By Kristie Snyder, GreenStar Marketing Staff

Wheat has been a staple food of human civilizations since before recorded history, eaten whole or ground into flour for baking an astonishing array of leavened and unleavened bread products. It remains a central part of many people’s diets — those who can’t imagine a hearty soup without a crusty bread alongside know what I’m talking about. For the past decade, Farmer Ground Flour has kept local, organic flours and grain products on Ithaca tables.

Owned by Greg Russo, Neal Johnston, and Thor Oechsner, Farmer Ground Flour supplies the Co-op with a very long list (see below) of certified-organic products. Supported in its early years by two late pillars of the local, organic food movement, Erick Smith of Cayuga Pure Organics and Gary Redmond of Regional Access, the mill has matured into an efficient operation with several employees operating in a custom-built facility near Mecklenburg. Stone wheels grind local grain (some of which is supplied by Thor) into a variety of flours, including heirloom wheat varieties that offer superior nutritional or baking qualities. Non-wheat grains like buckwheat and corn (ground into cornmeal or polenta) round out their flour offerings. Farmer Ground also supplies a few “not ground” products to the Bulk Department: rye and spelt grain, and several varieties of wheat berries.

Farmer Ground is much smaller than most flour-milling businesses. “Everything is geared for things ten times the size of what we’re doing,” Greg says. A smaller operation yields a different product. “Even our flours that aren’t whole wheat are more of a whole-grain product than commodity white flour,” Greg says. The flour is much fresher, too — home cooks can tell the difference, and professional bakers love it. Greg’s personal favorite is einkorn flour. With a higher percentage of sugars and fats than most wheat, einkorn makes pancakes, especially, richer and sweeter, without added butter or syrup. “It’s really amazing,” he says, “a really different grain.”

Wheat is difficult to grow in the wet upstate New York environment, and growing and processing organic grain into high-quality flour requires collaboration with other millers, farmers, breeders, and bakers. Wide Awake Bakery, just a few miles away, has been a collaborator from the beginning, and GreenStar was one of the mill’s first customers. Bulk Manager Joe Damiano’s support was instrumental in the mill’s early years, says Greg, noting also the support and enthusiasm of Co-op shoppers: “I was blown away by how much GreenStar customers bought.” He adds, “It’s tough to imagine this business having taken off the ground anywhere other than Ithaca.”

Farmer Ground Flour supplies so many products to the Co-op that it would have been impossible to list them all in the article above! But we didn’t want you to miss anything, so here’s the complete list of items available at the West End store:

In Bulk:
• All-purpose white flour
• Whole-wheat pastry flour
• White pastry flour
• Whole-wheat bread flour

• Half-white bread flour
• Buckwheat flour
• Rye flour
• Einkorn flour
• Spelt flour
• Cornmeal
• Polenta
• Rye grain
• Soft white winter wheat berries
• Red spring winter wheat berries
• Hard red winter wheat berries
• Spelt grain

In Grocery (packaged):
• All-purpose white flour
• Whole-wheat pastry flour
• Whole-wheat bread flour
• Half-white bread flour
• Buckwheat flour
• Rye flour
• Spelt flour
• Cornmeal
• Polenta