Idaho wheat helping local restaurants stay healthy

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by Dee Sarton

NWCN.com

Posted on November 8, 2012 at 9:51 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 7:42 AM

BOISE -- Did you know that Idaho is fifth in the nation for producing wheat?

Typically, 1.2 million acres of wheat are harvested each year. In 2011, a total value of $786 million of wheat was produced, which contributed to 8,500 jobs for the Idaho economy.

Drew Eggers, a wheat farmer in Meridian, is pleased as punch.  His winter wheat crop is off to a good start.

"Planted this the third week in October, and it was pretty dry conditions," said Eggers. "But about a week later we got that half inch of rain and a couple of storms, and as you can see the grain has sprouted and coming up very nicely."

This crop will tolerate winter cold and be ready for harvest next August. Eggers says it will most likely end up in noodles served to families in Asia, a great Idaho export and important to Idaho's economy.

However, bread-loving Idahoans helps consume some of Idaho's 100 million bushel wheat crop for baking purposes. Idaho also produces hard red wheat.

Todd Hatfield is a new player in a very old business, milling flour.

Hatfield's brand new Idaho Grain and Flour Mill in Donnelly intends to make good use of an abundant nearby crop

"Encased in this mill are 20 inch grinding stones," Hatfield said.

Those stones are grinding Idaho wheat in a way that feeds the growing demand for healthier whole grain options.

"It's got all the bran and germ in there; all the nutrients that you need to sustain your health. Fresh flour, you can definitely taste the difference with the fresh ground flour, and that's our goal to always keep it fresh on the shelves in the stores," said Hatfield.

One of those shelves is at the famous McCall Pancake House, where not only Hatfield's flour is for sale but also used in the kitchen. It has helped Bonnie Bertram revive a 50-year-old sourdough whole-wheat pancake recipe.

Pancakes the way they used to be, heartier and she says healthier.

"People need to come into a place and know that they're getting a product that's healthy and free of all this stuff that we're getting in our food," said Bertram.

It's the same story down the road at Hometown Pizza.

"This is how pretty they are. Nice and risen, not very thick so it's not a lot of calories," said Hometown Pizza owner Cindy Harkrader.

Harkrader is convinced that Hatfield's flour is giving her an edge.

"I do believe that having whole wheat crust brings in a different customer for us, additional customers for us," she said.

Being a customer for Hatfield's new venture, it utilizes a home-grown crop just makes sense to this business owner.

"I want to support the local economy," said Harkrader. "'We are a private small business. I want people to support the local entrepreneurs, and we also feel compelled to support the local entrepreneurs. It's very important to the both of us."

 

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