Tag Archives: bread

We’re on the cover!

We’re thrilled to be on the cover of the Winter 2017 Maker’s Issue of Edible Blue Ridge! Thank you so much to Natalie and Eze for your great work and attention to detail. You can read the full article here.



New pickup location at the Rockfish Valley Community Center!

We have added a new pickup location in Nelson County!  As of Nov 12, you can get your wood-fired bread and pastries at the Rockfish Valley Community Center on Saturdays, during opening hours. If you have an existing subscription, and would like to switch to this location, please contact us, and we will make the change.

Happy eating!

Ben and Heather

Day 6: We’re hiring for the 2016 season!

Our business is growing fast, so we have created a new position for 2016! We are hiring a second intern to work closely with Heather in the bakery.

Apply now for 2016 by sending a resume and cover letter to littlehatcreek@gmail.com.

General description: Little Hat Creek Farm is a small diversified vegetable farm and wood-fired bakery. 2016 will be our third season of selling at three farmer’s markets and through a 25 member CSA. We use ecological farming practices on one acre of annual vegetables and a small fruit orchard. Our bakery specializes in naturally-leavened breads made by hand with local flours. We also produce pastry using the fruits of our farm. This winter, we are expanding our business by building a self-contained bakery building to house the oven, which will allow us to take on additional sales outlets for our baked goods. We are hiring an intern to help us grow and develop these outlets. This is a training position.

Skills desired: You are a good fit for this internship if you love making and sharing good food and if our farm+bakery business model excites you. You get as much pleasure out of mastering a technique as you do in creating new recipes using ingredients from our farm. You also want to have a hand in producing those ingredients. You are creative and a self-starter who can also perform routine production tasks. You are consistently attentive to cleanliness and organisation. You are able to work quickly and efficiently while attending to detail, and you are able to problem-solve on the fly. You are punctual, able to safely lift fifty pounds, and able to meet deadlines.

Duties: You will be responsible for routine bakery tasks like mixing, shaping, and baking bread and pastries, dishwashing, oven and firewood management, ingredient restocking, and general cleanup. Beyond this, your experience will be shaped by your interests and our needs. We currently fire the oven and bake bread three days a week, but this may increase as we take on new accounts. On some days, additional duties may include farm activities, including greenhouse work, harvesting, mulching and weeding; post-harvest processing like pickling, jamming and drying; deliveries; marketing and developing new sales outlets; and/or recipe development.

Duration and Hours: April 2016-October 2016 with the possibility of continuing into the winter. Working hours will not exceed 50 hours per week and may include late night or early morning shifts in preparation for our Wednesday and Saturday farmers’ markets. You will have 1.5 days off each week.

Meals: You will have access to our farm produce, including eggs and bread. Should you live on the farm, you will have access to a shared kitchen and the possibility of also sharing meals with us and another worker.

Compensation: Stipend TBD. Indoor housing with a shared bathroom and kitchen is available as part of your compensation. You will have access to the food the farm produces, and receive training in marketable skills.

You will learn how to:
-operate a large wood-fired oven
-make pastries and naturally-leavened bread on a commercial scale
-adjust recipes to account for weather and ingredient variation
-develop new recipes
-handle food safely
-grow, harvest and process fruits and vegetables
-market farm products
-successfully grow a small local food business

You will also have access to the logic behind everything we do. We make a point of sharing the details of our farming, baking, and business practices, so we encourage you to ask about all aspects of starting and running a business like ours. And because there are many ways of doing things, we also take you on visits to 2-3 other farms and bakeries over the course of the season.

We will consider proposals that give you creative space while meeting our needs.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Glyphosate + Wheat = Celiac disease?

Several of our customers recently brought our attention to somewhat alarming news in the blogosphere that glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup) is sprayed on 97% of U.S. wheat crops right before harvest. To make matters worse, it seems like these glyphosate residues on wheat are what is causing celiac disease in so many Americans.

If this were true, it would be a good reason for Americans to insist on organic wheat, a notion that we whole-heartedly support.  And some parts of this story do in fact ring true. One trip to the grocery store is all you need to realize that gluten intolerance seems to be much more common than it was even five years ago. It seems logical that we should be able to trace this strong increase back to some change in our environment. It is also not hard to believe that consuming the herbicide glyphosate is bad for you, or that somehow the combination of glyphosate and wheat, which is the main source of gluten in our diet, could somehow produce a toxic synergy that results in celiac disease.

But as much as one might want to believe that there is such an easy explanation for why so many Americans are allergic to gluten, other parts of the story sounded a little too suspect. Glyphosate is one of the most widely available herbicides on the market. You don’t need a license to buy it at any home improvement store, so your neighbors could be spraying it in their yards and gardens. Commercially, it is approved for use on most crops that we eat.  The two crops that we Americans eat a lot of, corn and soy, have even been genetically-engineered to be “Roundup-Ready”–ready, that is, to be sprayed with glyphosate and not killed.  Wheat is not necessarily the number one source of glyphosate in our environment.

So we wanted to get to the bottom this story.  It seems like the original source is a paper published in the December 2013 issue of Interdisciplinary Toxicology entitled “Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance,” written by Anthony Samsel, an independant consultant, and Stephanie Seneff, a computer scientist. It struck us as strange that such a paper would be written by someone other than an epidemiologist, medical professional or public health official. But, no matter, the authors could have analyzed someone else’s data in a creative way, so we had a look inside.

The main thing we noticed is that most of the evidence that Samsel and Seneff gather to support their conclusion that glyphosate causes celiac disease is conjectural. For example, glyphosate has been shown to disrupt the mucosal lining of fish intestines, which is “highly reminiscent” of human celiac disease (p. 160). In another example, they argue that since glyphosate chelates iron in plants, that it is “conceivable” that it does the same in humans, implying that the chelation would lead to anemia, which happens to be one of many symptoms of celiac disease (p. 166).  Logical, perhaps, but certainly not conclusive. In good science, these sorts of compelling correlations are what motivate researchers to formulate hypotheses about the action of glyphosate that are then specifically tested in controlled experiments. But bypassing the experiment and jumping from correlation to conclusion, as the authors do here, is more the stuff of pseudo-science.

Samsel and Saneff go on to correlate eleven other actions that glyphosate is known for in plants and non-human animals with symptoms of celiac disease. However compelling the correlations may be, they are still correlations. And mistaking correlation for causation is one of easiest logical fallacies to fall victim to. The widely reproduced first figure of this paper (above) shows celiac incidence rising in step with glyphosate application on wheat. The implication is that glyphosate on wheat is the cause of the increase in celiac disease. But it is equally possible to imagine this graph with any number of phrases substituted for “glyphosate on wheat.” Try, for example: “awareness of celiac disease symptoms among doctors,” “proportion of corn and soy in the American diet,” “per capita incidence of Type II diabetes,” or “proportion of Americans owning an iPod.” They could all be correlated with the increase in celiac disease, which is to say that there may–or may not–be a causal link between the two.

So while we aren’t convinced that glyphosate causes celiac disease, we still don’t want to eat it. We are still concerned about the statistic that 97% of spring wheat (the main bread wheat) that is grown in the US is sprayed with glyphosate right before harvest. This would mean that most conventional flour would be laced with glyphosate residues. We try to buy wheat that is both local and organic, but our reality is that we often have to choose between local, but conventionally-grown wheat and distantly-grown organic wheat.  We believe in supporting our local economy, but this kind of information could change our minds.

When you first look at this figure and its accompanying table, you might come to the same conclusion that Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist arrived at in her blog post: that 97% of spring wheat is sprayed with glyphosate prior to harvest.  But if you look closer, it actually says that herbicides (and not just glyphosate) were used on 97% of the acres on which spring wheat is grown at some point in the crop year. This does not mean that the herbicide was used on the wheat crop itself, it could have been used to clear the fields before the wheat was planted. In any case, according to the above table, glyphosate is not even one of the top three herbicides used by spring wheat farmers, so it’s unclear why it should get all the blame. So where did Samsel and Seneff get the idea that farmers are spraying glyphosate before they harvest wheat?  This Monsanto publication, which discusses glyphosate use in Europe (not the U.S.). It seems likely that this non-peer-reviewed publication could possibly be biased to make it look like glyphosate is more widely used than it is so that more farmers buy it.

Let’s be clear: we are certainly not fans of glyphosate here at Little Hat Creek Farm. We avoid using any chemicals on our crops, and we buy as much organic flour as we can.  But we found the Samsel and Seneff article (and the accompanying news items) to be more provocative and misleading than grounded in good science. Hopefully, their article will be the inspiration for clinical trials that could establish a causal link between glyphosate use and celiac disease. But in the meantime, we do not think there is as much cause for alarm as it may at first seem.

How winter bread deliveries will work

Thank you to all of our customers for making our first season a success!  This winter we will be selecting crops to grow for you next year and fine-tuning our bread recipes to make our sourdoughs even better.  If you like our bread and can’t wait until next spring, we will be baking bread this winter on a pre-order basis only.  See below for the details!

Starting in January, we will be baking bread once a month for on-farm pickup and for delivery to Charlottesville and Lexington. Please subscribe to our list if you would like to pre-order. Remember, our bread freezes very well, so be sure to stock up!

How it works: When you subscribe to our list, you will receive an email one week in advance of the delivery date with a list of breads that we will be baking. Please reply to that email with your pre-orders no later than midnight on the Monday prior to your pick-up date. Then, on the delivery day, look for your bread in a bag with your name on it!

Delivery days: January 9 (*previously January 8*), February 5, and March 5.

Lexington location: we will deliver to Farm to You at 2 pm, located at 637C Waddell St. in Lexington. You may pick up during shop hours (2-5 pm).

Charlottesville location: we will deliver to the front porch at 215 5th Street NW. Pickups will be between 10 AM and sundown. We ask that you please drive slowly through this neighborhood and respect the privacy of the homeowner that is allowing us to use this space. Thank you!

Nelson location: Bread will be available for pickup starting at 10 AM at our farm. Look for your bread in the first outbuilding you come to, on your left as you come up the drive.

Payment: When you email us with your bread order, we will send you an invoice confirming the details of your order. You may remit payment via Paypal, by mailing us a check, or by giving us cash (Nelson pickup only). If you opt to use Paypal, please email your payment to “littlehatcreek@gmail.com.” We would appreciate it if you would please use the “friends and family” option to avoid fees. If you opt to pay by check, please make it out to “Little Hat Creek Farm” and mail it to 163 Shaeffers Hollow Lane, Roseland, VA 22967.

That’s it! Thank you for your business!

Its a strange day in the bakery

Its a strange day in the bakery. On a normal day at this time, a little before 10 AM, I would be baking my third load of bread for our two markets tomorrow, but today I slept a blessed bit longer because my doughs weren’t quite ready when I checked them around 4:30 this morning. My first load is still a good hour away from baking.

I make naturally-leavened breads using a living culture of yeasts and bacteria that was started at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab by my dear friend Jane Ogilvie.  This “mother” lives in our fridge on a mixture of rye and white flour until two days before I bake, when I bring her out and feed my little friends, expanding the starter to a volume necessary for baking 64 loaves of bread.  The microbes in the starter digest the starches and proteins in the flour, releasing nutrients and producing flavorful acids that condition the dough and create the open, elastic sourdough structure we adore.

On a normal day there is usually a little something different about one of the doughs–it’s a little stiffer, or takes a little longer to ferment, or perhaps the additions don’t incorporate as well. I delight in this variation in my bread. It attests to the living nature of the dough, its responsiveness, like any living thing, to changes in temperature, humidity, and quality of food. As with an infant, my billions of little microbial babies can’t tell me what they need, so I have to guess, judging from the smell, the feel, the appearance, and from what I know I’ve already tried.

But today, there is a large something different about all of the doughs. It’s as if I’m making them for the first time. The honey oat is much stronger, which bodes well for its final shape, but the oats cooked more than usual, making them more difficult to incorporate. The raisin rye is taking much longer to ferment than usual, despite its having the greatest bulk (and thus thermal resistivity) and a rye starter in addition to the usual levain. Even the country white–the most straight-forward and dependable of my doughs–is different today, with a looseness to its structure that I have only ever seen with my miche dough.


On a normal day, I tweak my recipes slightly, to try to make them even better, to correct little defects in the crumb, or in the flavor. Two days ago, in preparation for mixing, I made what I thought would be a small tweak, mostly for my convenience. I had liked how my younger-than-usual starter had performed for the Lexington market bake earlier in the week, and I didn’t want to start mixing until the afternoon, so I put my still-young starters in the fridge to hang out until I was ready. When they emerged some six hours later, they were a bit further along, but smelled sweeter, and had a much stronger structure than normal. I confess I have been somewhat lax in controlling the temperature of my starter, mostly because the practical difficulties of baking in a home kitchen in a wood-heated house give me anything but control over temperature. But this change is dramatic, and exciting.  Perhaps the cascading force of this small change is what I am now reckoning with.  I can’t wait to try it again next week!

A spring snow

About three inches of snow fell last night. Coarse, wet, heavy spring snow. On nights like these Ben and I tag-team through the night to keep the high tunnel and greenhouse free of snow. He stays up to the wee hours, and then sets an early morning alarm for me.

This morning, the greenhouse looked like an abandoned museum exhibit, with the dim first rays filtering through the poly walls to settle on the gossamer row cover draped over our seedlings. Many of them are garden starts to sell at our first markets in April. There are tomatoes, of course, and lettuce, and three generations of basil, herbs and flowers. But there are farm seedling there too. All of the farm eggplants and peppers have been seeded, most of the spring brassicas, our first tomatoes, and our chard. We will seed more today–our second generation of farm lettuce, the first dill, and flowers for sales, including, incredibly, the first sunflowers.

This last night, the snowy one, was the first that we dared to leave all of our cold-sensitive seedings out in the greenhouse. Last week we risked first one flat, then four, before we felt confident enough in our wood stove and the little electric heater under the bench. There is no perfect solution; either we carry sensitive flats in every night, disturbing roots, exposing them to our next clumsy move, and depriving the plants of the first rays of the sun, or we risk that cold, or chilling injury, sets them back.

There are also seedlings in the bakery. Yesterday the rye sprouted, and today, wheat. I am working on developing a dense, Danish-style dark pan bread, which is a complete departure from most of the bread I make. I am going for toothy, dark, and moist, a bread that makes a meal with bit of smoked trout and dill. It is recipe-development time at Little Hat Creek Farm. I’m learning the behavior of flours from Carolina Ground and Woodson’s mill, tweaking current recipes, and increasing my repertoire of skills. This will be the first sprouted grain I have tried. Last week I experimented with fermenting flaked grains before mixing them into dough, which resulted in an impossibly tender crumb in the barley almond bread.

So go ahead and snow old man, you can’t stop the force of spring that has begun. It may look, and feel, like winter out there, but the true story is told by the first daffodil two days ago, the expanding buds on our Nanking cherries, and the little peepers peeping their spring song.