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Turkey Red Wheat – Ohio to Holland

Some stories, the good ones, have a way of taking on a life of their own in the best of ways. This one is as golden as the wild heads of the turkey red wheat that we’ve baked bread from, now for three years, thanks to three unlikely local collaborators who have made it all possible—Danny Jones, Dale Friesen, and Ed Hill.

You see, the story was as rich as honey before, as turkey red wheat is a hard winter wheat that’s predominately grown in the Plains States and naysayers didn’t think it was possible to grow it in Ohio, but thanks to Danny, Dale, and Ed, it flourishes in our corner of the world. We shared the story online and word of our wheat field in Xenia spread to a museum in the Netherlands that sought to spotlight the life of Menno Simons, whose ideals set the foundation of the Mennonite faith. The exhibit curators were drawn to the purity of the strain of turkey red wheat that we grow—it’s never been hybridized—and the family history of Dale, who shares a rich connection to the seeds through his heritage. As Mennonites fled Russia in the late 1800s to the United States, they took with them their prized turkey red wheat seeds to build a new future. Dale’s grandparents were among those Mennonites who settled in the Plains States. Menno de Vries, a curator of the exhibit, is also a farmer. He knew how important turkey red wheat was to the livelihood of the Mennonite people and sought to connect it to the exhibit. The exhibit “Menno Simons Groen” opened at the Groencentrum in Witmarsum, a small village in the Netherlands, in early June. Dale and Ed sent both flour and nearly two bushels of turkey red wheat seeds to De Vries. At the opening of the exhibit, some of the seeds were scattered in ceremonial fashion on bits of earth running down the floor of the museum. They would later sprout and become a part of the exhibit, which remained open through August. “When they sprinkled the seeds, it was a symbolic blessing of the soil by planting the seed that finally had a resting place,” Ed says.

With the remaining seeds, De Vries intends to return them to the soil of Witmarsum to bring these seeds full circle. “This is wheat that left Crimea and went to the Plains States and then later to Ohio. And because of Dale Friesen, it went back home. Home being the birthplace of the man who is responsible for establishing the Mennonite faith,” Ed says. Although these seeds have now been shared with our new friends afar, we’ve kept plenty to grow wheat from and bake bread with here in Dayton, Ohio. Look for Turkey Red Wheat Sourdough at the DLM Bakery now.

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