Jon Steinman pours wheat into the flour mill owned by members of the Nelson Flour Milling Co-op. Photo submitted

Nelson flour mill co-op looking for new members

COVID-19 highlights relevance of decade-old milling project

One of the world’s most ancient and primal human activities has become a symbol of stay-at-home life in a pandemic.

A sudden, enthusiastic uptick in home bread baking has led to temporary shortages of flour and yeast in stores across the country, and in Nelson.

“What draws people to grain in hard times is the reconnection to our cultural roots,” says Nelson author and food activist Jon Steinman. “It creates a sense of empowerment because it is such an important part of the diet.”

When it comes to locally grown food, people usually think of vegetables and fruit, and perhaps meat. Grain has always been on the periphery, he says.

Steinman is part of a project that’s been operating under the radar in Nelson since 2012 – a co-operative of 20 people who own a flour mill.

Each member of the Nelson Flour Milling Co-op has a key to the mill’s warehouse location. Whenever they run out of flour they visit the mill, pour in some grain, flip the switch, and go home with fresh flour.

The co-op members do not jointly buy grain. Each member purchases it independently from Creston farmers or from retail outlets in Nelson.

In addition to self-sufficiency and support for local farmers, Steinman says, the reward is in the quality of the flour.

“It is the freshest flour possible, with all the nutrition and flavour possible.”

Just after being milled, “it smells incredible, there is a tiny bit of warmth, a bit of a fresh bread smell.”

He says much of the flour on grocery store shelves is rancid, or at least very stale, from having been packaged for months or years.

“Over time as we left our food supply to industrial methods of production and corporate interests,” Steinman says, “we have detached ourselves almost completely from the sources of our grains.”

The co-op’s mill can grind a variety of grains into flour: soft or hard wheat, oat groats (dehulled oats), rice, triticale, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, barley, rye, millet, teff, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum and field corn.

Steinman says the history of grain growing in the Kootenays is visible on the landscape in the Creston Valley.

“Those grain elevators are a reminder that Creston was once a very active grain producing region.”

Most of the grain produced there in the past has been for animal feed. But now several Creston farmers and millers are part of the new movement to localize grain production for human consumption.

The Star will visit some of those farmers in an upcoming article.

Meanwhile, the manager of Nelson’s Safeway says he’s been hard at work finding alternate suppliers for flour and yeast.

“It’s definitely a market trend,” says Jamie Simpson. “A close second to the toilet paper shortage.”

He has had to buy yeast in bulk and package it in-store, and while he is able to stock the popular kinds of flours he’s had to let go of some of the more exotic varieties for the time being.

It’s been the same at the Kootenay Co-op, where the shortage has extended to sourdough starter kits.

“It usually takes us a long time to sell our stock of those,” says grocery manager Erin Morrison. “But they were gone in a couple of days.”

Steinman says the flour mill co-op would welcome more members. It doesn’t have a website, but he can be reached at info@deconstructingdinner.com.

Related:

Nelson author tours unique food book continent-wide

Nelson grocers: ‘We’re not going to run out of food’



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Work begins on new affordable housing building in Nelson

The 39-unit project is expected to be complete by July 2021

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

No passenger flights at West Kootenay Regional Airport until at least September

This is the third time Air Canada has announced changes to flight operations out of the airport

Morning Start: 180 different bird species exist in Kootenay National Park

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Friday, May 29

Retiring staff feted by School District 8

Teachers, custodians and staff were honoured Thursday

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Suspect in West Kootenay gas station stabbing found dead

Police say the 30-year-old suspect stabbed a Montrose gas station employee

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Most Read