Baker at Wide Awake Bakery removing fresh baked bread from oven.By David Durrett – a current intern at GreenStar Food Co+op, David Durrett is a lifelong resident of Ithaca as well as a graduate of Ithaca College. He is a freelance reporter whose work has also appeared in Tompkins Weekly and The Ithaca Voice, among other publications. 

Wide Awake Bakery is a community supported bakery in Mecklenburg, NY that seeks to make and sell bread in a socially responsible way.

Stef Senders founded Wide Awake Bakery in 2010 with his wife Elizabeth Brown and business partner, Thor Ochsner. The idea was born over dinner, when Thor encouraged the other two to bake bread with the flour that he produced.

Wide Awake Bakery started out with Stef as the sole employee, but now the bakery employs about six or seven people. Stef said he has no desire to expand currently. Stef also collaborated with David McInnis, who now runs Nightingale Bread in Colorado Springs, and built his oven in partnership with Billy O’Brien, who continues to share his knowledge with the bakery.

Stef said Wide Awake Bakery has different priorities than other bread makers. His primary interests lie in social capitalism, which places an emphasis on social and community ties, environmental work, and in supporting people.

“We make decisions that are often at odds with the standard money-making decision making,” Stef said. “In other words, we give a lot of money away, we give a lot of bread away, we give a lot of time away.”

The Wide Awake Bakery is in partnership with Thor, who uses regenerative farming. The bakery is sustainably run, and is powered by solar panels.

Stef taught bakery classes in the past and would like to do so again in the future. Though the pandemic forced him to stop holding those classes two and a half years ago, the bakery still has apprentice bakers.

Stef said many aspects of running the Wide Awake Bakery are challenging. These include making enough money, baking high-quality bread, pleasing customers, properly training his staff, even dealing with the impact of climate change on wheat crops. Still, he finds the totality of running his business to be fulfilling.

“I find the entire thing happily challenging,” Stef said.

Wide Awake Bakery’s bread is sold at many places, from grocery retailers like GreenStar Food Co+op in Ithaca to farmers markets. They also sell wholesale to establishments such as restaurants and hotels. The bakery also has a bread share program, known as the Crust Fund, which works similarly to community supported agriculture programs. Crust Fund members pay a membership fee in exchange for regularly receiving bread, which they pick up themselves. To join the Crust Fund or find out more about the Wide Awake Bakery, visit their website.

Wide Awake Bakery has sold its bread to GreenStar for many years, delivering a variety of fresh baked breads to the shelves every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Stef regularly buys eggs, milk and other products from GreenStar and appreciates their social-minded approach.

“I think GreenStar is a very steady community partner,” Stef said. “The aims of our bakery are very closely aligned with GreenStar’s aims. We work to support our community, we’re very invested in that, and we feel that we have a partner in GreenStar.”