The concept of a food system or food regime was developed from taking a world systems view on how grains are grown: the types of grains, the method of cultivation, their use for food or feed, and the ability of citizens to transport, export, or import the desired varieties of grains -- often determine the size and type of society that develops.
Additionally, the use of grains for bread has often been a defining feature of regional, national, ethnic cultures. The types of bread produced and by whom is often shaped by the immigrants and others who settle or move through a region.
Currently, the baking industry generates over 30 billion dollars of revenue annually with the top four producers accounting for 35% and commercial producers accounting for 91% of total industry revenue (2013 BLS). Diversifying the products, producers (both in agriculture and culinary spaces), and markets for grain-based products would undeniably have a major economic impact on regional food systems, but it would also have cultural and social effects.
CURRENT PROGRAMMING AND RESEARCH
Two projects in our Western Pennsylvania Foodways Collection focus on regional grains:
Babka and Beyond: Bread, Grains, and Baked Goods in Western Pennsylvania
“Buckwheat” County: The Agricultural History from Seed to Mill
Gathering more in depth regional food systems data about regional grain producers, millers, and processors
Student lead research project on the feasibility of a Western Pennsylvania grains consortium and comparative analysis with other national grains organizations
Community workshops taught by local bakers focused on a variety of bread baking methods, naturally leavened breads, whole-grain baking, and regional grain sourcing.
SPRING OF 2019
The Eden Hall Bread Oven will be constructed and ready for use! Once constructed, the oven will act as a gathering space for Chatham University students and staff, community members, and entrepreneurs. The oven will be utilized for research, product development, business development, education, and to celebrate the heritage and future of our region’s resilient grain system. The oven is being built by apprentices and masons from the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh.
SUMMER OF 2019
The Western Pennsylvania Baker’s Network, CRAFT will provide various grain mills for personal and commercial use, a wood-fired bread oven to assist both hobby and professional bakers in the creation of locally sourced and milled baked goods.