NEW CAMBRIA, KS — The new age of retail baking is here and driving innovation, from ingredients to the final product in brick-and-mortar bakeries. With increased consumer consciousness on what goes into the products they enjoy, retail bakers are more selective in their suppliers.
Flour, in all its forms, is the core of the baking industry. It serves as the foundation for everything from classic cakes to delicate pastries, and the caliber of quality is being set by innovators such as New Cambria, KS-based Farmer Direct Foods, one of the sponsors of the Craft to Crumb Great Ingredients Giveaway, along with the California Walnut Board.
With more consumers and bakers showing an interest in products that are better-for-you and better-for-the-planet, the brand is in a unique position to support both through its production practices.
Hayley Eckert, head of strategy and sales of Farmer Direct Foods, noted the brand is able to distinguish itself in the market due to its commitment to supply chain transparency and sustainable, regeneratively grown wheat.
“We can tell you from field to flour where each bag of flour came from,” she said. “Transparency is key to consumers, and no other producer is currently offering stone-ground, whole wheat flours with this level of commitment to consumers, farmers and the earth.”
The milling company has expanded its sustainability practices by using techniques such as no-till farming, no irrigation, cover crops, crop rotation and the integration of livestock. In doing so, Eckert noted, Farmer Direct is creating a farmer network rooted in improving soil health and minimizing carbon in the atmosphere.
The company has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2003, and even before as the American White Wheat Producers Association in 1988. Over time, the company have expanded beyond organic and traditional flour into innovative types such as rye, heirloom and buckwheat that boast being non-GMO verified and certified kosher.
As a result, the relationship between the multi-generational farmers who supply the raw material needed to create the stone-ground, whole grain flour and Farmer Direct Foods is highly valued.
“Truly to our core, we’re better for the earth and better for the farmers,” Eckert explained. “We pay our farmers a premium for the grain that they sell to us, and then on top of that, they participate in a profit-sharing program.”
For bakers like John Friend, president of Farm to Market Bread Co., the interest in transparency of its ingredients drew them to Farmer Direct Foods, a connection that’s expanded into other aspects of the business.
“One of the initial things that drew us to Farmer Direct flour was being able to fulfill that long-term goal of being able to know where our wheat comes from, and it’s been great,” he said.
In addition to proximity and product availability — Farm to Market Bread uses red wheat flour, a product produced in Kansas where Farmer Direct operates — Friend noted that the quality of the product and knowledge of its origin is exciting for the company across its different distribution avenues.
“Being able to be more conscious about where the flour is coming from as far as having a positive impact on the environment is an added plus,” he said. “We divide our business in lots of different categories and one way is our retail side with our branded breads that we sell fresh to grocery store seven days a week, 365 days a year. I think that those customers are going to be really happy to start learning about where their flour’s coming from and that it’s going to have a more positive impact on the environment.”
From field to flour to final product, the transparency and celebration of the effort that goes into the production of Farmer Direct Foods’ flour varieties paves a path for other suppliers.
“We have this incredible network of multi-generational farmers and the fact that bakery customers and, ultimately, the end consumers know that their money is going to the farmer who’s doing the hard work is really important to us,” Eckert said.