Farmer, Miller, Baker: The Innovators Behind the Heritage Grain Movement

These rustic loaves are the result of a collaboration between Bay State Milling and Izzio Artisan Bakery. Photo courtesy Izzio Artisan Bakery

On a scale dwarfed by Red Hen, and utterly eclipsed by La Brea, is the operation of baker Andy Clark, the Turkey Red enthusiast in Colorado. Clark left senior baking jobs with Whole Foods Market and others to launch an artisanal bakery called Moxie Bread Company in 2015 in the town of Louisville, quickly gaining an avid local following and national recognition. Since his Whole Foods days, Andy has been interested in Turkey Red, which once lorded over the Kansas landscape and is now a marginal heirloom. 

He waxes poetic, calling Turkey Red, which hailed from Eastern Europe, the “chromosomal Eve of the American bread basket in the 19th century.” It’s delivered to his bakery in a pickup truck. Andy mills it himself and uses it in three rustic loaves that are the mainstays of Moxie’s bread line. The bread is crusty, chewy, and deeply flavored—all qualities the baker attributes to the long fermentation of dough made from full-flavored flour.

These days Andy—the archetypal restless baker—is hatching a plan to source more local organic wheat from several farmers, mill it, and sell to other bakers. 

Meanwhile, a few miles away from Moxie in a squeaky-clean industrial park, Izzio Artisan Bakery sells breads in 25 states and counting. The bakery’s owners insist that despite the scale of production—enabled by high-tech mixers that adjust automatically to the gluten strength of dough and computer-controlled 10-deck ovens—the loaves are artisan in their essential qualities: slow-fermented, hand-formed, based on pre-industrial recipes, and baked by bakers of international repute. Chewing on a chunk of ciabatta on the Izzio production floor, it’s hard to argue: the bread tastes slow and small. The company is so purist about its flour that it buys it unenriched—no added niacin or folic acid or other vitamins common to most U.S. flour—and has trademarked a blend called High Plains Provenance Flour, which is sourced from more than two dozen farmers located within 42 miles of the bakery.

Photo courtesy La Brea Bakery

“The big driver for us,” says Etai Baron, chief executive officer and owner, “is just wanting to have an ultra-clean bread label and being able to trace the seeds all the way back to the farmer.”

Izzio has a massive appetite for flour, many truckloads per week, and the company wasn’t about to get in the business of building a network of farmers on its own. Enter Bay State Milling, a long-established national company whose Colorado operation was already buying grain directly from local growers. With Bay State in the middle, Izzio could create a tight farm-mill-bakery circle, free from the risk of relying on just one or two farmers.

“We realized we could get the flour we wanted, the way we wanted it, with the grains that we wanted from the farmers we wanted,” says Etai. “This was building on a relationship the mill already had with the farmers.”

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