The Weblog

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The Weblog is a forum for students to share up to the moment news stories and narrative experiences from the Berea College Farm. We hope you will return often to this feature of our online store.

About us…
In order to tell you about our unique operation,it is crucial to introduce you to the remarkable labor program of Berea College.

As you may or may not know, each student at Berea College is granted a full tuition scholarship upon acceptance. Part of the contract is a requirement to work on campus for the duration of their enrollment. Students work a minimum of ten hours a week and positions vary from residence facilities assistants (janitors) to beekeepers, cooks to accountants; Berea College students do it all. In fact, the College depends greatly on the work of its students. This is especially true for the Berea College Farms and Gardens.

Students who work in these areas devote a tremendous amount of time and energy to ensure the success of our operations. As with any agricultural business, this is a full time job and requires much responsibility. Students who work on the farm and in the greenhouses know that weekend commitments and evening hours are part of the deal.

They love what they do … And it shows.
We are committed to excellence in every aspect of our operation and a great deal of this comes from our student workers. From the pig pit to the hoop houses, diligence is our modus operandi.

-Maggie Greene’08

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This post expired on July 16, 2009.

by Jennifer Boyle

Yet again, Berea College Farms’ summer team of researchers is conspiring to bring you a new product. The pavilion in the Agriculture building now conceals several storage containers of wheat ready to be ground. If all goes well, fans of the college’s homemade jam and local honey will soon have some bread to go with them.

The goal, according to one student researcher, Steve Hammond, is to begin grinding within a couple weeks and have flour and bread for sale sometime this fall – but it could be later.

They have good reason for the apparent delay. Between harvesting, separating the chaff, and grinding, a great deal of work goes into the conversion of raw wheat to flour. The summer researchers have pooled together all their time and energy in the process and even enlisted the help of the greenhouse employees. Trials began in late June, when students at the greenhouse harvested wheat from four varieties in the test field. Under the direction of Dr. Sean Clark and Andrew Oles, they worked by hand, clipping the golden stalks with shears and storing them separately for comparison.

To clean the grain, students rubbed the wheat heads to release the kernels. They then separated the chaff by bouncing the uncleaned wheat on a screen in front of a fan, says Steve Hammond. He estimates that the hand-cleaning process for just one trial variety required two days with two people working; it yielded five pounds of wheat.

In contrast, one person with machine power winnowed 60 pounds in 6 hours, making the task of harvesting more productive.

“I think if we’re using the combine we can do it in quantities that would be beneficial,” said Steve Hammond.

As part of the summer research, ‘Alice,’ ‘Fuller,’ ‘Jagger,’ and ‘Karl 92’ will be evaluated for grain yield and flour quality. According to the Journal of Plant Registrations, accessed via website, the hard winter wheat called Alice is a promising candidate. Their study concluded that this was the top-ranking variety for bread quality in its category. It also had the second highest yield.

Berea College Farms’ ‘Alice’ wheat is certified organic: produced from organic seed and grown in organic ground. The farm will be cooperating with Joyce Begley, better known as “the bread lady,” to produce local loaves from the flour. In an interview at the Berea Farmers Market yesterday, Joyce explained why she eagerly awaits the first batch.

“I would love to have a local source of flour because it’s fresher,” she said. In the past, her flour came from up to 60 miles away, but she currently buys it from Gordon Foods in Lexington.

Joyce says the high gluten content of hard winter wheat makes it perfect for bread-baking. She plans to use the new flour for her sourdough and “Good Seed” breads.

When choosing her flour, Joyce judges its quality by kneading the dough. “With bad flour the dough feels wimpy and lifeless. A good flour has life to it,” she says.

Considering the amount of life Berea College Farms has invested into its wheat – from flourishing, organic fields to the avid interest and dedicated labor of its students – its flour should be lively indeed.

Caption for photo: Steve Hammond demonstrates a low-tech method of cleaning wheat that relies on gravity. The chaff is blown away by the wind or a fan, while the heavier kernels fall back onto the screen.