29 October, 2010

Bread wheat in Denmark, day 3

backdate: 27 October

On day 3, Skærtoft Mølle provided another sort of exemplar, this time of the value of competencies and connections in other fields. Its husband-and-wife proprietors began farming in the 1980s; along the way he picked up an MBA and is now involved in a business school, while she is a television and magazine journalist. In their absence, their daughter Marie, who holds an agronomy degree, presented us the company's history over - once again - coffee and bread. Unlike some producers, who have difficulty even approaching retail chains about their product, the Skærtoft trio approached a Danish chain with only a product concept and reached an agreement for its launch. Like another we visited, they had also published their own bread book.

Skærtoft's connections, and their attention to graphic design in the packaging - in search of a look that was neither "brown paper with a white label" nor boldly-colored idealized depiction of an organic farming more myth than reality - earned them a Danish design award. It was one thing to hear this, and quite another to see the name "Skærtoft Mølle", among a dozen larger corporations, on a banner hanging from the Dansk Design Center in Copenhagen. (If you're at all interested in product design and marketing, i highly recommend checking out the Skærtoft website.)

Despite their vast differences in character, one thing all these mills shared was an emphatic belief that stone mills create superior flour. Low speed and thus cooler temperature, they told us, preserves nutrients and flavor in the flour. At Aurion, Jøm told us that when measured, his wheat flour had twice the vitamin E content of conventionally milled wheat flours. This focus on stone and cold spoke volumes to our New England millers, who likened the concept to the health value of cold-pressed oils, an as-yet-untapped way of differentiating their product from roller-mill flours.