The mighty Mississippi, recently crested 14 ft. above flood stage in Memphis, Tenn. This, of course, is following on the heels of a devastating spate of tornados in the mid-Atlantic region, and occurs only months after the record snowfalls in Boston, New York and Chicago that first planted the seed for the now bulging rivers. I was about 30 minutes removed from being trapped in one of those snowbound cars seen temporarily entombed on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago–lucky for me, I snuck out of work early that day.
But as wild as the weather has been lately, I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone why it has been so. Global warming, global cooling, natural fluctuations or man-made killstorms–I have neither the requisite degrees nor the context of thousands of years of weather patterns to make any claims one way or another. I’m no more a global warming denier than I am an Al Gore devotee, so don’t expect any lectures. Instead, I’d like to highlight our industry’s encouraging reaction to recent weather extremes.
The weather has a direct impact on wheat yield, which then has a direct impact on flour prices. But we have a group in Washington in the ABA watching our backs, fighting to provide bakers an umbrella in the storm of commodity speculation and index funds. It’s heartening to see the industry band together in a common cause, recognizing we’re all in the same boat.
Speaking of boats, employees of Lallemand/American Yeast Corp., Memphis, have practically needed boats to get to and from work during the recent floods. The plant is thankfully located on dry ground, but the access roads to and from have been submerged.
When a yeast supplier with as large a footprint as Lallemand is temporarily hobbled, things can get tough for bakers who, without yeast, can’t bake bread. But Gary Edwards, president, American Yeast, wasn’t about to let a mere 14 feet of extra standing water get in the way of making his deliveries. It was a logistics nightmare, but he used every resource available to make deliveries.
The company leaned heavily on other Lallemand plants in Montreal and Baltimore to fill orders. They even sourced from competitors. According to Cory Diaz, media relations, USA Yeast, Hattiesburg, Miss., collaborating with fellow yeast manufacturers is essential “to help stave off a potential shortage of bread in some areas.”
Competitors’ willingness to cooperate in times of crisis is a testament to both companies’ devotion to customers and commitment to the industry’s overall health.
And as much as we’re influenced by the weather, baking truly is a rain or shine industry.