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Dear Breadfriends (5/23/2014). Weather, wheat, and making it work.

Dear Breadfriends and Crustfund Members,

Spring has finally sprung, and summer is close at hand. It’s an exciting time for us at the bakery. The markets are opening, the farm CSAs are coming on line, and optimism is in the air. We’ve got lots of bread to bake, and every day we meet new friends. Nice.

At the farm things are roaring along, too. We raise sheep—for meat, not wool—and the ewes have just finished lambing. In the cool evenings the lambs run together in gangs, feeling scary, we imagine. If there is something on the planet that’s more charming than new lambs, I don’t know what it is. Parker, our gander, is feeling good, too. He’s got three goslings, and he tends to them with pride and alacrity. What’s troubling is that he seems to have given up sleep; you’ll find him sitting up in the wee hours, standing guard over the sleeping goslings. It’s inspiring. But it does makes him a little more grumpy than usual. That’s a subtle thing.

In the world of wheat and flour, things don’t look so good. Last year’s wheat crop was so bad, with drought in the west and rain in the east, that organic wheat is now almost impossible to come by. One of my baker comrades recently received a letter of warning from King Arthur Flour: “Due to an unexpected shortage of 100% premium USA grown organic wheat, King Arthur Flour will not be able to offer our organic signature flour line for the foreseeable future.” Another baker reports price increases of over 30%, but that was last month.

We’ve all been waiting to see what the new year would bring, and we’ve been hoping that the winter wheat crop would arrive just in time. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Ongoing drought in the west, combined with deep cold temperatures, has set the 2014 crop back on its heels. At this point, we’re expecting the worst winter wheat crop in a decade.

BUT.. this just in from the irony department: A new startup has begun marketing a “flour” made from coffee pulp! Yes. Coffee Flour ™ is made from the pulp of coffee beans, once a major waste product of the coffee industry. But now, you can put it in your bread. It’s brownish in color, has lots of fiber, some protein, and even a little kick. I suppose I should feel relieved.

Assuming, for the moment, that we’ll continue making bread from wheat, we look forward with some trepidation to the coming years. We don’t know whether to think of these disastrous crop-years as normal extremes, or as harbingers of new climate patterns that will have us scrambling for years to come.

What does this mean for you? Well, not much, yet. We’re closer to the wheat and the mill than most bakers, and that is some small protection. It also helps us that you have become crustfund members—we can keep our waste levels down, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that all that precious wheat is going to good purpose.

What’s our strategy? For now, we’re trying to ride it out without increasing prices or shrinking loaves. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your bread.. each loaf made by hand.. is actually CHEAPER than bread at the big fancy grocery store. And that bread was made by ROBOTS. It’s strange times. We’ll do our best to keep you abreast of changes as they come along. For now, we’re keeping our eyes open, but our course steady. Hang tight.

What can YOU do in these strange times?

There are a few things you can do that really help:

--Although we are spending more on each loaf of bread we make, we are not yet losing money on each loaf. That means that when you bring new members to the bakery it does us good. So don’t be shy.

--If you want to put your bread on HOLD, just go into your account and put it on hold. It’s easy. It’s actually easier for you than sending us an email. It goes without saying that it is WAY easier for us.

--If you try to put your bread on hold and the FARMIGO system says you can’t do it, there’s a reason! The reason is that we have ALREADY STARTED your bread. The system is not broken. It’s working.

--If you forget to pick up your bread, I beg you, PLEASE don’t write to ask if you can pick up your lost loaf at some other place and time. When you ask us to do that, you’re saying, in effect, “Dear Bakers, You guys did your part, and you spent your time and money to bake me my bread. But I forgot to come get it, so would you please spend your time and money AGAIN?!” This just isn’t sustainable. Heck, it’s not even reasonable. You know that. We know that. And we each know that the other knows it. It’s awkward for us to pretend otherwise.

--If you forgot to get your bread, you are certainly welcome to come purchase another loaf.

Lots more news for you, too, but it will have to wait for a little bit. We’ve got bread to go out the door. But stay tuned. Flurry follows.

With great affection and gratitude,



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