BY KRISTINA ROSEN
Lexington’s mindset for this weekend: let’s get this bread, but literally.
The 2019 Southeastern Grain Gathering is happening at The UK Horticulture Research Farm on Sunday, September 15 and Monday, September 16. Typically held at the Bread Lab at Washington State University, this event is making its way to Kentucky this year to support the work being done by the UK Department of Agriculture.
Have you always wondered how Ramirez Tacqueria makes their tortillas that good, or what the new in-house grain milling process at Great Bagel & Bakery looks like? Now’s your chance to learn.
The Southeastern Grain Gathering is exactly what it sounds like: people gathering to build a community and conversation around small grain value chains in the region. Attendees can expect two days of hands-on baking demonstrations, conversations about “farm-to-loaf” and “farm-to-bottle connections,” and networking opportunities for producers and consumers alike.
Keynote talks include the origin and rebirth of southern cuisine; workshops focused on fermentation as well as baking from wood fired pizza to milled whole-grain bagels; and discussions about how variation of flavor could infuse the mash bills of bourbon. Since, you know, grain is as vital in making bourbon as it is in baking.
Lara Swan, owner of Great Bagel & Bakery, believes we live in a time of tremendous uncertainty with regard to the environment. “This event will guide the next steps in building a local grain movement in the Southeast. The food revolution is shaped by the folks who run and attend gatherings like these.”
A self-proclaimed grain geek, Swan says if you are in the industry, if you want to be in the industry, or even if you care about food or the environment, you should attend this event.
But whether or not you go, you should be aware that it’s happening. Prominent award winning bakers, chefs and distillers are traveling here to share their knowledge. The workshops, talks, and connections made at this two-day event will inspire a positive movement within the community for days and months to come.
That’s what Swan is most excited for. Soaking up the knowledge from those who have been stewarding this food revolution for decades and sharing what she’s learned with the rest of us.
When Great Bagel & Bakery opened their second location on Boston Road in May, they started milling their own flour and taking full ownership of their product from start to finish.
“I think that you need to know your ingredients in every sense of the word. Commercial flour has no transparency. Buying a product with no regard to where it was grown, how it was milled, or what flavorful parts were removed to make it shelf stable is akin to buying a dead ingredient.”
Did you know that Great Bagel is one of the few, if not the only place in Lexington to have their own in-house grain mill? Swan adds, “When you pull the veil back and begin to discover all the ways in which our food systems are broken, you can’t go back.”
With their new process of milling comes a new take on their original taste. Some have been critical of this, but most haven’t. “So much of what we’re doing requires us to educate our customers in the same way we were educated. Pulling back the veil so that people can make food choices with all the information and not simply what big industries wish to inform consumers.”
But for those who prioritize local — including locally produced, grown and owned — there is no reason to be critical. Because Great Bagel & Bakery mills their own grain, they know exactly where their grain is coming from and how it is grown, allowing them to control all the various factors that affect the end product.
“Prioritizing local means understanding that the economy and community benefits when the supply chain begins and ends where you live. You begin to ask questions that you hadn’t before like where the flour is from, and you begin to connect the dots between the everyday choices you make and how profound they really are with regard to the economy, community health, and individual health.”
Swan believes it’s the commitment and disconnect of knowing where a particular ingredient is from that keeps others from milling their own grain. Does she think more people in the community should hop on the trend of having their own grain mill? Absolutely.
“Can you imagine the revitalization of local and regional grain farms that would happen if even 25 percent more people inquired about milling their own grain, and then the chain reaction from there? Bakeries would have to seriously up their game because they’d be dealing with a consumer that is educated and curious about where the grain comes from, and how it’s prepared.”
More knowledge about where our food comes from and local bakeries upping their game? We’ll take it.
If it’s possible to take new knowledge, commit to moving forward and still continue to make customers happy then Great Bagel & Bakery is doing it. Since 2011, the bakery has strived to serve fresh and delicious made to order food. After opening their second location, their commitment has furthered into milling their own flour to bring back the flavors in wheat that have otherwise been forgotten.
“The reasons to pay attention to where our food comes from are endless: community, environmental, and economic health. Ultimately, though, for us it really comes down to flavor…we’re always chasing that flavor.”
The Southeastern Grain Gathering is a two-day event held on Sunday, September 15 and Monday, September 16 at the UK Horticulture Research Farm located at 4321 Emmert Farm Lane in Lexington.
Great Bagel & Bakery has two locations on Woodland Avenue and Boston Road.
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