Traveling around, I love getting to catch up with people I wrote about in the book. This week I got to go to Vermont, to one of the strongest grains education days: the Northern Grain Growers Association (NGGA) annual conference in Essex. This was the 12th one.
The NGGA started to investigate organic grain production for the dairy market, and shifted to food grade inquiries on production practices as the market developed. I love that farmers began and continue this work, very ably abetted by the enthusiasm and resources of Heather Darby and the crop and soil team at UVM.
This is where I met Jack Lazor, and his love of history and people. Where Randy George and Ben Gleason showed me how bakers and growers need to communicate about their work and needs. Where Loic Dewavrin helped me begin to understand the importance of seed.
I get such a charge from seeing these people and hearing about their work. Loic – from Le Moulins des Cedres in Quebec — is font of innovation. He told me about a rotary tine weeder he’s working on, and the way he’s rolling hulless oats. Blair Marvin from Elmore Mountain Bread told me about the shifts at the bakery now that Andrew is focusing on building mills.
I got to learn about nixtamalization from Joe Bossen of All Souls Tortilleria, and began to learn a little bit about grits from Greg Johnsman of Geechie Boy Mills in South Carolina. The world of corn is very big and tasty and confusing!
I got to share my love of pancakes and fresh flour, too, lending hints on making mixes to growers who sell at farmers markets and need some help introducing flour to shoppers. Mixes sell much better than flour, I’ve heard farmers report, and while the purist in me objects, I know it is best to meet people where they’re at, rather than not meet them at all.
Now I’m looking forward to my next visit to a member of the book: Nan Kohler! Nan is such a champion in grains. I really admire her ability to introduce off-grid flours to the world. Her history in wine gives her an ability to articulate the nuances of flavor, and her experience baking allows her to very clearly express the functionality of the flours. That I get to work with these beautiful flours, so artfully milled, is a huge thrill.