Going backward in order to move forward has always been a part of the DLM Difference. This is especially the case with our local grain program. My career at DLM began in 2014 on our Artisan Bread team, and although I knew I had joined a company that prides itself on supporting local farmers, I never expected that it would pertain to anything we do in the DLM Bakehouse. Fast forward to today.
We aren’t just dabbling in local grain; we’re in the midst of a local grain movement that's growing, and it’s an exciting journey for the farmers and bakers alike. It’s worth noting, though, that creating bread from local grains presents unique challenges to us as bakers. These locally grown grains and flours behave in completely different ways, causing conventional wisdom to often go out the window.
The DLM Bakehouse is partnering with local farmers Jon Branstrator, left, as well as Danny Jones, right. These local farmers work closely with our DLM Bakehouse, including Greg Tyzzer, DLM Bakehouse Manager.
The results can also vary from year to year depending on the crop, as conventional flours are often blended to achieve more consistent results when it comes to things like strength, taste, and the consistency of the flours itself. However, our cadre of DLM bakers are passionate about rising to the challenge, which is ultimately part of what we do here. This gives us an advantage. As we add more grains to our arsenal, we are able to make our own blends and varieties of products, giving us an entirely new palate of flavors to work with. We are now part of an organization called the Artisan Grain Collaborative, which is a network across the Midwest that links farmers, bakers, brewers, and maltsters throughout the entire region. However, to understand where we are today, it’s important to look back at how it started for us here at DLM.
By now, you are probably familiar with the story of our Turkey Red Wheat, which began several years ago when area farmers Danny Jones, Edward Hill, and Dale Friesen joined together to grow this challenging hard winter wheat on Ohio soil. Turkey Red Wheat is a heritage grain with deep roots to Dale’s ancestors. Ed frequently visits us at the Bakehouse and we spend our time discussing all forms of grains that are able to thrive in Ohio’s finicky climate. In the beginning of these conversations, Ed would often ask in a suggestive way: “So, what is it that you want to do with these local and heritage grains?” For a long time I didn’t have an answer, but was fascinated nonetheless.
Something clicked this past June when we visited the 50-acre field of Turkey Red Wheat during harvest and I suddenly realized I had an answer for Ed. There was something very surreal about standing in the field of wheat on Danny's farm that my team and I would be baking bread out of in a matter of weeks. Then, in August I attended a seminar called “Grain School” at Agraria Research Center for Regenerative Practices in Yellow Springs. The event focused on rebuilding Ohio’s grain shed and networking potential collaborators. I saw the big picture and realized it was something I wanted our Bakehouse to be a part of even more. This is also where I met Jon Branstrator, and the next link in our local grain program was formed.
We're excited to expand our breadth of local grain products via a partnership with area farmer Jon Branstrator, who has roughly 175 acres in Clarksville, Ohio. Jon has been a friend to DLM for many years, growing produce in years past. Recently, he has switched to growing heritage varieties of wheat, rye, spelt, and even buckwheat. A heritage grain is special in the sense that it has been crossbred with other grasses but not commercialized. Jon really focuses on soil science as well, using a no-till method. “It is best to let Mother Nature do what she was intended to do,” Jon says holding a small shovel full of soil that resembles chocolate cake in texture. With each clump that he pulls, he is proud to find an earthworm, a good sign of healthy soil. We're currently using flaked Rye Berries grown by Jon in our DLM Artisan Farmhouse Bread, which adds a boost in enzymatic activity, giving our Farmhouse its uniquely sour flavor. We also use his Red Fife flour in our DLM Artisan Classic 10-Grain Bread. With Jon’s enthusiasm, appreciation of the land, and knowledge of heritage grains, we are excited to expand our offering.
On a foggy morning, Danny, who farms our Turkey Red Wheat, meets me and Scott Fox, our VP of Bakery, on Jon’s farm. “We learn from each other,” Danny says, and we spend our time talking about everything from the weather and soil health to milling equipment and harvest. Although the flour yielded from locally grown heritage and ancient grains presents unique challenges to both the farmer and baker, we're all figuring it out together. I think that is one of the things about this project that is extremely rewarding.
For example, sometimes there are things within our control to adjust at the milling stage, like the amount of bran in the flour. Too much bran can inhibit the production of carbon dioxide in dough, affecting its overall rise and strength. If this happens, Danny will make adjustments to the Turkey Red flour as we go, which is certainly an advantage over using conventional flours that just come in as-is.
This year is going to be a big one for our local grain program. We're all very excited to continue bringing local grain growers into the DLM family, as well as bake with our offering from Jon, Danny, Ed, and Dale. We have several local grain projects in the works, and are looking forward to bringing more local breads to your table.
Dorothy Lane Market says:
Nancy, thank you for your kind words. Our DLM Bakehouse is the best!