Farmers' Kitchen Nitty Gritty Grains
Written onMarch 01 , 2011
Corn in Vermont fields is not uncommon, but wheat? In the 1800s wheat was a common sight on the rocky hillsides of the state, but as the country expanded westward, other land appeared to be more hospitable and profitable for the large production of wheat needed for a growing population. During the past decade, however, wheat in Vermont has had a rebirth of sorts. A small cadre of farmers have, individually and independently, decided to again give it a try by attempting to grow small quantity, high quality wheat—and they’ve been finding success.
Tom Kenyon, the cofounder and owner of Nitty Gritty Grain Company of Vermont, has been farming since 1978. Aurora Farm, his certified organic operation, had previously sold its grains in bulk quantities to users who had no knowledge of its origins. But as the movement for local food became stronger, Randy George of Red Hen Baking Co. in Middlesex wanted to produce an all-Vermont bread, and turned to Tom and other local farmers. A new crop for Aurora Farm, a hard red winter wheat, was planted on pristine acres in and around Charlotte and Shelburne. The first two years, due to uncooperative weather, the new wheat variety did not meet the stringent standards for certified organic food. Fortunately, 2009 produced a wheat flour that ”felt just like it was supposed to,” according to Randy, and from this flour the Red Hen Cyrus Pringle loaf was created (see Vermont’s Local Banquet, Spring 2010). If you’ve tried it, you know how good it tastes.
Nitty Gritty was founded in 2008 to sell products from Aurora Farm, and in 2010 the company became a family operation. Catherine, Tom’s sister, who Tom affectionately calls “The Cornmeal Queen,” took over the production and management of the Nitty Gritty operation. Lana, Catherine’s daughter, staffed the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market, where Nitty Gritty enjoyed great exposure and sales. And Tom’s son, David, has become a driving force by both working on the farm and for the company. Our friends Geoffrey Lavallette, Kim Dutton, and Bridget Masterson are irreplaceable workers in our operation.
This cornbread recipe was created by Lana as a taste sample for people at the Waitsfield Farmer’s Market. The combination of our hard red winter wheat flour and our Wapsie Valley cornmeal proved to be a great hit with Lana’s customers.
Nitty Gritty Grain Company of Vermont is based in Charlotte. To see their entire selection of grain and corn products, which includes wheat berries, pancake mix, and pastry flour, please visit their website,www.nittygrittygrain.com.