Bright Spots

Our community is living through a moment that is challenging us in ways we never expected. Still, our lives are filled with inspiring and empowering stories of individuals and businesses who are making our days brighter. Whether it be a single act of kindness, a powerful story, a program of support, or simply recognizing someone’s hard work, we believe these stories should be told, shared, and celebrated. We hope that these “Bright Spots” can illuminate the remarkable spirit of our grain community.

To share a “Bright Spot” to be posted to this page, please submit your suggestion through this form. Thank you for celebrating folks who are making a difference!

Somerset Woods Trustees Invites MGA To Use Taylor Field for Seed Restoration Efforts

In the spring of 2015, the Maine Grain Alliance was contacted by the Somerset Woods Trustees and asked if MGA would be interested in using a portion of Taylor Field for our Seed Restoration work. Located in Skowhegan, ME, Taylor Field is a 16-20 acre field, tucked behind street front homes and across from the Margeret Chase Smith parking lot. It is part of a much larger parcel of property owned by the SWT that extends all the way up to the infamous, Skowhegan State Fairgrounds.  

We were happy to have a plot of land to use that was conveniently located in town. We tilled about 1 acre and initially planted in a cover crop.  Over the years we have since grown Sirvinta winter wheat as part of our first successful grow out program and recently have grown buckwheat as a weed suppression crop. In the fall of 2019 we harvested a nice crop of Tartary buckwheat.  

This year, 2020, we planted ⅔ of the plot in Byron flint corn seed using our seed drill, and then most of the remaining area was planted with the seedlings of Byron flint corn that were left over after the initial planting at the Richard Searls plot in Solon.  A group of MGA board members and family members planted about 850 plants in an evening.  Some other board members also came and watered these seedlings due to the drought, but now with our recent rain we hope that won’t be necessary any longer.  

The Byron seed we planted was slow to emerge because it was so dry but we are hoping for the best and look forward to a group harvest of this unique flint corn in the fall.  This plot, along with the Searls plot in Solon, are part of our grow out program in flint corn that has been ongoing with the help of corn loving board member Albie Barden.    

The Generous Spirt of Boulangerie Des Rosiers

Shortly after the announcement of the postponement of the Kneading Conference and Maine Artisan Bread Fair, we received an email from Daniel Des Rosiers. Daniel had an idea.

Daniel had been scheduled to lead a popular three day workshop entitled “The Anatomy of Bread”. The interactive and comprehensive workshop was to trace breads’ journey from land to loaf. By visiting local fields of grain, discussing the science behind gluten, refreshing sourdough cultures, milling local grains onsite, discussing when and how to sift flour, and of course the nuances of the bake, Daniel has created a powerful experience for our attendees.

Daniel’s email was straight to the point. He had already been in touch with a number of enrollees in his workshop and several were still interested in learning from Daniel. Daniel proposed that he continue to lead the workshop, observing suggested safety protocols, in a very small group once attendees were able to safely travel again.

He then stated that he would be donating all proceeds from his course to the Maine Grain Alliance to assist in our emergency relief efforts.

Daniel has always brought remarkable energy to our efforts. He is positive force of nature. We are incredibly thankful for his passion and generosity.

Speaking of generosity, last year Daniel celebrated MGA Director of Seed Restoration, Richard Roberts, by creating a loaf inspired by the Sirvinta wheat Richard had restored. He dubbed the loaf “Sir Roberts” and made the recipe available to all. He suggested that bakers use the recipe in support of MGA’s seed restoration efforts. Even if you don’t happen to have any Sirvinta flour on hand we thought you would enjoy the recipe below.

Thank you for all that you do for our grain community Daniel.

Tristan Noyes
Executive Director
Maine Grain Alliance

Director of Seed Restoration Richard Roberts (left) with Daniel Des Rosiers. Richard is holding a loaf of Sir Roberts baked by Daniel and his class at the Kneading Conference in 2019 .

              Sir Roberts ( 1.25kg)

STARTER

Rye flour                                            106gr
Water                                                 85gr
Culture ( rye)                                    21gr
Total                                                  213 gr

FINAL

Whole wheat Flour                        425 gr
Roasted Buckwheat                       53gr   
Roasted Barley                                53gr      
Beet  syrup ( or molasses)             48gr  
Sunflower Oil                                   11gr  
Flax seed powder                             3gr 
Lemon juice                                       1gr     
Fennel ( powder)                              3gr        
Caraway ( powder)                          5gr   
Salt                                                     12gr   
Water                                                425gr  
Rye Starter                                       213gr    

Instructions

  • Prepare your 80% hydration starter 24 hours prior to make your bread  
  • Autolyse your Whole wheat , Roasted Buckwheat   and roasted barley Flour also 24 hours before making the bread
  • Make a paste with the flaxseed powder and the lemon juice
  • Next day mix your starter with autolyse from the previous day, add your paste and the caraway,fennel powder, salt
  • Mix in first speed for 8 minutes
  • S&F every 30 min 4 times
  • Make sure that your dough is in the Fridge at 40F the entire time that you Stretch and fold
  • Shape in a boule in a banneton or a tin  and let it proof overnight  also at 40 F
  • Bake next day directly from the Fridge, no proofing time ( 450F until 200F internal temp)

Remembering Our Friend, Ben Hoffman

In early May 2020, Tristan Noyes, Executive Director of MGA, was contacted about a collection of grain that had been left after a death that had occurred in December.  The gentleman who died was Ben Hoffman, and his son called us to see if we were interested in his grain or if he should just give it to his neighbor to feed to his chickens.  

I met Ben Hoffman in 2014 when I went to Bradford, Maine to look at a BOAZ rice paddy harvester.  Ben was using it to harvest wheat.  Ben was a revelation to me.  Not only was the mini-combine something that the Maine Grain Alliance was interested in but he was also working on growing out unusual grain varieties.  This was exactly what our Heritage Seed Restoration Project was trying to do.  Ben was a retired professor who had taught forest management and timber harvesting at the University of Maine for thirteen years.  He also worked in forestry management for the Federal government and taught forest technology in Alaska, Colorado and in Canada.  He authored a logging handbook, “How to Improve Logging Profits”, and over 300 published articles on forestry, agriculture, wood energy, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, U.S. Navy Beach Jumpers, and model railroading.  Many here in Maine may remember him for his articles for MOFGA on small scale farming equipment.

Ben had a meticulous and inquisitive mind.  I traveled to his small homestead in Bradford and we planted Sirvinta wheat there as part of our grow-out program.  MGA started growing Sirvinta in 2013 from 14 pounds that we acquired from Will Bonsail, and last year there were 40 acres of it grown here in Maine.  Ben always had test plots in his yard and a ¼ acre of something growing in his field.  He will be missed.  I took home an entire pickup bed full of grain from Bradford the other day.  Ben’s son Johnathan helped me load it along with some of his homemade small scale threshing and drying equipment.  Jonathan was very happy that his father’s  collection would receive a good home. I’ll catalogue his bags and buckets of grain and work on getting them planted this year.  I’ll also photograph and show his small scale equipment in later blogs. 

Thank you Ben for all the work you’ve done,

Richard Roberts
Secretary, Maine Grain Alliance
Director of the Heritage Seed Restoration Project, Maine Grain Alliance
Longtime Educator