Regenerative agriculture is a movement focused on farming and grazing practices designed to create a more sustainable and resilient food system that can support the long-term health of both the environment and the people who depend on it. Some benefits of regenerative agriculture include improved soil health, increased crop yields, and reduced reliance on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. For this reason, local and regional bakery ingredients continue to play a more significant role in today’s bakery and overall food industry, setting a course for a deeper commitment to sustainability in the bakery marketplace.

In Southern California, Farmer Direct Foods now supplies premium bread flour to Erewhon Market, Bristol Farms, and Gelson’s Markets. Other new customers for Farmer Direct Foods include Sprouts, United Market Street in Texas and parts of New Mexico, and Farm to Market Bread Co., which supplies Hen House Markets in the Kansas City area.

“The significance of local and regional bakery ingredients is on the rise,” said Tim Webster, chairman and chief executive officer at Farmer Direct Foods. “Consumers, retailers, and bakers are increasingly concerned about the origins and production processes of their food. This heightened awareness has led to a growing demand for transparency and the ‘farm to table’ experience. At Farmer Direct Foods, we are committed to this principle through our proprietary Identity Assured™ process. This allows us to trace our regeneratively grown wheat back to the farms, providing full transparency into the inputs, conditions, and methods used to produce our artisan quality flour products.”

Regenerative practices

Farmer Direct Foods’ regenerative practices also focus on improving the well-being of farmers and farming communities. The company utilizes a network of multi-generational Kansas farmers who adhere to a set of regenerative farming guidelines. In exchange for committing to these guidelines, Farmer Direct Foods pays its farmers a premium for their crops and shares a portion of the company’s profits. Farmer Direct Foods is squarely focused on the promise of positive environmental outcomes, including improved soil health, carbon capture, water conservation, biodiversity enhancement, and the reversal of climate change.

“At Farmer Direct Foods, we take this commitment seriously,” Webster said. “We have implemented a comprehensive program that our growers follow to ensure these outcomes are realized. Additionally, we are currently piloting a third-party verification system for our regenerative farming program to further strengthen our commitment to sustainability.”

Advantages offered by local and regional bakery ingredients and brands include a sense of local pride and community support, he added.

“I think this Kansas breadbasket that we operate in goes a bit further. We are extremely proud of our growers, and we know bakers and consumers love to know who it is that grew their wheat, milled their flour and it’s not a conglomerate that is too big to care deeply about individual growers.”

Further evidence of the rising importance of sustainability headlined the recent event, “From Cover Crop to Table Top: The Ohio Local Grain Economy,” which was attended by dozens of farmers, millers, retailers and others at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio. The event was sponsored by the Artisan Grain Collaborative and Dorothy Lane Market with the Bread Bakers Guild of America, Sarah Black of Sarah’s Breads, and The Mix at Columbus Sate Community College.

The event featured farmers, millers and bakers who are committed to regenerative agriculture and to delicious, nutritious breads and pastries made with heirloom and heritage grains and included a panel discussion and baking demonstrations. Participants included Jon Branstrator of Branstrator Farm and Greg Tyzzer of Dorothy Lane Market.

Tyzzer, bakehouse manager at Dorothy Lane Market, an upscale grocer based in Dayton, Ohio, shared that “as our local grain movement continues to grow, we at the DLM Bakehouse are continuously searching for ways to bridge the past with the present. We believe our DLM Einkorn Bread is a testament to this. Einkorn is believed to have originated in the Fertile Crescent more than 10,000 years ago and is considered to be the first wheat ever cultivated by humans. It is known by bakers and farmers alike as the great-grandfather of modern wheat.”

Along with einkorn’s prestigious history, it boasts unique health benefits. The grain has never been hybridized. It contains 14 chromosomes vs. 42 in modern wheat and has far less gluten, making it easier to digest. It also has high levels of beta-carotene and fiber.

“The less you handle it, the better,” Tyzzer said. “Einkorn has a unique smell and flavor (nutty) to it. We mix this as a straight dough. We only do one shaping, with 2 to 3 hours of bulk fermentation. We do 100% (bakers percentage) because it’s a special grain. We want it to speak for itself.”

Dorothy Lane Market sources einkorn flour from Brandt Family Farm in Carroll, Ohio. It’s picked up by Jon Branstrator, who mills it at his farm in Clarksville, Ohio.

“We farm with the least amount of inputs as possible,” Branstrator said.

They plant untreated seeds and cover the soil with residue, at all times.

“We are regenerating micro-organisms in the soil. Each year, my soil becomes better.”

Tyzzer explains that at Dorothy Lane Market, “our einkorn bread loaf is different than most that we bake. Due to its lower gluten content, it does not get as tall as a traditional sandwich loaf. Instead, you get a dense loaf with a soft interior. We mix it with just a touch of honey before giving it a long fermentation period, so that this ancient grain can speak for itself.”

This article is an excerpt from the January 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Artisan Breads feature and more in the digital edition here.