Finally: Organic Wheat Flour from New Zealand

With utmost delight I hereby finally announce that as of Saturday the 5th of September, which marks the start of New Zealand’s Organic Week, at Bread & Butter Bakery all our wheat sourdoughs will once again be made with stoneground organic wheat flour. But that’s not all: we have partnered with Chantal Organics to now finally obtain flour made from New Zealand grown grains.

White Sourdough Buns made with Willomere Organics’ stone-ground wheat flour.

The wheat grain comes from Willomere Organic Farms. Located on the Canterbury Plains, Willowmere Organic Farms has been providing New Zealand with BioGro certified organic produce for over 25 years. This family farm is now run by son Kelvin Hicks, who has practised organic farming for many years and strongly believes in the benefits of regenerative agriculture and the importance of positively impacting the environment around him. He grows wheat, rye, potatoes and carrots, using crop rotation to allow pastures time to rest and the microbes to revitalise. He has a mix of sheep and cattle, and plants a variety of pasture species (a minimum of ten grasses, plantains, clovers and other feed crops) for them to feed on. Farming near the base of Mt Hutt ski field, the temperatures are often freezing in winter and 30+C in summer. Kelvin uses this to his advantage, choosing a specific mix of crops to ensure the weather plays its part in pest control.

Kelvin Hicks of Willomere Organics in the Mt. Hutt foothills in Canterbury. Standing in a field of wheat.

Not only is the climate in Canterbury much more suited towards grain growing than dairy farming, diverse operations like Willomere Organics also aren’t dependant on just one income stream (i.e. the farm gate price for milk solids), making them more resilient and profitable. Farming in a regenerative organic way allows them to mitigate issues that could otherwise be problematic and turn them into an asset (i.e. turn manure into crop fertiliser). If farmers are able to commit to regenerative or organic farming they can also lower their carbon emissions through using less synthetic fertiliser and pesticides, and growing a more diverse range of crops for the animals reduces the need to purchase feed. Crop rotation, integrated grazing, low or no till systems, and cover crops lower the need for expensive irrigation schemes, because the complex, alive, non-disturbed soil holds more water, is less prone to erosion and can even draw down carbon from the atmosphere. Farmers can go from being a part of the problem to being part of the solution.

Back to our flour: At Chantal Organics in Napier miller Isobel mills the grains that Kelvin Hicks sends up from Canterbury on a German Heger stone mill. Using smaller batch stone-grinding means a gentler way to extract the nutrients thus leaving more of the wholesome goodness in the flour. The stone-ground flour is not sifted quite to the same refined state as standard white flour, thus making the products we use the new NZ wheat flour in darker in appearance and higher in fibre and minerals. While this inevitably might mean, we lose a little bit of volume on the respective products, it also means higher nutritional values of the breads. More fibre is more goodness for your gut microbes.

Miller Isobel is responsible for milling the grains and ensuring the best quality stone-ground flour.

At Bread & Butter Bakery we then slowly ferment the flour in our sourdoughs, allowing the microorganisms of the starter to extract and transform nutrients in such a way that they are optimal for your health.  

We will be introducing the New Zealand flour to our sourdough range only, as the stoneground quality is not refined enough to use it in pastries and whiter breads like baguette, ciabatta or lighter buns. If you purchased the white sourdough range breads like Parisien, Batard, Sourdough Baguette, Sourdough Rolls, or Ancient Grain before, you might notice the change in colour of the crumb. We will also be using the flour in our Campagne – 5 Grain Sourdough, Walnut Sourdough, and Red Quinoa Sourdough, however these are breads that contain other wholemeal flours, so the change in colour may not be quite as apparent. In any case I can assure you that all of them will be delicious and even more healthy than before.

I am super excited that this is finally happening, as I have been trying to find a New Zealand white organic wheat flour for a long time (you can read about this here). I am hopeful that the ongoing relationship between the farmer, the miller and the bakery will build the capacity for the farmer to commit more acreage to growing wheat, the millers to eventually have the confidence to invest in a bigger mill that can handle more volume and mill whiter flour, and our customers, who hopefully will love this flour and the products we make from it. And hopefully this example will give other farmers and bakeries in New Zealand the confidence to consider growing grains and using New Zealand wheat once again.

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