We love our partner bakeries and are constantly inspired by the bakers who create incredible breads and pastry using Cairnspring flour. Head Baker Mel Darbyshire of Grand Central Baking is one who's helping us see all the possibilities.
Since the very beginning, Mel has been a big part of the Cairnspring family. Her passion for baking flavorful and nutritious products with fresh local grains and her commitment to supporting local farmers and millers are second to none.
“I love it,” she says. “It's this living beast that you create with your hands. It's so simple: Flour, water, salt, yeast or bacteria. And that journey you go on with this living thing comes out as food. When you're pulling the bread out of the oven and it's perfect, I can tell everybody cared about it from field to plate. And that to me is magical.”
Mel's own journey to the perfect loaf wasn't always as clear. “Back then we didn't really think about flour as a critical ingredient,” she remembers. “It just wasn't something that was a focus.” When a crazy surge in commodity prices forced her to look elsewhere for flour, she discovered the flavor of fresh grains. “I was like, 'I can't believe we never thought about flour. It's the fundamental of good bread!'”
Her quest to learn more brought her to the Skagit Valley, where she met our founder, Kevin, and helped create a better, much more local food system that's healthier for everybody.
“We kind of grew up on this project together. There was something about it that really clicked with me,” Mel says. “Kevin put in the mill in Skagit, and to me that was such a gift. This is how it should be—where you can know the farmer, know the miller. I've got all my grain coming from here, and what's really beautiful is when you're standing in the same room with the farmer, the miller, and the baker and then you feed what they've made together to people.
“People maybe haven't thought about that process. It's about putting our money in our own backyard and really supporting our regional economies. If I buy a bag of flour from Kevin, I know where that money is going, and I know his costs are related to paying the farmer well and his employees, too. It's a quest for sustainability across many areas. We know where the farms are. We know where the grains are coming from. They're milled in this way that's way better. And they're also really delicious!”
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