For years we’ve been using more and more locally milled whole grain and whole wheat flours in our breads, all of which are organic. They just taste better. Until our recent collaboration with PCC Community Markets on our organic Whole Grain Baguette, we hadn’t considered going through the official certification process. Sharing PCC’s dedication to local organic farms, we decided it was time to make it official for our breads that already feature 100% organic ingredients: Whole Grain Baguette, Skagit Sourdough, Sour White, and Sour White Ficelle.
Becoming certified is no small feat. The USDA’s National Organic Program sets the standards. Foods that are certified organic are based on farming methods that don’t rely on toxic pesticides, and that maintain soil fertility and replenish it with only natural fertilizers. Independent third-party officials routinely inspect organic farms and processing facilities to ensure they are meeting all USDA organic standards. Not only is it good for the local ecosystem, but it often produces the best tasting food.
We worked with Quality Assurance International (QAI) to obtain our certification. First, we had to ensure that every ingredient, from farm to supplier, is organic and handled in strict accordance with all USDA organic standards. We also had to be sure that all of our internal processes met the same USDA qualifications. There can be no risk of cross-contamination with non-organic ingredients, which meant designing an organic-only section of our bakery, a dedicated organic-only mixer, strict tracking procedures for all ingredients, and an exhaustive cleaning process for our ovens before baking our organic loaves.
We received our official organic certification on December 26, 2018, it took about six months to make it official. Blake Gehringer, Macrina’s Food Safety General Manager, oversaw the intensive process. The application alone was 30 pages. Then a great deal of thought had to go into everything from color-coded storage containers to new baker’s couches and intensive training for all of our bakers.
I’m proud of our decision to certify these breads as organic. Walking through the wheat fields at the Williams Hudson Bay Farm, one of the largest Certified Organic and Salmon-Safe farms in the region located near Walla Walla, it’s hard not to be humbled by their dedication to organic farming. It’s not the easiest way to do things, but it ensures a healthy and sustainably grown product and promotes soil and water conservation. We’re also fortunate that we have local mills, such as Cairnsprings Mill and Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill, that can produce small-batch organic flours for us. And most of all, I’m excited our customers and partners are interested in quality artisan organic products.