Farmer: Thor Oechsner
Farm: Oechsner Farms, Newfield, NY
Varieties: Danko Rye, Oberkulmer Spelt
Thor Oechsner has been farming wheat, rye and buckwheat near Ithaca, NY for more than 20 years. He is part of an inspiring movement of farmers, bakers, brewers and others bringing diverse rotational grains back to the region.
It’s nearly impossible for small scale grain farmers to get their grain milled. Most mills only accept large deliveries of uniform grain, and smaller farmers growing rotational grains–which are essential for the health of soil and ecosystems–can’t compete.
So Thor—along with miller, Greg Mol, and other grain farmers—took matters into their own hands and founded Farmer Ground Flour, a flour mill devoted to supporting a regional grain economy. It gives farmers a market for diverse varieties that benefit the soil.
We’re featuring two of Thor’s incredibly flavorful, freshly milled grain varieties in the Miche in this week’s resourcED Bread Box:
Danko is a rye variety that originated in Poland. In the Northeast, rye is primarily grown as a cover crop, and the most popular varieties don’t perform well in bread. Danko is a rye that can deliver the same soil benefits of a cover crop while maintaining the bran-to-starch ratio needed for baking, as well as a complex, spiced flavor profile. It’s often used by distillers and brewers, but is also celebrated in authentic European-style rye breads.
Spelt is a close relative of wheat, and one of the first domesticated grains. While most wheat varieties became commodified during the Industrial Revolution, spelt largely remained a grain for small producers. It’s found a home in the bakery, prized for its nutritional benefits and flavor. The Oberkulmer variety is thought to be one of the oldest and has adapted well to grain growing in the Northeast.