Wild Hive Farm Flour Is Fresh, Local — and Available
Everyone is baking and that means there is no King Arthur flour to be found at any local stores or even at the King Arthur website.
But there’s plenty of flour at Wild Hive Farm Community Grain Project in Clinton Corners, N.Y., which has tons of it (literally).
“We have a grain bank with probably close to 40 tons of grains,” said Wild Hive founder Don Lewis in a phone interview on Wednesday, May 20. “We have a variety of wheats and rye and spelt and emmer.
“We’re not going to run out,” he promised.
Close readers will notice that Lewis said he has grain not flour; there is also of course flour, but it is not milled until, more or less, it is needed.
All that grain was grown on the East Coast, from upper New York state down to Pennsylvania. Lewis coordinates wheat growers across the region and aggregates their grains, then mills them and sells them. His biggest customer is four of the Eataly food/restaurant/bakery extravaganzas.
Until COVID-19, Lewis said, “75% of our sales were to restaurants and bakeries. That’s almost all gone now,” with the quarantine.
Wild Hive is now selling more to individual consumers, especially as home bakers begin seeking alternatives to the commercial flour they can no longer find at grocery stores and online. Selling at retail, of course, is slightly more work than selling to commercial clients; there is more individual packaging and it’s more complicated to organize deliveries and pick-ups.
It will be interesting to see what happens when Wild Hive’s commercial customers return, and have to compete for a finite supply of local grain with home bakers. Lewis feels confident that everyone can get what they need. He has plenty of grain in storage, and unless there is a bad weather event there will be more new grain that can be milled starting in September.
Weather is, of course, always a concern, for any agricultural product. When Lewis started Wild Hive 20 years ago, he was hoping to work with grain farmers in a smaller geographic region. A century or more ago there were many grain farmers here, but by the year 2000 there really were none. Lewis helped start the local grain movement in this part of the world — and then found he needed to expand out.
“To be sustainable you have to be more regional,” he said. “That way if there’s a really wet year in one place you can still get grain from another place.”
The Wild Hive flours are much more expensive than the average commercial brands, but they are lively, protein rich and very fresh (1.5 pounds is about $10; 5 pounds is about $22 to $26, depending on what kind of flour you order).
They are so fresh, in fact, that Lewis says you should use them up within three to five months (freezing will add a couple months of life).
There are many flours to choose from at the website. For the average bread baker, the best choice is probably the Hard Red Bread Flour 00, but if you call them they’ll advise you about what will work best for whatever you plan to bake.
You might have noticed that there isn’t much yeast available at your grocery store either; Wild Hive has a very vigorous and mature sourdough starter that Lewis brought back from a recent visit to Estonia. There is also a dried yeast for $5 per bag.
You can pay $11 to have your products shipped, or you can pay a $1 processing fee and go to Clinton Corners and pick it up yourself.
To learn more, go to www.wildhivefarm.com or call 845-266-0660.