People may have heard of the Slow Food movement that is emerging nationally and internationally. However, they probably have never heard of the Maine Artisan Bread Fair or Skowhegan, Maine, where the Fair and its companion Kneading Conference take place each year. The Conference and Fair are Maine’s response to the need to re-think how food is produced, the connection to the land, and the interrelationship of community, businesses, and growers.

The First Annual Maine Artisan Bread Fair
The Maine Artisan Bread Fair evolved from the Kneading Conference, which started in 2007 and is a two-day workshop filled with demonstrations and instructions on the gratifying art of making bread. The first Bread Fair occurred in 2009 in Skowhegan, a mid-sized town in Central Maine. The attendance surpassed expectations, thus validating the artisans who have spent years honing their craft and to the folks who organized this outreach effort.

Bread lovers found gratification here! Piles of hand-shaped breads – crusty boules made with rosemary, seaweed, 7-grains, sourdough…also baguettes…flat breads. The list goes on and on. Bakers couldn’t keep up with demand, and the piles of bread sadly dwindled to mere crumbs.

However, the Fair strove to educate the community, too. Besides enticing samples of traditional and exotic breads, the attendees experienced:

  • vendors and artisan bakers demonstrating techniques and answering questions
  • vendors showing the newest version of traditional bread-making equipment
  • cookbooks from Maine authors and from around the world
  • different varieties of bread flours and berries (ever heard of spelt berries?)
  • manual and motorized flour grinders
  • wood-fired bread ovens (even a beautifully built copper example)
  • companion foods from local farmers (goat and sheep cheeses plus sausage)
  • crafts from local artists

The Love of Bread and a Whole Lot More
The Maine Artisan Bread Fair and the Kneading Conference celebrate the love of bread, but they are just the tip of the iceberg! They are part of a grassroots effort that offers new hope for rural communities – hope for people who care about the land, who care about the health of their towns and villages, and who care about what future can be offered to the next generation.

Planting wheat varieties and making breads from 100% local grains are important aspects of reviving an agricultural and entrepreunial infrastructure that re-connects the grower, baker, and consumer. It’s a winning (and tasty) proposition!

Copyright Cheryl Pratt

Read more at Suite101: Skowhegan Maine Artisan Bread Fair Wows Audience | Suite101 http://suite101.com/article/maine-artisan-bread-fair-wows-audience-a182165#ixzz2FLLUn1k6
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