Locally Owned... Locally Grown
by George Kelley
When we opened the doors of Dakota Harvest Bakers almost ten years ago, we were committed to using the Northland’s bounty to produce the highest quality baked goods for our customers. This region produces some of the best wheat, sugar, dairy, eggs, honey, and other great products, but we were in the habit of shipping them off to far away markets rather than using them right here at home. The Dakota Harvest vision asked the question, “What would happen if we took took these amazing local products and turned them into the best breads, cookies, cakes, scones, and other baked goods possible?”
We set the goal of sourcing 80% of our ingredients within 200 miles of the bakery. This would serve the double function of both featuring the very best of the region’s agricultural products as well as cutting down the energy impact of transporting our ingredients from long distances. And so, the hunt for local suppliers was on!
Any bakery is going to live or die on the quality and consistency of its flour. Fortunately for us, some of the best flour in the world is produced just a dozen blocks north of the bakery at the North Dakota Mill.
The North Dakota Mill is the only state-owned mill and grain elevator in the United States. Born out of the Prairie Populism movement of the 1920s, the North Dakota Mill was also designed to take a local commodity—North Dakota spring wheat and durum—and achieve value added processing before shipping costs ate up the profits. Dakota Harvest Bakers is proud to use the North Dakota Mill’s high-protein Dakota Champion flour, along with Whole Wheat and specialty flours like Dakota Durum, Semolina, and Farina.
(Side note: Did you know that farina was first made into what we now know as Cream of Wheat cereal right here in Grand Forks in 1893? To get a taste of how this amazing ingredient can enhance our baked goods with its sweet, nutty flavor, try our Cream of Wheat bread on Saturday!)
Sugar is also an integral ingredient for any bakery and, right across the river in East Grand Forks, we have American Crystal Sugar. American Crystal is a farmer-owned company that raises and processes over a third of the sugar beet production in the U.S. Dakota Harvest uses both their white sugars as well as rich brown sugars in a variety of our products.
Dairy is also an important part of any bakery operation. Getting the highest quality milk, cream, and butter can make all the difference in the taste of our cakes, cookies, scones, and biscuits. Right up the road in Thief River Falls, we have the Land O’ Lakes creamery and dairy cooperative.
Each week, Dakota Harvest Bakers uses gallons of whole, skim, and 2% milk, heavy cream, half-and-half, and buttermilk; cases of fresh creamery butter; and pounds of sour cream. Working with the Land O’ Lakes team helps us to bring you the highest quality baked goods, knowing that we’re also supporting our local dairy farmers.
It takes a whole lot of eggs to run a bakery, and it takes a whole lot of chickens to lay those eggs. The Schow Farm outside of McIntosh, Minnesota delivers our fresh eggs every week, and Dakota Harvest goes through over 75 dozen eggs between deliveries. Anne Schow and her flock of happy hens produce the very finest farm-fresh eggs, with bright golden yolks and rich brown shells. And, yes, we do get the occasional pale green eggshell in the mix, too! Stop in and try our egg bake sandwiches, quiche, and other baked goods to see the difference fresh local eggs can make.
Honey is also an important ingredient, giving that special flowery sweetness to our products. Dakota Honey out of Larimore provides us with a local source of exceptional honey. We use Dakota Honey in our Oatmeal Whole Wheat and 9-Grain breads, specialty scones, and other delicious baked goods. For our bakery production, we get 5-gallon pails of raw, unprocessed honey. But we’re also proud to offer individual bottles of Dakota Honey (you know—the little squeeze bears) to take home and enjoy, too.
Our sandwich menu benefits from the local harvest as well. From April to December, we get tomatoes from the hydroponic greenhouses of Meadowlark Gardens in Park River. We’ve worked with Dennis Loewen for many years, and there’s nothing like the taste of fresh, vine-ripe, local tomatoes. As we head toward summer, be sure to try a BLT where we pair Dennis’s amazing tomatoes with the house-cured bacon from L&M Meats.
When the weather gets warmer, Dakota Harvest Bakers likes to take advantage of local produce, too. When the Grand Forks Farmers’ Market gets started, you’ll find our booth selling our breads, cookies, scones, and other goodies. But you’ll just as likely find us prowling the produce stands, looking for local lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and other amazing garden delights.
Using regional ingredients has been a vision and a goal for Dakota Harvest Bakers from the start. Taste the difference from a bakery that’s locally owned and where our ingredients are locally grown.