When I was back in BC this summer I had the very good luck of meeting Chris Hergesheimer, who owns and operates The Flour Peddler Enterprises.
My parents met Chris at the Robert’s Creek farmer’s market, and after chatting with him and discovering he was headed for a PhD in the same department where I did my nutrition degree, bragged up their nutritionist daughter and said they’d bring me by when I was in town. Thus, a connection was made.
Chris and I chatted briefly at the market, and followed up with a more in depth conversation via email. I thought I’d share with you some of what I learned.
“The Flour Peddler is a family business dreamed up and maintained by the Hergesheimer family, who make their home in Roberts Creek, BC. The Flour Peddler’s overall goals are to provide small batch, high quality fresh flour milled from locally grown grain to interested customers through out North America. The bottom line of this operation is to educate about the lost art of community milling and to build strong and sustainable relationships between farmers, millers, bakers and eaters. We are convinced that these relationships will assist with the development of strong ecologically, socially and economically viable grain chains.” – www.theflourpeddler.com
There is a lot of talk these days about wheat having adverse effects on our health, and there is the Wheat Belly diet. What do you think about this? Have you found it is having an impact on your business?
Not really; the hype around the book and its findings are out there and certainly form a part of people’s conversation with me; however, my regular and supportive customers have always recognized the way that fresh whole grain flour works with their diets. Let’s just say I haven’t lost any customers over it but there are some people who don’t buy, but want to discuss my thoughts on the matter. Although Davis claims that old white flour and fresh whole grain flour fall into the same camp, I disagree and I encourage people to eat less wheat products, made from whole grain flour first, and see how their bodies and minds react before giving up on wheat entirely. Grains have been a part of our diet for 20,000 years, and I agree with Davis’ claims about wheat being different due to breeding campaigns and modern processing. I think that as a weight loss strategy it might work, but there are any number of things that could be cut from people’s diets if they are concerned about weight. Healthy, fresh whole grain flour is foundational in so much of what we eat. I think a constant dialogue about our food choices is good and healthy, so I am always up for talking to people about it.
Do you think that BC is capable of growing enough grain to be self sufficient, grain wise?
If we didn’t ship all the grain grown in the northern regions out of the country and instead shipped it down to local mills throughout the province, we could move in that direction. If we ate less wheat and wasted less flour products, we could move closer to that as a goal as well. I would advocate for a bunch of smaller, mixed farmers down in the south that had grain farming as a part of their operations and machinery and processing collectives to help out on the harvest and post harvest front. A little bit at a time.
My mom wants me to ask you about your oats – she says people buy bags of your oats at the farmer’s market and walk away munching on raw oats right from the bag. Is this true? What makes them so special?
We produce hand flaked oats that have no heat applied to them during processing. Some oats are heat steamed as they are rolled. Once again, like flour, the freshness of the oats is stored in the whole grain form. As soon as they are opened up and exposed to air, the freshness and nutritional value starts to drop. Our oats are always super fresh and full of fiber and flavour. I think it’s that freshness and sweetness that makes them a great part of raw oat concoctions like muslei or simply mixed with fruit and yogurt.
We talked briefly about you starting a PhD with UBC LFS in January. What do you hope to achieve with this? What area of research are you specifically interested in?
Food citizenship and the intersection between the production of politics (surrounding food) and the politics of production. I am interested in the differing expressions, manifestations, and implications of food citizenship at both the local and the global (conventional and alternative) levels.
With my own graduate studies in nutriton I’m interested in examining the general breakdown of understanding about food and nutrition. How do you think that community milling can help to foster a better understanding of food and nutrition, helping people to ‘know what they’re eating’?
The community miller helps people understand the integral connection and the process between the grain-flour-bread chains which are quite often hidden or made out to be so complicated, too complicated to understand. I really break that complexity down and turn it on it’s head; I educate about the simplicity of the process; whole grains in, whole grain flour out, nothing added, nothing taken away. Community milling also helps people re-imagine and re-enact the social connection associated with a stop at the millers. As a sociologist, I have always been interested in the social value that is inherent in our food transactions and the community miller just produced one more note for people to connect, interact, learn, and teach all while providing a venue for a super fresh and sustainable staple product.
Do you have a favourite recipe or thing to do with your flour?
Pancakes! Waffles! Any whole grain breakfast baking!
What is your own diet like? Is it grain heavy? Do you eat primarily locally?
My diet is not exclusively local, lots of whole grains (not only from flour) fish and all local and organic meat. We always grow a garden so tons of leafy greens and other vegetables. Working with farmer’s markets as a vendor, manager, and researcher for the last five years has kept me steadily supplied with great veggies and baking.
You have kids, right? Are they involved in the flour business? Do you think this foster an understanding of food systems and helps them become conscious eaters?
They are involved. Sometimes they complain, but they know more about grain and flour and bread than a lot of adults and they are barely in grade school. Everything is whole grain flour for them and they don’t know any different; Dad’s pancakes beat any restaurant white fluffy stack any day…
Anything else you’d like people to know about the Flour Peddler?
The Peddle Flour Society International! We are looking at transitioning to a full fledged social enterprise over the next year in order to accomplish some different goals. We will still work locally in education and production, but we hope to use the profits from our local work to subsidize our international work.
Also, the Flour Peddler Milling Collective; another change that may be taking place from now till next spring…