May 13, 2010

The Good Grains of Farmer Jim

When our very good friends, Jim and Diane (they have allowed me to use their first names) arrived at our home for Easter dinner, they presented us with a four litre ice cream bucket of flour freshly ground from their own wheat. I, like the kid I sometimes am, clapped my hands and received the bucket with glee. If that seems strange, then perhaps I am alone in my excitement over locally grown food, but really, it is the best. So fresh, so delicious and I know exactly where and how it was grown, which makes me happy to the core.

I realize that the prairie provinces - 'The Bread Basket' - Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, not British Columbia, are the traditional farming territory for wheat and other grains in Canada, but our friend Jim is one of a handful of farmers proving that grains can be successfully grown in the mountainous regions of our fair country, or rather, in the valleys of the mountainous regions, and he is doing it organically as well. He grows winter wheat, spring wheat, oats and, I believe, triticale, which is a hybrid of wheat and rye. Jim also raises Angus beef cattle and chickens and Diane is a superior veggie gardener (as well as my daughter's grade three teacher). They live on a beautiful farm, which was bought by Jim's parents in the early 1970's and we love to go and visit as often as we can.

Last year, the Food Network put out a six episode television series called 'The Hundred Mile Diet'. The series was based on a book by the same title that has been making waves all over the world with its somewhat radical concept of challenging people to rethink the sources of their food, and the global impact therein. In the series a variety of families took on a hundred day challenge to eat only what they could access within a hundred miles of their homes in Mission, BC. Each episode featured various local farmers such as beekeepers, hazelnut growers, a vineyard, a garden on Vancouver Island where the gardener has managed to grow citrus fruits, a field-to-table cheesemaker, etc. Jim and Diane and their two children were featured in one of the later episodes as a source of locally grown wheat, which the 'contestants' on the show were finding it very hard to live without. Jim and Diane don't have cable television so asked us to tape the episodes for them to watch, and we were glad to oblige. It certainly was interesting to follow the families as they learned to live without coffee, cane sugar, baking powder, salt (which one family actually took a day to aquire after cooking off the salt sea water), oils, and refined wheat flour, not to mention the beer and hard liquor. Some of the participants did well, especially the creative gourmet cook, and some, like the well-fed, well-sauced politician and his wife barely made it, even with some cheating along the way. Boooo!

Watching the show with my husband and kids was a fun exercise. Each week's episode led to lively discussions among us and they all thought, if challenged, we might possibly survive on The Hundred Mile Diet. After all, with access to Jim and Diane's grains, beef, and eggs, local berries, apples, pears, and veggies, dairy products, honey, as well as our own herbs and tomatoes, we do quite well already - this is farm country after all. There is a part of me, however, that feels a connection to other parts of the globe through my Sri Lankan tea (Fair Trade), my South American coffee (organic and Fair Trade), my Carribean sugar (organic but I'm not sure how it's traded), and my Irish Guinness, and I'm not sure I'd like to give that up completely, but it's a relatively small part. Of course, I also use salt, cane sugar, baking powder, canned pineapple, tuna, etc; I don't think the concept of the Hundred Mile Diet is to go without the foods that make us happy and fill in the gaps in our diets, but more to enlighten and encourage us to consider the social ethics and environmental impact of the global food economy, and to support our home-grown food sources.

Jim called me and left a message the other day: he was out on the fields, on his tractor planting, and had taken a break to eat his picnic lunch, which included the last slices from a loaf of bread I had made in my bread machine and given him and Diane (I had been raving about the wonderful bread I had been making in my bread machine with their wheat flour, and had given them a loaf to try). He said he thought it was great that here he was, planting his hard red spring wheat and enjoying my bread made from last year's good crop with some cheese and an apple, and he said "You should put that recipe on your blog". So I will.

Bread Machine 'Fraser Valley Hundred-ish Mile Diet' Whole Grain Wheat Bread. Makes 1 loaf

Put into your bread machine in the following order:

11 ounces of water
2 Tablespoons milk powder
2 teaspoons salt (from your nearest salt mine or sea water)
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon molasses (or another of honey, if I prefer to be a 100 mile purist)
2 Tablespoons butter
3 1/4 cups of whole grain wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons granular yeast

Set to 'grain' setting on your machine, and 1.5 lb loaf size (if you have that setting) and wait...then enjoy!
The photo is of Jim, on his tractor, pulling the elementary school children's float in our annual fall fair parade.


  1. In the UK during WWII Guinness was seen as being really good for women, iron or something. So, it's not really food it's medicine !.
    Your recipe is one I could not tolerate at all. It's the milk and lactose allergies. It can cause joint pain and cramps that makes one feel as if dieing. It's one of the reasons why I started making my own bread. I use olive oil instead of butter.
    You are correct in your view about seeing the 100 mile thing as anything other than a guideline. And a very loose one at that.
    I see it as keeping it within the family to buy Irish, but if they are charging three prices for the item then they can go and jump.

  2. it's recipes like this that are the reason i can never allow myself to have a bread machine... mmmmm... god bless the grain growers!

  3. Vince: Guinness also apparently has less calories than other ales, and so, with your story about WWII, I like it even better!
    You know, you can easily adapt my recipe - I have, many times. You can substitute apple sauce for the butter, even, and go without the milk powder altogether, and the bread will still be very good. I'm sorry about
    your lactose intolerance. Sounds awful. And to be sure, bread can be made from only flour, water, olive oil, salt and yeast, very successfully (like my pizza dough).

  4. E.P.: My husband eats most of the bread I make, but I must admit, when I use Jim's flour I eat more of it!

  5. Hey Rebecca,

    Man! I feel very ‘out of date’ with this post. I hadn’t heard of the The Hundred Mile Diet. Of course, I don’t have the same television network you guys have but still…It sounds like such a great idea! And how cool is that that your friend farmer Jim was featured on it!

    You know, I also used to always feel that eating products from outside ‘connected’ me to other places. Well, that was until this year’s Earth day… I watched a video about the country I used to reside in, the United Arab Emirates (think Dubai), and the effects of relying on so many products from outside. See, over there, you get everything from outside! It’s seriously bad. Anyways, the video is wonderfully animated and is probably only 2 minutes long-

    “I, like the kid I sometimes am, clapped my hands and received the bucket with glee.” This was too cute!
    I like eating fresh bread! But baking it, myself….You’ll just have to invite me over some day :P LOL.

    Oh and definitely ‘boo’ to that politician!

    Sarira :D

  6. the jury is out here on the honey in the mix. I tried it and now and then you meet a bite where the honey was not mixed through. It's sorta good but in the way passion fruit is good.

  7. I love local foods. I like to visit farmer's markets, love when my friend shares tomatoes and peppers from her garden. I think BCO is going to visit at least one local orchard this summer where we can pick our own fruit.

    I've heard if you buy local honey it helps with your allergies. I think I'm going to try it and find out.

  8. Sarira: Yes, it is the same in parts of Northern Canada as in Dubai - they have to get much of their food flown in as they have no way of growing it. I will have to check out that little video you sent a link to. Interesting! I'll let you know when I make bread next - probably tomorrow. Can you be here about 3 p.m.? Ha ha.

    Vince: Okay, in my bread I can never taste little clumps of honey. Are you using hard, creamed honey or liquid? (Can't say I like passion fruit much.) Do you have a bread machine, then? Or are you hand kneading the bread? If you are making it by hand, then perhaps you could add the honey to the warm water before you proof the yeast, so it melts, or if you have a bread machine, put warm water in and then the honey to melt into it.

    Jen: Yes, I've heard that about honey too, except you aren't supposed to heat it at all - that is supposed to kill its allergy fighting properties. It also works on skin irritations, but I'm not sure I want to attract insects to my skin!

  9. Eating locally is very cool -- for so many reasons. But I'm not sure I could do it for everything. I would love to try your bread recipe but I haven't made bread in years -- I got a bread machine for Christmas one year and found myself eating half a loaf at one sitting! Had to give it up. But if I got locally grown grain from a friend, well that would persuade me to try again. Maybe I'll try yours anyway, just once :)

  10. Farmers like Jim are real leaders and should be supported. The 100 mile diet is a worthy goal, and those farmers' markets are a delight. Interesting post.

  11. I used the sqe-easy honey, and rubbed it in with the oil. Truly I forgot that honey will dissolve in water.

  12. Okay, finally I can come back and comment. It takes me forever to catch up on my blogs these days.

    I live in central California. Almost everything imaginable is grown here. So, for me the 100 mile thing would not be bad at all.

    We get a box of produce from the local farm delivered every Wednesday. This is big excitement for the kids. They can't wait to see what is in the box. And they love carrots with the greens still on. What a treat.

    Also, soon, every intersection in town will have a strawberry stand. The freshest, ripest, reddest, sweetest strawberries in the world. Five pounds for less than five dollars (which I know means nothing since most of your readers are not from the US, but trust me, that is CHEAP!!!!!)

    Avocados. Artichokes. Peaches. Oranges in the winter. Lemons by the bag full in November. Watermelon. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Bell peppers. Local wine and olive oil are even readily available. We also have a sugar beet refinery not too far away. And dairies!!! My beige house resides on a former dairy, but there are still plenty in business.

    Come to think of it, following the 100 mile diet here might be cheating.


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!