Hominy Farm bread builds a following despite quarantine

FIRED UP: Sydney Rubin and Eli Je Bailey warm up in front of the Turtle Rock wood-fired oven where he bakes Hominy Farm breads from locally grown and milled grains. Photo by Camilla Calnan

Artist Sydney Rubin and bread baker Eli Je Bailey had no intention of buying a house in Asheville when they landed in the area in October 2018 from their native Florida. “We were living in a friend’s basement,” says Rubin. “I was teaching art at the Montessori School in Hendersonville, and Eli was baking at OWL.”

“This house popped up for sale, and we went to see it because it was Dave Bauer’s, and we’re huge fans of his and Farm & Sparrow,” Bailey confesses with a laugh.

When the revered founder of Farm & Sparrow mill told them that he wanted to sell the property to a young baker, “It felt like it was meant to be,” says Rubin.

In January 2019, the couple bought the house and the building next door — complete with a wood-fired brick oven built by Turtle Rock Masonry — that had once been the home of Farm & Sparrow Bakery. Bailey spent months learning the process of wood-fired baking before debuting their business, Hominy Farm, at the River Arts District Farmers Market in February.

The launch preceded by just six weeks the closures due to COVID-19. While the impact of the shutdown was dire for many businesses, Bailey says that even with the restrictive distancing measures and remote payment procedures put in place at tailgate markets, he’s seen an increased interest in his breads.

“It seems that a lot of people have realized the importance of shopping small and local from people who they know and trust,” says Bailey. “It has also offered us the opportunity to give back to our community by donating loaves to service workers, doctors, nurses and people who have been laid off due to COVID-19.”

Hominy Farm’s menu of six naturally leavened breads, made with 100% organic, locally milled grains and flour, gives a nod to Bailey’s Lebanese heritage. “I first thought I’d be doing baguettes and ciabatta, but when I sent a picture of the oven to my Lebanese grandma, she told me it looked like the village oven in Hakur, where she grew up. So it made sense to draw from my Middle Eastern roots.”

Since its launch, the bakery’s most popular items have remained gan de mie loaves and manoushe, a Lebanese flatbread topped with dried herbs and sesame seeds. Hominy Farm also sells weekly at the North Asheville Tailgate Market and by monthly subscription through its website. “We love doing markets because we can talk directly to people about our bread,” says Bailey. “I’m kind of a freak about it.”

For more on Hominy Farm, visit avl.mx/75h.

Correction: This article was updated on May 29 to accurately reflect ownership of Hominy Farm. 


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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