Though fruit is our main focus, Frog Hollow is always interested in experimenting in new agricultural and culinary endeavours that will enhance our offerings of delicious foods. Our latest experiment is currently about 5 inches tall and bright green. On December 7th we planted 16 acres of wheat. The variety we planted is called Summit. There are many types of wheat. Summit is among those designated as a hard red spring wheat. These special spring reds are known as the aristocracy of wheats for baking bread. These varieties are prized for their high protein content and superior gluten quality which allows for elasticity at the same time as providing strength to accommodate nuts, seeds, raisins and whole grains in loafs.
For the last several months Farmer Al has been having visions of freshly baked breads and hand rolled pastas emerge from our Farm Kitchen. Of course, we could just buy flour to begin baking bread, but Farmer Al’s vision is bigger than that. He’d like to see us growing the wheat we use to make these products. There is a growing movement of small farmers growing specialty grain varieties for local and regional bakers, in order to reclaim control of one of our countries staples, wheat. Some of these farmers have even acquired their own mills to process their grains into flour for bakeries.
The story of wheat goes back thousands of years, of course. For a thorough and revelatory history on the intersect of wheat and industrialized agriculture, read Dan Barber’s chapter on wheat in “The Third Plate”. In essence, wheat is not what it once was. The varieties grown, the increasing intensity of the application of glyphosate, Monsanto’s herbicide used heavily in wheat production, and the way wheat is processed, have left the majority of our flour devoid of the nutrients that made wheat “the staff of life”.
Our 16 acres of wheat will be ready to harvest in late June. This trial planting will help us see what kind of crop our soil and climate will yield. We hope it will be bountiful. If it is, we will determine if wheat will become a permanent part of our agricultural production. We’ll keep you posted.