All Good Bakers – A Community-Supported Bakery
Britin chimed in on a conversation HOMEGROWNers were having on the Facebook page about winter CSAs:
We’ve got one! My husband and I started a Community Supported Bakery in Nov. in Albany, NY. And our Farmer’s Market (which is over for the season) is coordinating a once a month pick-up for vendors/customers during the winter. We’ve been bartering all year for veggies/meats/eggs/etc., so thankfully we’ll still be able to get some healthy foods this winter.
Well, we had to know more. Here is Britin’s story:
My husband, Nick, and I have been baking for regional farmer’s markets for the past 7 years and this year, we began Albany, NY’s first Community Supported Bakery. We are All Good Bakers. With the support of our shareholders, we’re able to bake with only locally-milled, organic flours and other primarily local, organic (or organic-practices) ingredients. Our main goals are to support local farms and bring our community affordable, healthy bread. Our very first season started November 3rd and runs through April 27; we currently have 45 families with 60 shares and hope to sign up more now that our (wonderful) Farmer’s Market in nearby Delmar has ended for the season. Our members are able to choose which items they want each week and can mix and match from our selections of breads and from-scratch, locavore & vegan baked goods.
The idea for our CSB came about after we spent a considerable amount of time answering a myriad of “big life” questions. I’ve been out of the mainstream workforce for 4 years, staying home with our daughter, and desperately did not want to go back to a cubicle performing mind-numbing administrative work. Nick has been baking and cooking for the local Co-Op for several years, but we both have grown weary committing all of our creative energy working for others. We spent the summer trying to figure out if there was a way we could continue baking bread for our customers over the winter, become a bit more self-sufficient (while nurturing community relationships), and have more time together as a family. We were already using fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and maple syrup that are local and produced under at least organic practices for our baking, but we couldn’t afford yet to use all organic flours.
Creativity is often a creature born from necessity and sometimes, fortuitous accidents. In August, I broke my ankle picking up a toy from the front yard (embarrassing) and coincidentally, had finally gotten my hands on our library’s brand new copy of Shannon Hayes’ book “Radical Homemakers”. Since I was propped on the sofa, I actually had some time to read and absorb the ideas within. Discovering how other people have negotiated their own challenges with self-sufficiency and community-building bolstered my confidence to figure out a way to bring in some income, utilize our skills and passions, and still maintain our value system. While we were figuring all this out, we had our detractors who said, “wouldn’t it be easier if you just went back to an office job or asked for more hours at the Co-op?” Well, yes, it could have been easier but over time, we knew choosing that path would lead to our ultimate unhappiness and we were determined to find a way to support ourselves doing something we love. My copy was returned a bit dog-eared and late. All summer, our vendor neighbors at the market were a couple of amazing women who are grass-fed beef/pork/chicken farmers and have their own CSAs – it finally dawned on us to pose the question to ourselves, “why not offer bread shares, just like a meat or vegetable CSA?” Our friends at Java Jazz Cafe and the Town Pedaler in Delmar were also beginning a Community Supported service called “Dinner By Bike”, using all local, mostly organic ingredients, and we were chosen to provide the bread component, so the concept wasn’t a hard sell to our food-educated community. We had our customers fill out a survey to float the idea of a Community Supported Bakery and the response was overwhelming! We received a lot of encouragement, did a lot of planning and now our CSB has been going strong for 8 weeks. We were able to start using all organic flours and we get NY grown when we can. There are so many benefits that stem from the Community Supported model, not the least being our shareholders’ health.
We’re slowly getting to know our members better and when they share tidbits about their personal lives or food-related concerns, I’ve actually gotten choked up a little bit – those moments help me realize that the network of relationships and knowledge-sharing we are cultivating is the most satisfying and worthy part of what we’re doing. We publish everyone we work with in order to strengthen the link with our local farmers who provide the majority of our ingredients, and we’re getting to know them better too. We’re extremely fortunate to live in a town full of people who care where their food comes from. So where do we go from here? We figure we shouldn’t just be Community Supported, we should help support the community. Almost everyone consumes bread regularly, but it is healthy? There are food deserts right here in Albany. Eventually we’d like to start a Bread at Home workshop that brings in people from those food deserts and teaches them to prepare affordable, sustainably sourced, healthy daily bread. We’re also working on getting our bread on the local Community Gardens Veggie Truck so we can reach more people in areas that are lacking affordable, healthy foods. They are dedicated to bringing sustainable produce to people who have the least access. Another idea we have is to rent out the kitchen we work from (at a reasonable rate) to other small bakers who lack a space to grow their business and form a Baker’s Co-op. There are hardly any affordable kitchens for rent in our area. We have a retail space where we could sell what everyone is making and we could all staff the shop. We’ve got a couple people in mind now who might join us. There’s a lot of work ahead, but our passions have been ignited. We go to bed tired but full of ideas that can make resting elusive. We’re hoping our winter is filled with making more energetic connections that can help further our goals. We’re finding ways to inject meaning into our work and that is a far-reaching gift that benefits more than just us.