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Wheat Research in Maine Rising to the Challenge

There is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread. Now image if bread, like wine, was valued for its “terroir” – the idea that the land where the ingredients come from impart a special flavor or essence to the final product. Well that may not be a far fetched idea if you try Borealis Breads up in Portland, Maine.

Deputy Secretary Merrigan traveled to Portland Friday to announce $19 million in funding to grantees across the country that will address critical organic agriculture issues through the integration of research, education and extension projects. Ellen Mallory of the University of Maine was one such recipient, receiving over $1.3 million in research funding for the Northern New England Bread Wheat Project.  Ellen, in cooperation with University of Vermont and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is helping local farmers produce high‐quality organic bread wheat for our region’s millers and bakers.

Maine used to be known as the ‘Bread Basket of New England’ until the industry collapsed. Ellen Mallory, Jim Amaral and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan discuss wheat research in MaineBut Ellen’s research is looking to revive that title by putting organic wheat back into production by local farmers. But the story gets even better – the demand for the wheat has increased so much that a local granary, Aurora Mills, opened to process the wheat into flour. This resulted in new jobs and a 2nd granary is in the works, even more jobs based on local production.

Taking the story one step further in the creation of a local/regional food system, Jim Amaral, proprietor of Borealis Breads is using the homegrown wheat in his breads.  Why? Well Jim lays it out pretty clearly: breads made with Maine grain are better in quality and taste. Jim goes on to explain it is more than just better bread, it is more jobs and more business local opportunities. With over 100,000 breads made last year, Borealis is now expanding operation and Jim is confident that “100 years from now, Mainers will be eating breads made from local grain.” If there is a better example of the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative in action, we would like to see it.

Maine Public Broadcasting Network covered the event; listen to the broadcast here

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