Ethical, Regional, and Cheaper: Flour

KevinBaking with Fire, Cooking w/ Fire, From Local Farms, Grains, Highwood Crossing15 Comments

A few short years ago, I thought the often ~400% price premium for organics was so ridiculous that I simply wasn’t willing to pay for it, even if it was supposedly better for me. Times have changed, and two things have happened: 1] education has made me willing pay the price and 2] I found ways to not have to pay the price.

The second bit is the better of the two, isn’t it? I think so. Having one’s cake and eating it too feels darn good. The more I source my family’s food outside the walls of a box-store, the more I find opportunities to procure ethically produced, local, and often organic products for roughly what I was used to paying inside those box-store walls. Most certainly at a fraction of what I’d pay at a retail organic store. This is very important to me, not simply because our family can eat better food for little extra money, but because it has proven to me that the price objection I once felt – which I’d wager keeps a lot of folks away from organics need not exist. There’s a better way to access organic, local food. It is accessible. I do it every day.

For your consideration I offer the following example. Highwood Crossing‘s organic unbleached white flour, of which I just obtained 40kg, with shipping, $38/20kg bag. That’s $1.90/kg. A local-to-me organic producer Sunny Boy, goes for $8/1.8kg bag at retailer, or $4.44/kg. The photo below shows Robin Hood flour at a national grocer at a regular price of $9.99/5kg, or $2/kg. Wait a minute. Isn’t that more than the $1.90/kg for local, organically grown product?!? Why yes, yes it is.

The bottom line is that I’m now happy to pay more for top quality grains from local producers like this. I’m not interested in feeding my kids sprayed grain or encouraging non-sensible agricultural practices in general, if I can avoid it, which I can. But for those resisting local or organic or ethical food based on price as I did for  along time – please know that with some resourcefulness [like joining a local bulk-ordering club, buying direct from farmers, doing some legwork yourself, or any other method of carving out the overhead and profit of middlemen], you can eat better food without spending a dime more. It can be done.

ps – I obtained the Highwood Crossing flour through a bulk order. I’ve also obtained organic grains here at similar prices. I know folks who’ve done it through local bulk buying clubs, which I hope to be able to provide info on soon. And yes, I know you can buy conventional flour for cheaper than in the photo above, but that’s a bit besides the point, imo.

15 Comments on “Ethical, Regional, and Cheaper: Flour”

  1. Mel

    Thanks for the tip. I’ve started making all of my own bread, so knowing that I can easily procure value-priced organic flour is a huge bonus.

  2. A Canadian Foodie

    SOunds like there are some of us that want to be in on a home delivery bulk order plan… can you find out the protein content in the flour and what are the protein contents he grinds for all of his flours?
    I so want a lovely soft, yellow flour for bread making like I worked with in Europe.
    I also want you “recipe” for that incredible brown bread I didn’t get to eat until it was the most delectable crouton… or sliced and dried cracker. How do you make that, please?
    (I try to spread out my requests for information)

  3. Raymond

    It is important to get people out the the mental boxes they are in regarding food. Even Sunny Boy, as you mentioned above, can be obtained for MUCH less than the stores want to charge. It is a case of “It’s local and organic so we need to mark up immensely.” But if you actually GO to Camrose and be willing to gram a few 20kg bags the cost drops a lot. Right into your indicated price point actually.
    The key tho is the willingness to look around and put some effort into your food.
    And on that note I’m going to go take my loaves out of the oven.

  4. Kevin Kossowan

    Mel – good for you, and yes, it seems that finally some local flour options are becoming available. I always thought it was ridiculous to grow it and have no sources.
    QPC – you’re welcome.
    Raymond – thanks for sharing that. My fear is often the ‘yeah, well you can because ‘blah” objection – access is important to me. So the fact that folks can simply go to where it’s produced, skip retail, and get hooked up is AWESOME. Granted, most folks would rather pay retail. But lots would prefer ethical, regional and cheap if it were an option, I think. Hence the importance of leads like yours.

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  8. john schneider

    Valerie…the protein on our whole wheat flour, Hard Red Spring wheat, is around 14.5%. The soft white is lower at around 13%. We had a little difficultly with protein this year because of all the rain. I can control the amount of nitrogen in our fields with legumes and certain tillage practices, but I have yet to figure out a way to control the moisture! In a drier summer, the proteins would be higher. Still though, we supply Treestone Bakery, Queen of Tarts and Prairie Mill Bread Co. and they are finding the protein to be perfect for their bread products.

    As always, we grow our wheat with baking in mind. Cheers!


  9. john schneider

    Good post Kevin…we struggle a bit with pricing our products. We want to provide our products at as economical price as possible, but if people had any idea how hard it is to make a living farming with the price of labour, land, fuel, repairs, hail damage, drought, etc. etc. they would happily pay almost any price for good quality food. We feel that we charge what we need to to justify staying in business or to grow the little farm we now have. We are attempting to do what no other farmer is currently doing…grow organic grains, process them on-farm and deliver them directly to individual consumers. It is definitely not the easy thing to do and we are committed to try to make it work.

    We do have ideas for plans (for next fall) to start some sort of small scale bulk flour program. If people are willing to bring us their containers for bulk flour, we would mill the grains straight into their containers at a reduced price. This alleviates the pressure on us to package and deliver flour to individuals and retail markets. Just a thought.

    We do welcome any suggestions from people on what they would like to see happen with local grain products from our farm.

  10. Kevin Kossowan

    John – you certainly don’t need to justify your pricing to me, but I appreciate hearing about it here for others’ sake. Like with other agricultural products, cost of production of sustainable, organic, and local foods is high, and as folks like you build the food system we need, it’s going to cost a few bucks more. I’m happy to pay it. But for those who can’t, and to fight the ‘I can’t afford it’ argument for avoiding local, ethical food, I feel compelled to jump up and down when I find examples like this that break down the logic of ‘not being able to afford it’. Perhaps in my mind it’s a related step to getting to: I’m willing to afford it.

    When I walk into a wine shop, I don’t expect a top-quality, small lot, small producer wine to cost me the least. Those expectations can’t be the same for high quality food. And as cheapass as I am, I am happy to pay a healthy premium for top-shelf-quality. Which is why I’m happy to pay your prices.

    Keep me in mind for your bulk program. I have a small network of folks who would likely be interested if I were to stock up and then supply them from here.

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  12. Kevin

    Dave – I know. Cheaper can be had. My point is simply that the assumption that local and organic must cost more isn’t as absolute as folks think. I’m not suggesting it’s always cheaper.

  13. Luke

    Hi Kevin, and thank you! I am currently on this exact same trip, sourcing out grain prices from organic sources for food for my family. I find it maddening that the organic retailers inflate the prices to the point that poorer people cannot afford it and need it the most. I have a family of 11 and finding good food that is not killing us is worth the extra but it still has to fall within the boundaries of being possible. I have not yet found a bulk supplier but will check your suggestions, I manage an organic fish fertilizer plant and am committed to keeping the price of our product down so that the cost to produce the grains remains as low as possible. My company’s fish fertilizer is top notch and I sell it for $0.75- $0.95 per litre. A conventional chemical fertilizer sells for app. $1000.00 for a ton that will treat 10 – 15 acres – ours is $750 – $950 for a ton that will treat 25 – 50 acres depending on the concentrate you use, we recommend foliar sprays at 50 parts water to 1 part fish fertilizer. That’s 4-5 time the value! Farmers I sell to work hard, but sure are able to eat better than I or my family, and to be burned by others’ price gouging is sickening – literally and figuratively! I am so torked over the situation that I’m looking at starting a bulk grain co-op in my small home town on the coast of BC but have neither the knowledge ( yet) or the finances to swim it into existence. I understand it will be a group effort that lifts it off the ground but if you could send me any info that would help in this regard I would appreciate it. Please feel free to edit this post if you wish to use any of it on your site. I am also looking at setting up a bartering platform as a way of procuring good produce but this is logistically difficult to orccastrate but with the advent of such fast and superior methods of communication I know it’s possible. Thank you for your efforts and your posts, they are encouraging as you show it is possible!

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