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Food and Drink

A new approach: community-supported baked goods

Wild Flour offers weekly distribution of ‘bakery shares’ with CSA business model

For information about Wild Flour Community Supported Bakery, contact Patricia Austin at paustinwildflour@gmail.com or 802-490-8713.

BRATTLEBORO—If farmers can create a sustainable business model for selling garlic scapes and tomatoes by the season, why can’t bakers do the same with cake and pastry?

Patricia Austin, who operates Wild Flour Bakery from a commercial kitchen and bakery space at her home, asked herself that question and launched the Wild Flour Community Supported Bakery, which takes the farm-share concept and applies it to baked goods.

She will offer “French- and American-style baked goods that are made of traditional wheat or gluten-free style,” according to the business’ signup form. Starting with the service’s launch on Saturday, Nov. 10, shareholders can pick up their shares of breakfast pastries, cakes, tarts, and cookies at T.J. Buckley’s at 132 Elliot St., a restaurant for which Austin bakes.

Austin, a familiar vendor at the Brattleboro Area Farmers’ Market and at the now-shuttered Avenue Grocery, said the service will be offered in three eight-week “share cycles,” Austin said: November-December, January-February, and March-April, with full and half-shares available weekly and or every other week.

A full share will cost $25 per box per week. A half share is $15 per box per week, or $20 if a shareholder selects the gluten-free option. Every-other-week options are half the respective costs.

She said she is also willing to negotiate other arrangements for quantity and frequency.

Austin, who came on the bakery share idea as a way to make her business sustainable during the slower winter months, described a challenge of finding a business model that could sustain her style of baking and her self-described tendency to be free-spirited.

She spent her formative years learning the trade from Jeffrey Hamelman, now one of the few certified master bakers in the United States and a baking rock star. Now the director of the King Arthur Bakery and an instructor at the flour company’s baking school, Hamelman operated an eponymous bakery on Elliot Street in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“He did a lot of introducing and education around European-style breads and French pastries and European-style pastries,” said Austin.

Pastries and community

For seven years, she ran a successful storefront bakery in Keene. She missed that business just enough to open a new bakery in the Harmony Lot in 2006 and kept it open for a few months — just long enough to realize that she didn’t want to deal with that grind.

Austin tried wholesale baking for a while, selling her wares to the Brattleboro Food Co-op. But “I used such high-end ingredients, and I’m not a production baker,” she said. “So it is very hard for me to offer wholesale costs and have it make any sense.”

In addition to distributing the bakery shares every Saturday, Austin will offer a limited selection of pastries for sale a la carte, including a new line of baked goods infused with cannabidiol (CBD) oil.

She will also make available signed copies of her 2017 book, Pâtisserie Gluten Free: The Art of French Pastry: Cookies, Tarts, Cakes, and Puff Pastries, for which Hamelman wrote the foreword — “an honor,” she said.

On Sundays, she will be at the Putney Farmers’ Market from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., a new venue for Wild Flour.

In addition to the commerce, Austin is also looking forward to distributing the shares, which evokes the arrangement she had with Avenue Grocery.

“I have to say I miss it,” she said. “It was absolutely delightful. And we didn’t know what the response would be. I think some of my customers never found me there. But many did and I really loved it. It was very unusual.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #484 (Wednesday, November 7, 2018). This story appeared on page B5.

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