus is a champion of flour — specifically locally grown and ground flour for bread that reflects a sense of place from field to hearth, as geographically distinct as true Champagne (and then some). As organic grains coordinator for Carolina Farm Stewardship Association ( Lapidus, along with a pilot group of seven WNC bakeries, is working toward a goal of providing a viable market for Carolina-grown organic hard and soft wheat and other small grains.

Truly local flour is a big idea. When the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association first launched the North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project in 2009 with funding from the NC Tobacco Trust Fund, our intention was simple: close the gap between the farmer, miller and baker in the Carolinas.

As project coordinator, I reached out early on to Mark Nightengale, manager of Heartland Mills, a highly reputable mill located in (of course) Kansas. His email back to me forewarned, “You have chosen to get involved in one of the most difficult projects in American agriculture.”

From proper grain storage (grain is planted in the fall and harvested in June or July — the hottest time of year), to granary weevils, micotoxins, falling numbers (a system of sprout measurement that can make or break an entire lot of grain), protein, moisture, sparse in-state grain and seed-cleaning infrastructure … the list of challenges has been endless.

And yet we proceed.

Our big idea: Carolina Ground, L3C, a mill dedicated to processing grains grown and ground on Carolina soil. Think “micro-mill” (a modern-day “small” mill can produce up to 100,000 pounds of flour a day before being designated a “medium” mill; we expect to produce up to 2,000 pounds of flour a day). Think stone-ground and stone-ground-sifted flour (we’re opting for stone over steel); cold milling (thanks to the slow rotation of our stones); bran/oil/starch ratio (the intimate details of the flour); and imagine local rustic pastry and the traceability and transparency of our daily bread — from start to finish, locally grown, ground and baked.

We believe our big idea is worth all the risks and challenges, and so, against the odds, appearing in Asheville area grocery stores (Ingles, French Broad Food Coop, Earth Fare and more) and tailgate markets very soon, look for Carolina Ground flour in baked goods made by the following bakeries: Annie’s Naturally, Farm and Sparrow Breads, Flat Rock Village Bakery, Loaf Child, Wake Robin, West End Bakery and Wild Flour Bakery. And by 2012’s harvest we intend to reach beyond these seven bakeries to other interested bakeries, restaurants and to the public.

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