On Saturday, I loaded a stack of CDs* into Sulie and headed off in search of local food and adventure. Despite doubting the accuracy of my directions, I found both!
This place is a real find. They mill Michigan-grown organic wheat, oats, rye, and buckwheat and sells it as all-purpose flour, bread flour, and pastry flour, as well as a number of mixes (pancakes, muffins, brownies, etc.). They grow the majority of their grain, but when demand is high, they also get organic grain from other nearby Michigan counties. They bake several kinds of bread in-house and sell a few other locally-produced products like milk, butter, honey, maple syrup, eggs, mustard, and horseradish sauce.
The oats are an interesting case of “is it local?” Brenda, the store manager, told me they are grown and sold in Michigan, but they have to ship them to Canada to be processed into rolled and steel cut oats. Now granted, Canada’s really not that far from this part of the world – still within 100 miles – and the added bonus is that the oats aren’t steamed to death before they’re rolled the way store-bought oats are.
One of the owners, Lee Purdy, stopped in while I was there and was a trove of information not only about his business, but other small producers in the area. He even gave me a lead on that non-GMO, expeller-pressed vegetable oil I’ve been hunting for. (I tell you, the month is all downhill from this grand slam on day 1…) The human web is, indeed, more powerful than the electronic one in this realm.
I ended up buying bread flour, oatmeal, brownie mix (ok, so the cocoa isn’t local…), a loaf of bread, horseradish and mustard, and three gorgeous bulbs of garlic. I’m thrilled about the oatmeal; now I can make my squash crumble locally except for the spices.
Westwind sells at markets in the Lansing area, the Ypsilanti Co-Op, and Morgan and York in Ann Arbor. Sweet Lorraine’s (A2) also uses their flour. They have many other outlets – even Greenfield Village – so look for their label on the bag.
Second stop: Almar Orchards, Flushing, MI (Photos)
My stop at Almar was a pretty quick one. While I was hoping for a nice long chat like I’d had at Westwind (and, in fact, Ray told me to be sure to talk to them about the hog project they’re starting, raising heirloom hogs on the fallen apples in the orchard), when I got there, the place was a bit of a zoo. Almost literally; they had goats and reindeer and other farm animals, plus a small playground and hayrides in addition to the apples, donuts and organic cider.
Let’s skip the part about me chickening out on tracking down the owner to ask about her hogs and get to the cider. You can get their sweet cider (the only organic cider I’ve seen in this area) at many outlets, including Arbor Farms grocery in Ann Arbor. But they also make hard cider, available only at the orchard store, so far as I can tell. I *love* this cider, and am including it on my list of products you can’t get anywhere else. Now let’s remember, I don’t drink. I’m no brut…so the reason I like this cider is its sweetness. Those of you who like wine and beer may find it overly sweet. But me, I bought five 22-oz bottles. Ask when you’re here and I just might share some. I also bought a bag of the best apples I’ve eaten all season: organic Braeburns, 5lb for $4.50, so a bargain, too!
Along the way:
I saw a number of neat things as I drove the back roads to my destinations:
- A sign for a grange bazaar and lunch – I wanted to eat lunch there but was a week too early. (Do people know what a grange is? I know I was the only person over age 2 and under age 60 at the grange dances of my youth…)
- The train station-turned-library of Gaines, Michigan. I grew up in a 100 year old train station, and about half of my family and friends are librarians, so it struck a chord.
- A birchbark house, in passable Anishinabek style
* S.J. Tucker’s _Blessings_ and _Sirens_, Rodrigo y Gabriela’s euonymus disc, The Best of Tuck and Patty, and Yo Yo Ma, Mark O’Connor, and Edgar Meyers’s Appalachian Waltz, if you’re curious.