Artful loafing

The rise of New Mexico's artisan bakeries is bringing back a farming tradition

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"Organic wheat is more profitable," says Gonzalo Gallegos, a farmer from Costilla, New Mexico, and the president of the Wheat Project. While non-organic wheat brings in $2.25 to $2.50 a bushel, organic fetches between $6.50 and $7 a bushel. But Gallegos discovered the benefits went far beyond simple economics. "We're reviving our fallow lands where nothing grew for decades," Gallegos says. "That helps people in the community. And the bread that comes from our wheat is something that's good. You know what you're eating."

Longtime wheat grower Tom Seibel of Anton Chico, New Mexico, between Las Vegas and Santa Rosa on the Pecos River, sees another economic advantage in reviving wheat farming in New Mexico. "The Wheat Project gave us an alternative crop that works well on the land in combination with raising livestock," he says.

Using Wheat Project flour, Malten created his popular Nativo sprouted wheat bread, baking crunchy wheat berries into a hearty sourdough loaf. Cloud Cliff bakery uses 200,000 pounds of organic New Mexico-grown flour a year.

Other bakeries have followed Malten's lead, and artisan breads can now be found in a growing number of New Mexico bakeries and markets. Malten hopes this is the start of a revolution in the way New Mexicans eat. "Flour tortillas were invented out of wheat suitable for flatbread," says Malten. "If we now have local bread using locally grown wheat, we're on the way to developing authentic regional specialties in baking."

 

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