In 2007 the 100 Mile Diet was published. When Alisa Smith and J.B MacKinnon were undertaking their year of local eating they had trouble finding wheat. There is definitely no problem anymore. More and more farmers are growing grain to meet the local demand. On Vancouver Island there is a farm that runs a grain CSA and workshops teaching people how to grow their own grain at home. They teach people how to properly harvest and winnow their grains in the hopes that they will go on to sow it themselves.
I have been buying my flour from The Flour Peddlar. He runs a flour CSA and he sells at the Vancouver Winter Market. The flour he brings is freshly ground. When I first bought his flour he told me it had either been ground at 9pm the night before or 4am that morning! It’s as close as I can get to grinding my own on the farm last summer. Each bag he sells tells you where the grain was grown and whether it was organically or naturally produced.
At first I was beating myself up about buying flour I thought was out of my price range. On Friday we started our foray into food costing. It’s all easy math so I decided to price out two of my bread recipes. One is a plain whole wheat bread with 50/50 whole wheat flour and white flour. The other is the whole wheat rye sourdough I make more often. Each recipe yields two loaves that last my roommate and I for a week or longer.
I will skip getting into details of all the math equations. Basically I figure out how much every individual ingredient cost at the store and then how much the recipe amount of that ingredient costs. Then you just add up amounts. The whole wheat bread costs $5.21 ($2.61/loaf) and the whole wheat rye sourdough costs $4.80 ($2.40/loaf) to make (not counting labour, which at this point I consider education time). Considering I would buy Country Harvest or Dempster’s Whole Grain Bread if I were to buy it at the grocery store each loaf I make costs less than one at the store.
If you buy an artisanal loaf of bread in this city (of which there are many to choose from) you are paying about $4.50-$5.00 or more. Comparing my bread to theirs, mine may or may not cost more to produce. It depends on what their mark up is. If I factored labour into my bread making, the price of my bread would most likely be more than a bakery price. There are a few reasons for this. My labour to loaves made ratio is much larger than a bakery that is pumping out many more loaves at once. Also I am buying my ingredients in smaller increments. The bags of flour I buy are 1kg. A bakery would not be buying less than 25kg at a time.
In the end I am happy with my decision to support a family business, in turn supporting local farmers and baking higher quality bread. Many people say (including myself) that it is impossible to be “poor” and eat organic and local, but I am slowly proving myself wrong.