Jon Steinman pours wheat into the flour mill owned by members of the Nelson Flour Milling Co-op. Photo submitted

Nelson flour mill co-op looking for new members

COVID-19 highlights relevance of decade-old milling project

One of the world’s most ancient and primal human activities has become a symbol of stay-at-home life in a pandemic.

A sudden, enthusiastic uptick in home bread baking has led to temporary shortages of flour and yeast in stores across the country, and in Nelson.

“What draws people to grain in hard times is the reconnection to our cultural roots,” says Nelson author and food activist Jon Steinman. “It creates a sense of empowerment because it is such an important part of the diet.”

When it comes to locally grown food, people usually think of vegetables and fruit, and perhaps meat. Grain has always been on the periphery, he says.

Steinman is part of a project that’s been operating under the radar in Nelson since 2012 – a co-operative of 20 people who own a flour mill.

Each member of the Nelson Flour Milling Co-op has a key to the mill’s warehouse location. Whenever they run out of flour they visit the mill, pour in some grain, flip the switch, and go home with fresh flour.

The co-op members do not jointly buy grain. Each member purchases it independently from Creston farmers or from retail outlets in Nelson.

In addition to self-sufficiency and support for local farmers, Steinman says, the reward is in the quality of the flour.

“It is the freshest flour possible, with all the nutrition and flavour possible.”

Just after being milled, “it smells incredible, there is a tiny bit of warmth, a bit of a fresh bread smell.”

He says much of the flour on grocery store shelves is rancid, or at least very stale, from having been packaged for months or years.

“Over time as we left our food supply to industrial methods of production and corporate interests,” Steinman says, “we have detached ourselves almost completely from the sources of our grains.”

The co-op’s mill can grind a variety of grains into flour: soft or hard wheat, oat groats (dehulled oats), rice, triticale, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, barley, rye, millet, teff, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum and field corn.

Steinman says the history of grain growing in the Kootenays is visible on the landscape in the Creston Valley.

“Those grain elevators are a reminder that Creston was once a very active grain producing region.”

Most of the grain produced there in the past has been for animal feed. But now several Creston farmers and millers are part of the new movement to localize grain production for human consumption.

The Star will visit some of those farmers in an upcoming article.

Meanwhile, the manager of Nelson’s Safeway says he’s been hard at work finding alternate suppliers for flour and yeast.

“It’s definitely a market trend,” says Jamie Simpson. “A close second to the toilet paper shortage.”

He has had to buy yeast in bulk and package it in-store, and while he is able to stock the popular kinds of flours he’s had to let go of some of the more exotic varieties for the time being.

It’s been the same at the Kootenay Co-op, where the shortage has extended to sourdough starter kits.

“It usually takes us a long time to sell our stock of those,” says grocery manager Erin Morrison. “But they were gone in a couple of days.”

Steinman says the flour mill co-op would welcome more members. It doesn’t have a website, but he can be reached at info@deconstructingdinner.com.

Related:

Nelson author tours unique food book continent-wide

Nelson grocers: ‘We’re not going to run out of food’



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary rescinds all Grand Forks-area evacuation orders

Evacuation alerts for 1,136 Boundary properties remain in effect as officials monitor forecasts

Pay guarantee removed for some Kootenay on-call paramedics

Guarantee phased out as BCEHS introduces a new “scheduled on call” model

City of Rossland looks to electrify vehicles and equipment

City council passed three motions on June 1 to work towards commitment

No active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health: BCCDC

Numbers from the BCCDC’s dashboard show 193 of the 195 COVID-19 cases in the region have recovered

Trail centenarian looking forward to her letter from the Queen

With COVID protocols quashing gatherings, Irene can only have a small celebration for her 100th bday

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Vancouver Island First Nations gather to remember woman fatally shot by police

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council requests an independent investigation

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Nelson counsellor works online with university students in central Asia during pandemic

Robin Higgins is home from her job in Tajikistan because of COVID-19

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Most Read