During the early months of the pandemic, people turned to simple joys of the past to keep busy: puzzles, long walks and freshly baked bread. Bread, one of the foundations of human civilization, crosses cultures in its many forms – tortillas, challah, naan, sourdough – and is a reassuring comfort of human life.
This renewed appreciation for home baking is a bright spot in what has been a dark year, says Andy Clark, owner and baker at Moxie Bread Company in Louisville, Colorado, just south of Boulder.
“You know, I've had more conversations this year with people I know that I would never in a million years think would take the time to bake bread at home. There's nothing quite as heartfelt, genuine and loving as receiving a loaf of bread from your neighbor or your grandmother or a friend. It’s a symbolic gesture of appreciation and love.”
Clark first started baking as a teenager in a New England shop. Now, thanks to a University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) initiative funded by generous donors, Grain School is inviting people like Clark to embrace and contribute to Colorado’s grain industry.
“Grain School is really like the Woodstock of the grain world. It's not simply a class on how to make a better baguette. There's the cultural importance of grain to the people here in Colorado and to the Indigenous tribes of the Southwest and Mexico, and it’s not often you get the opportunity to experience that.”
Established in 2016, Grain School has evolved into an annual three-day seminar at UCCS. During the annual event, scientists and academics mingle with artisans and entrepreneurs from every link of the grain chain – growers, millers, farmers, brewers, distillers, maltsters, bakers, chefs, food service staff, nutritionists, gardeners and college students. Clark has attended Grain School as a presenter, teacher and student.
Grain School attendees can take courses in the history of landrace grains, crop breeding, nutritional and health issues, baking, fermentation and cooking, and production techniques; UCCS students earn college credits during the seminar. Generous support from donors has provided scholarships to attend this collaborative and community-based exchange of teaching and learning, and organizers are looking to take the curriculum and community-building across the state in the future.
As chairman of the Colorado Grain Chain, a nonprofit organization composed of locally owned and operated businesses that produce and support heritage, ancient and locally adapted grains and their products, Clark says Grain School has enriched his understanding of the science, history and business of the state’s relationship with grains.
“The relationships that are created at Grain School are long-lasting. It’s bred dozens of different small businesses: flour mills, pasta makers, ranchers, farmers, breweries. It’s really inspiring. It reignites my passion for my craft, my community and my responsibilities as a food maker. It's not about selling bread – it's about connecting with other like-minded people and learning new ideas.”