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

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

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

A strong contingent of Trail Smoke Eaters helped out Kiwanis by unloading up to 600 trees at Butler Park on Wednesday, in preparation for their annual Christmas Tree Sale and community fundraiser. The sale starts on Friday, with all funds donated to community groups. Photo: Jim Bailey
Trail Kiwanis Christmas tree sale – a harbinger of the holiday season

Kiwanis is offering free christmas tree delivery for seniors without adequate transportation

Emails letters to editor@trailtimes.ca.
Looking for the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness in Warfield

Letter to the Editor from Robin Siddall of Warfield

Email letters to editor@trailtimes.ca.
Don’t expect face coverings to rid us of Covid

Letter to the Editor from Russ Babcock, Genelle

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

Vees goalkeeper Yaniv Perets stands watch while Tyler Ho takes the puck around the back of the net on Nov. 7. The BCHL press release did not name the player who tested positive.(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees quarantining after player tests positive for COVID-19

The team, staff and billets are isolating while they are tested

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Most Read