Today, I’m introducing you to a young baker from Freetown, PEI. Coral Wood runs the Whole Grain Bakery, PEI’s first CSA-style bakery which just became operational in June, 2014. You may be familiar with farmers who operate CSA boxes – Community Supported Agriculture Boxes. This is where individuals (known as CSA members and sometimes referred to as shareholders) pay a certain amount to the farmer upfront at the beginning of the growing season in exchange for a share of the harvest as it becomes available. The bakery is operating on the same premise – CSA members pay Coral a set sum of money upfront, allowing her to purchase her equipment and ingredients – like start-up capital of sorts. Once a week for 18 weeks, the CSA members then receive a box of baked goods from the Bakery.
The contents of the boxes vary from week to week so customers get different products each week. Bread will be a staple in each week’s box and other items may include cookies, cinnamon rolls, pancake mix, granola, and/or different kinds of buns. A Bread Only share is also an option for customers. Currently, Coral has 15 CSA shareholders.
When she was nine years old, with the aid of a library book, Coral started making bread. As they say, the rest is history as she has been baking bread ever since and this is what led her to run her own bakery today.
When asked why she decided to operate her bakery CSA style, Coral says she has a couple of friends who are already CSA operators so she knew how it worked but, perhaps just as important, Coral says the CSA method is a good way to sell perishable foods like bread, for example, because the food is already pre-sold. There are no concerns about overstocking the shelves without knowing what the demand will be. Hence, no food waste.
Coral supports local producers by sourcing as many raw products as possible from local suppliers. For example, her raw organic wheat is bought from nearby neighbours at Barnyard Organics.
Using a tabletop flour grinder, Coral grinds the wheat just as she is ready to make a batch of bread or cookies – it can’t get much more fresh than that!
Coral’s brother is a beekeeper so the honey for her baked goods is sourced from the local beekeeper! Other organic grains and seeds are bought from Speerville Flour Mill in New Brunswick.
Coral, the oldest of eight children, was born in South Africa. She moved with her family first to British Columbia where they lived for several years before moving to PEI six years ago. Growing their own food on Maple Wood Farm in central PEI is a family affair. They also raise grass-fed beef, pigs, chickens, and sheep as well as grow all sorts of vegetables.
All of Coral’s bread is kneaded by a huge floor stand mixer which makes my KitchenAid look like a miniature toy!
Her commercial oven can bake 24 loaves of bread at a time or five large sheets of cookies or buns.
All loaf pans in the bakery are heavy-duty cast iron. Coral’s goal is to produce healthy food products that are as chemical-free as possible.
Some of Coral’s shareholders come to the bakery to pick up their weekly supply of home baking. However, on Thursday afternoons Coral, along with CSA vegetable grower Jen Campbell, meet many of their CSA shareholders at a designated parking lot in Summerside where they come to pick up their weekly CSA boxes.
Coral will do custom baking orders for individuals who are not regular CSA members but the items must be pre-ordered.
As well, even though this year’s CSA schedule is already operating, Coral tells me she will take on new CSA members on a pro-rated basis for the remainder of the current CSA season. For information on the bakery and to contact Coral, visit her website at www.thewholegrainbakery.ca
On a recent Thursday, I visited Coral at her bakery on the family farm. This is her busiest day as she prepares the contents for the week’s CSA boxes that would be available for CSA shareholders later in the day.
When I arrived, the bakery was a beehive of activity. Pans of freshly-made honey seed and chocolate chip cookies were cooling on the counters.
Whole wheat bread was just going into the large oven.
Coral was mixing up another batch of bread.
A batch of hamburger buns had risen and was ready to be formed into the bun shapes.
All of this combined to fill Coral’s bright, clean, and very organized bakery with a heavenly scent. I brought home a loaf of Coral’s bread. From the photo below, you can see that it has beautiful, even texture. What you can’t tell from the photo but that I can assure you is that the bread also has exceptional flavour.
I think it is wonderful to see a young entrepreneur structuring her bakery around the use of wholesome, local natural products, following in the footsteps of what our forefathers did many years ago. Coral Wood is proof that baked goods can be made healthy and tasty without, as she herself puts it, including ingredients that few of us can even pronounce!
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