Thursday, December 8, 2011

Daybreak-Scheresky Mill

“organic grains, legumes and cereal mixes: grown and made in Saskatchewan”

Alvin Scheresky, one of Saskatchewan’s organic pioneers, started growing and processing organic grains near Glen Ewen on Saskatchewan’s southern border in 1964.

According to the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Scheresky was “one of the first organic farmers in North America to have production facilities on the farm to process and add value to grains, and he operated the first organic flour mill in the province.” He was instrumental in forming the Saskatchewan chapter of the Organic Crop Improvement Association, the first Canadian organization to confer organic certification.

In 2003, Alvin Scheresky was ready to retire. A local farming couple, Ray and Marianne Aspinall, purchased Scheresky’s grain-processing equipment and set about developing a greater variety of packaged consumer products at the Daybreak-Scheresky Mill.

The farm is still completely organic and continues to grow the crops Scheresky had established.

The Farm
The Daybreak farm isn’t very big. The Aspinalls own 4 quarters of land and rent 3 more, but they grow up to 13 different crops – from wheat, rye and kamut, to oats, barley and spelt. Rather than expand the size of the farm, they have chosen to focus on developing and marketing value-added products.

Their first step was packaging the grains and legumes in smaller amounts for household use. Nowadays, all their products come in a range of bag sizes, from 500 grams up to 20 kilograms.

Their next step was to develop packaged mixes: cooked breakfast cereal, granola and pancakes. “People want healthy, organic food, but they also want it to be quick and easy to prepare,” explains Nicole Davis, Daybreak’s office administrator and sales and marketing coordinator.

Daybreak Products
Daybreak sells approximately 18 different kinds of flour (e.g. rye, millet, oat) as well as whole and de-hulled grains (e.g. barley, buckwheat groats), flaked grains, cereals, and legumes (lentils, peas).

The Daystart cereal is made of millet, buckwheat, oat bran, sunflower seeds and brown flax that have been milled so that they cook in under 5 minutes.

I’m enjoying the granola mix. It’s very versatile as you can eat it raw as muesli, use it to make granola or add it to cookies or muffins. It combines flakes of spelt, wheat, buckwheat, rye and barley along with sunflower seeds and flax. All the ingredients are organic and as many as possible are grown on the farm or sourced locally.

The two main ingredients in the Sunrise pancake mix are spelt flour and the Daybreak granola mix. The granola adds crunch and substance, while the spelt flour guarantees moist pancakes. “They’re quite satisfying,” says Nicole.

Daybreak is launching a granola cookie mix just in time for Christmas. The ingredient list is very straightforward with no mystery chemicals to decipher: spelt flour, granola mix, chocolate chips, cane sugar, sultana raisins and cinnamon. Again, everything is organic.

The recipes have been developed by Marianne Aspinall. She has steered away from using wheat flour as so many people cannot tolerate wheat gluten. Spelt is an ancient grain and, although it still contains gluten, it is much easier to digest.

Marketing and Distribution
The Daybreak Scheresky products are primarily available from small retailers (SaskMade Marketplace, Nutter’s) in Western Canada as well as Community Natural Foods, a large health food store in Calgary. They sell their flour directly to bakeries in Regina and Edmonton.

“We want to get our name out there and get people talking about us,” Nicole says. Marianne and Nicole are visiting local stores, and they have established a newsletter and a Facebook page in order to talk directly to customers.

Cleaning the Grain
Before the grain can be packaged and processed it has to be cleaned. This is especially important for organic crops in order to remove weed seeds, hulls or stones.

Daybreak has two sets of grain-cleaning equipment, one dedicated organic and a second set that is primarily for custom work and about 95% organic (the only non-organic grains cleaned are for local farmers).

Healthy Food
Whether you are making bread or whipping up a quick batch of cookies, be sure to try the Daybreak-Scheresky products. They’re local; they’re organic; they’re healthy and, last but definitely not least, they taste great.

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