RR3 Madoc, Ontario
PH: 613 473 3058
What They Sell:
Organic flours including spelt, Red Fife wheat, buckwheat, rye
Where They Sell: Wheatberry (Ottawa), Ottawa Organics, Natural Food Pantry Stores
Bakeries/Restaurants That Use Their Flours: Ballygibblins (Carleton Place), Panchancho (Kingston), Trillium Bakery (Ottawa), Art-is-in Breads (Ottawa), The Brickstreet Cafe (Toronto), Jamie Kennedy’s Future’s Bakery, Evelyn’s Crackers (Toronto), The Gilead Café (Toronto) to name a few.
Brewery Using Red Fife: Olde Stone Brewing Company has launched a Red Fife Beer
Red Fife Wheat came to my attention a few years ago when I was going through a stint of bread making and wanted to use local, organic whole-wheat flour. My neighbour, as it turns out, had grown a small patch of Red Fife wheat and he was kind enough to give me a sample of it to try out. The bread was delicious (despite my somewhat limited experience with bread making) – nutty and flavourful with a nice texture to it. Since beginning this column for the Humm, I have been keeping my eyes open for a grain grower that grows Red Fife wheat and finally heard of one – Patricia Hastings, owner of CIPM farm just south of Madoc.
I have to admit to being somewhat impressed by this woman’s gumption to acquire the skills necessary to take on 400 acres + of crop production! It is not the first ‘pursuit’ one might think of for a slight, attractive, charming, middle-aged, viola playing (she’s very good) Irish-decended woman to take up! But the changing face of farming has many unexpected expressions! In any case, her knowledge has accumulated like the nutrients in her fields (after years of green manures) and she now can do most everything to do with this farm from the fieldwork, to delivering flour to her customers. Patricia admitted though that. as volume and demand increase beyond her own capacity to produce and deliver, she will hire people as needed.
The land around Madoc differs from the sandy, acidic soil I live on near Maberly. The gently rolling countryside around is sandy but slightly alkaline, rather than acidic, and is apparently good for growing a variety of grains. Patricia, having had no previous farming experience, bought this farm 12 years ago and, with the invaluable help of Dirk Alterhoffer, a man who’d trained in organic farming in Germany, started to transition the land into an organic grain farm. In the first few years they started with spelt, tried canola, soybeans, flax and hemp, noting along the way which crops did well and figuring out why.
Perhaps the greatest tool in any organic grower’s tool kit is the ‘lost art’ of observation. Rather than following a proscribed schedule of chemical inputs, much time is spent looking at the fields, evaluating what is going on, what needs each crop has at various times, and then acting accordingly. Figuring out appropriate crop rotations and intercropping, are such methods of responding. For example, to bring trace minerals closer to the surface, deep-rooted crops like buckwheat might be planted one year and followed the next year by a shallow-rooted crop that needs these minerals. Buckwheat also roots emit a mild acid that helps make calcium and phosphorus more available to the plants. An intercropping method useful to control weeds would be as follows: spelt (an ancient winter wheat) is seeded in the fall so it gets a head start in the spring. In spring when the ground is still frozen, this spelt is over-seeded with clover. Clover, being slow to germinate, will not complete in the spring with the emerging spelt but when the spelt is harvested later in the summer, the clover comes up forming a dense matt that helps to control the weeds. The clover may be left over the winter, fixing nitrogen (ie. fertilizer) into the soil through its roots. Pretty tidy huh?
Red Fife is a hard, red, spring wheat. It was introduced to Canada in the 1840’s by David Alexander Fife who emigrated from Scotland (carrying a bag of it) to Otonobee Township east of Peterborough. Now Red Fife is designated a heritage variety. It is a sturdy, early-maturing wheat that has not been bred to deal with synthetic fertilizers. Called a ‘land-race’ variety, it is very adaptable to the specific conditions of the land it is grown on – something that made it useful to early settlers. It continues to be prized for its ability to resist rust and for the superior quality of the flour. It is actually credited with producing the boom in wheat production that occurred across Canada and the Northern US during the 19th century. By many, Slow Food International included, Red Fife is regarded as a Canadian national treasure!
Hard wheat flours generally have a high gluten content making them a preferred bread baking flour. They are also higher in protein than other flours. CIPM’s organic Red Fife flour is stone-milled on-site and contains all of the bran, wheat germ and endosperm of the wheat kernels – more nutrients, more fiber, and more taste. As Patricia sounded off the long list of infamous bakers/bakeries who have chosen to use her Red Fife flour (see above), it became evident that this is a product very much in demand by people who make, and appreciate, really good bread.
Great efforts have been made to keep all phases of production on the farm. It can be difficult to find machinery to harvest an organic crop (ie. that isn’t potentially contaminated with conventional seed), and that suits the variety of grains that an organic operation has. The same goes for milling facilities. So, over the years Patricia has added the necessary harvesting machinery to their fleet (rather than contract the job out to someone else) and built a wonderful mill that will be able to deal with increasing volume.
A well-deserved reward for all of these efforts recently came to Patricia in the form of a Premier’s Award for Agrifood Innovation Excellence! For a firsthand experience of the CIPM farm and mill, there will be an ‘open house’ Saturday, July 25. Patricia hopes to have a bread oven up and running, bakers coming from Ottawa, Toronto and Kingston to bake on-site, wagon rides and farm tours happening for the day. Call or email for more information.
Recipe – for an in-depth recipe and commentary on using Red Fife to make bread visit: www.ansonmills.com/recipes-wheat-10.htm