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Against the Grain

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Issue: 35 Section: Food Geography: Atlantic New Brunswick Topics: food security

March 27, 2006

Against the Grain

Speerville's bioregional ethic supports local economies

by Hillary Bain Lindsay

A thousand acres of organic grain is now grown in the Maritimes, for the Maritimes Manitoba Government
"We feel that more people in Atlantic Canada should be eating more food that's produced in Atlantic Canada," explains Todd Grant, manager of Speerville Flour Mill.

"Eat local," is the oft repeated mantra of grassroots agriculture, environmental and food security organizations, but businesses that embody that ethic are few and far between.

The organic grains and cereals produced by Speerville Flour Mill in Speerville New Brunswick are not available outside the Maritimes. Although having more people in British Columbia or Ontario eating food produced in Atlantic Canada might increase Speerville's profit margin, Grant does not see it a choice the Mill can justify.

The average meal travels 1500 miles from field to table. Almost one third of transport trucks on Canada's highways are carrying food. Less than one per cent of the Atlantic region's available cereals and flour are actually produced in the region.

This system degrades the environment, explains Grant, and is devastating to local economies. "If you drive through Atlantic Canada, the farms are disappearing left, right and centre." Grant understands the depth of that loss more than the average city slicker: "I grew up on a farm. It's a way of life I believe in and want to see available for young people to experience." Speerville has made a significant effort to ensure that this will be the case in the Maritimes.

When the mill was founded over 20 years ago, almost no organic grain was being grown in the Maritime region. Today, with harvests destined for Speerville Mill, small farmers in the region grow almost 1000 acres of organic grain..

At the mill the grain is stone ground, a milling process that uses the entire kernel. The result is a high fibre, nutritious, delicious tasting whole grain flour, says Grant. "It's the old fashioned way of doing it."

It's obvious when talking to Grant that he believes 'the old fashioned way' has more to teach modern industrial agriculture than most would care to admit. Heavy pesticide use has resulted in land so depleted and chemicalized that "it's not able to produce healthy food any more," says Grant. But to his dismay, 'organic' no longer means healthy or natural either: "Do you know that they have organic white cake mix?!"

Speerville's Whole Wheat Bread

Place in a bowl:
1 Tbsp Baking Yeast
3 cups Warm Water
1/4 cup Honey

Add: 3 1/2 to 4 cups of Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour

Stir the mixture (from outside inward), folding in air.
Cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place for about an hour.

Fold in:
2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Oil
3 to4 cups Flour

Knead for 10 minutes using 1 to 2 cups of flour and more as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough in a lard oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place for about one hour - or until double in size.

Punch down with your fist until air is worked out of the dough.
Cut into loaves. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Shape and place in baking dish.
Cover and let rise for 15 minutes.
Bake bread at 350° F for 50 minutes.

Makes 3 large loaves.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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