The tour provided bakers a chance to experience the lifespan of wheat from seed to flour. "It was the next area of knowledge that I needed to gain," said Scott Mangold, owner of Breadfarm in Bow, Wash. "I'm pretty well versed in baking with flour, but wanted to know about the growing and milling aspects." For two days, bakers learned the science and biology of wheat at Kansas State University and the American Institute of Baking, both in Manhattan, Kan. For the next three days, they crossed Kansas touring wheat fields and flour mills.
For Jim Williams, owner of Seven Stars Bakery in Providence, R.I., it was a chance for him to see wheat growing in fields and to be in a flour mill, both new experiences. "It gave the big picture of the whole process. I wanted to see where flour came from and learn about the different varieties," Williams said. He also appreciated the fact that one of the mills he visited on the tour supplies his bakery. "I actually got to see where the flour currently in my bakery came from and stand where it had been," he added.
By connecting the flour back to the farmers, Frank Carollo, managing partner of Zingerman's Bakehouse, Ann Arbor, Mich. saw an ideal marketing opportunity. "I think it was a way of doing service to the farmers and our customers by connecting them. It is a way for us to distinguish ourselves in the marketplace by introducing our customers to the farmers by passing on the knowledge gained on the trip," he said.
The challenges bakers face in creating consistent, high quality baked products are the same that the farmers and millers face in producing consistent, high quality wheat and flour, Mangold said. "It was nice to see that we're not alone," he added.