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Baker follows the flour to organize Great Lakes Grain Gathering

The event, featuring guest speakers and workshops, is aimed at connecting and educating those involved, and interested, in the world of grain in southern Ontario
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Lauren Hambleton, baker and founder of Red Hen Artisanale, has organized the first of what she hopes will become an annual Great Lakes Grain Gathering.

It was the grain in Maine that became Ontario's gain. 

That's because it was on the trip home from a grain conference in Maine that Grey Highlands-based baker and business owner Lauren Hambleton thought of her idea for the Great Lakes Grain Gathering. 

"It's a conference that brings together ... millers, farmers, bakers and brewers .... all supporting a sustainable grain economy," said Hambleton in a phone interview with CollingwoodToday. "I thought, we need something like that here." 

Next month, Hambleton, founder of Red Hen Artisanale, will host the first-annual Great Lakes Grain Gathering around the theme of community and bringing people together for the common shared interest of grain grown and used in Ontario. 

"It's connecting professionals with each other and maybe even setting up different bakers with different farmers so that we can support the grain economy in our province, instead of bringing in things that may be from out west or from the US," said Hambleton. 

The event, which takes place at Kimberley Hall all day on Sept. 17, features a keynote speech from Chris Wooding of Ironwood Organics (Gananoque), followed by a baking demonstration by Dawn of Evelyn's Crackers who will be talking about baking without wheat. 

Seminars throughout the day focus on topics such as sprouted grains, beans and flours, and the story of the bakery in Guelph called Polestar Hearth, which uses organic grain mostly from an Old-Order community in the area. A second baking demonstration will show wholegrain enriched dough, and more seminars in the afternoon focus on grain from field to flour (Angela and Tyson Devitt of Stone Bridge Flour), and the GoodLot Farmstead Brewing Co (Orangeville) story. 

Angela and Tyson Devitt are a husband-and-wife team based in Ripley, Ont., where they grow wheat, soybeans, and corn on their sustainable farm. Tyson comes from a farming background and Angela started a flour mill. Together, they are the family behind Stone Bridge Flour. 

"They're going to talk about everything from how the seed is planted to how it ends up in a bag of flour in your pantry," said Hambleton. "I've got six or seven presenters who all bring something different to the table ... I think there's a little bit of something for everybody." 

In addition to creating a tighter-knit community around Ontario's grain industry, Hambleton hopes the gathering can help improve the industry in the province. 

"What I'm hearing ... is that there aren't necessarily grains being grown here that are suitable for a variety of applications," said Hambleton. "Maybe more grain breeding needs to be going on, or collecting grains from smaller-scale farmers that are doing the research to try and create these varieties that will grow better in this climate for different applications like bread." 

Other common challenges she's heard from some arms of the industry is the price of using Ontario products for something like brewing, versus barley or other grains from further afield. 

So far, Hambleton is getting interest in the gathering from a variety of people, including home bakers, professionals, millers, brewers, and growers. 

"I'm just looking for anybody and everybody who's interested in making a connection," said Hambleton. 

Tickets for the all-day event are $86.53, which includes morning coffee and lunch by Justin's Oven. Anyone is welcome to attend the gathering. Tickets must be purchased in advance. More information and tickets available online here.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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