The very first post of Adrie’s that I ever read was on her handmade grain bags. I don’t remember who I found her through, but I know that after that post, I spent hours reading through the rest of her blog. Adrie and I have done an interview swap, so you can find my piece at her wonderful blog.
Adrie lives my dream life. She runs a bakery (and is the baker) with her husband and daughter, owns a small farm where she and her family grow their own fruits and veggies, and facilitates a grain CSA for her community. Talk about being the change you wish to see.
Living sustainably is not a catch phrase to Adrie and her family, they live it every day. She has been an inspiration to me, and a guiding force on how to tread lighter on the earth we have all been blessed with.
The circle opens. Welcome Adrie
You and your family do an amazing range of work. Tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you all do together.Whew, this is a big question. We are a family of three – myself, my husband Ben, and our two and a half year old, Ella. We live in the incredible Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, on a small farm. We own and run Wheatberry Bakery & Cafe (we are the bakers, not just the owners), and we also created and direct Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain, our grain & bean CSA. Together, we farm, bake, cook, create, try to protect our precious Earth, build community, and try to spread real food, peace, and joy.
Tell us why you decided to start both your local grain CSA, and your bakery, and how those are run/operateWe started the bakery in 2005. Ben and I were very interested in the world of food I had been to culinary school, and we had both worked in fine dining, but we wanted something more connected to people’s everyday lives. We were both out of work, and Ben had started making sourdough breads – so many that we couldn’t give them all away! We licensed our tiny residential kitchen and started baking for farmer’s markets. When the summer came to an end, we started wholesaling our breads and pastries to local restaurants, cafes, and small groceries, and finally we found our current space, where we run the bakery and cafe – just what we hoped for all along. We have a totally open kitchen, where our customers can watch us create the food they eat, and we make everything from scratch here, including items like our cream cheese. Ben and I run the business and do the majority of the baking, with the help of our wonderful counter staff, who also do some baking and food preparation. Ella, of course, is the real boss.
We created Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain in 2008. We’ve wanted to bake with locally grown wheat since we started (we have a huge emphasis on local ingredients), but it simply wasn’t available. In 2008, flour prices (and other food prices) started skyrocketing, due to a whole host of factors (crop failures, increased demand, land changed over for ethanol production), and suddenly we felt the time was right for a local grain project. Our community had a lot of interest in buying local grain (wheat in particular), but the farmers were hesitant to start growing a crop that hadn’t been grown here in half a century, plus they needed equipment most of them didn’t have. As farmers and bakers, we felt we could bridge that gap, from field to plate. We were very blessed to start a partnership with Arnie Voehringer at White Oak Farm and the New England Small Farm Institute. Arnie had land, experience with some of these crops, and he had a combine – a critical piece of equipment uncommon in this area. We started with just some trials, and then in spring 2009 we began planting for our grain & bean CSA. This harvest is going to almost 150 families, with crops from White Oak Farm, Lazy Acres Farm in Hadley, and three New York farms that we brought some grains and beans in from. Ben and I do most of the management of the program, as well as some of the field and processing work for PVHG.
And lastly, we run our own small farm, Yeoman Farm. We grow organic vegetables, fruits, and grains, to feed our family and to supply Wheatberry. We have a draft horse, two ewes (who we’ll start milking this spring – very exciting!), and a flock of chickens.
Running the bakery and the grain CSA, how do you balance your work life with your home life?Oh, balance. We strive for balance, and I do feel like we’re getting closer at this point, instead of farther away! We all go in to the bakery a couple of days a week, but mostly Ben is at the bakery while Ella and I stay home. We try our best to leave bakery work behind when we come home, but often we’re up late into the night problem-solving and brainstorming, like any small business owner. We do try to observe a true day of rest each week.For us, also, our work life is our home life. We are so incredibly lucky to have a path that we love. At the bakery, we display the Kahlil Gibran quote, “Work is love made visible,” and we truly feel that way. Our bakery, our CSA, and our farm are all expressions of our love for our community and the earth. Not to say that there aren’t hard days or even months, but overall, our love and passion sustains us, and our community feels that and gives it back to us in kind. Even though sometimes I wish for a peaceful home life where I just get to play with Ella and cook and clean, I’m also so glad she gets to see our work in the community, and be part of it.
You recently wrote four amazing posts/articles on how to live more sustainably (please see below). Can you summarize those for us, and tell us what your vision is for creating a sustainable life for you and your family.Thank you. I wanted to write some posts about the ways we’ve felt moved to make our own lives sustainable, not in a “granolier-than-thou” way, but in an inspirational and informative way. We continue as a family on a path towards a less wasteful, simpler life more grounded in our community. We try to live as stewards of the earth – the small piece that we “own,” and all the pieces we touch through our everyday decisions.Generations ago it was assumed that parents made sacrifices for their children and grandchildren, and today it breaks my heart to see so many people who feel they must just get as much for themselves and their families right now as they can, ignoring the impact on our collective future. We try to take no more than our fair share – it can be very challenging to figure out what that is, and how to make it happen.
You have a young daughter, Ella, does she help you in the fields and the bakery? How do you believe the work that you do will effect her
Ella is at our side about 98% of the time. This makes a lot of work more challenging for us, of course, but she also reminds us constantly why we’ve chosen this path. We hope that the work will shape her values, her work ethic, her commitment to tikkun olam (the repair of the world) and her heart. I’m sure she will decide a path of her own someday, but we definitely dream that someday we’ll have the pleasure of a multi-generation family business.
To raise a child into an adult who believes in right action in the world. To know that I am living a life which helps ensure that she and her children will have clean water and food, and get to enjoy this beautiful Earth.
Handcrafting brings us a lot of pleasure as a family. Working with our hands in soil, dough, yarn, fabric . . . we like to use our hands! We try whenever possible to engage Ella in all these things. Right now, I do most of my sewing and knitting after she falls asleep at night, but I get very excited when I see older children (like your own!) doing handwork. I imagine it will become a big part of our days.
Start where you feel the inspiration. Don’t choose something that seems really hard or arduous. Start with what seems fun and exciting and delicious, and start where you can see the results. It can be hard to feel really good about something that only takes a few watts off your electric bill, but it can inspire you to continue moving forward if you choose something tactile and rewarding, like strawberries from your garden, warm from the sun.
Our work is really how we found our place here. Neither Ben nor I grew up in the Pioneer Valley, and we’ve made almost all our friends through our work. As we continue, that circle just grows and grows, and it’s wonderful, incredible, and humbling.
Your blog is an amazing resource, as well as being a beautifully written glimpse into your lives. what is important to you in connecting with the online community?
It’s so incredible to be able to reach people beyond our physical community here, and a great pleasure to learn from them as well. I’ve found so much inspiration, helpful ideas, tutorials, and kindness online, which I never imagined.
To read more about Adrie, Wheatberry Bakery, or Pioneer Valley Grain CSA, please visit her blog.
Thank you so much to Adrie for being here with us today. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend ahead.