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Featured Farm Craft: Seasons’ Yield Farm

What is the name of your Farm, Ranch, or Homestead

Seasons’ Yield Farm

Where are you located?

Raphine, VA

How long have you been preserving the traditional craft of making bread?

I have been baking bread since I was in elementary school, but became serious about the craft after separating from the U.S. Army. Baking naturally leavened bread in our wood fired, hearth oven was a diversifying enterprise when starting our farm in 2016.

What (or who) inspired you to learn this skill?

While on deployment in Afghanistan, my wife sent me Chad Robertson’s, TARTINE. I read through that book and was inspired by the life Chad had created surrounding bread craftsmanship. That book created a desire in my wife and I to begin our own business and at that time I resolved to build a wood fired bread oven when I returned from deployment.

What materials do you like to use? Do you incorporate any of your own or local raw materials?

At our bakery, we use a blend of King Arthur flour and locally milled specialty grains like Spelt and Rye. Our breads and pastries are a reflection of the respective seasons and we enjoy sourcing many specialty ingredients locally: for instance, we use wood-fired maple syrup from our farm in our cinnamon-raisin bread for a unique touch.

What do you enjoy most about the “crafting of bread” process?

There are so many appealing aspects of the craft, but my favorite is the visceral, life-giving process of the sourdough. The leaven is fed, the bread the kneaded, the fire is stoked, the loaves are formed. This process produces a beautiful product that is a reflection of time investment and care taken. I find that process exceptionally fulfilling.

What is the proper care for your handcrafted bread pieces and how long are they meant to last? Do they require refrigeration or does a simple bread bag suffice?

Certainly, the bread is best eaten fresh, within 24 hours of coming out of the oven, however, the sourdough breads hold their freshness for several days long on the counter or in a bread bag. Many of our customers choose to slice the bread while fresh and freeze “ready to toast” slices in freezer safe plastic bags.

Where can folks find your bread at the present time? Do you sell it online or local pick-up only?

Currently, we offer breads and pastries twice a month from our bakery. The bakery and cafe are open to walk-ins on the requisite Saturdays, but amidst the current environment, about 75% of our customers choose to pre-order off of our website and pick-up their pre-packaged goods.

Do you have a favorite bread that you make? If so, are there any favorite recipes you would like to share that might inspire others to try your works of bread art out?

I enjoy eating all of our breads, but my favorite to make is the loaf we call our “Oakland”. It is a naturally leavened (72 hours), rustic white boule. I have been making it longer than our other loaves, understand its structure and feel the best. It’s like knowing an old friend!

What resources or materials do you recommend to others interested in learning the traditional craft of bread-making? (If you offer classes or workshops, feel free to share info.)

There certainly is no substitute for making loaf after loaf yourself. There are many nuances to sourdough bread making that are particular to your own space (i.e. humidity, altitude, temperature), that once you know the basics, you just need repetition in your home kitchen. That process of pursuing the perfect loaf, is what makes this craft so appealing.

How and/or when did life as a farmer, rancher or homesteader begin for you?

It was during my husband’s first deployment to Afghanistan that the desire to live closer to the land and cultivate good and nourishing food began for both my husband and me.  That was 9 years ago and once he returned home, we put our house up for rent, rented 3 acres, and brought home 2 goats and 2 pigs in the back of a Subaru Outback.  Our farm life had begun!  We thought that our farming would entail growing organic vegetables and meat for our community while selling wood-fired sourdough breads would just be an additional area of income.  But the breads have taken over and become the main focus of our farm.

What do you grow and/or raise?

We bake wood-fired sourdough breads and pastries every two weeks and sell them to the community during what we call a “Bread Day”.  We also make wood-fired VA maple syrup, have pasture-raised beef, pork, chicken, and turkey.  We also run an Airbnb on the second story of our Bread Barn.

What traditional methods do you use on your farm to grow your crops and/or raise your animals?

There are two traditional processes that we have chosen to adhere to and feel strongly passionate about: The first is baking all of our breads in an outdoor, wood-fired, masonry oven. This dense and voluminous structure was built by Daniel and his dad, inspired by Alan Scott. The oven’s structure and design can be traced back hundreds of years and creates a wonderfully unique crust and crumb.

The second traditional process we use is naturally leavening all of our breads and pastries. We use a sourdough starter of flour and water in every bread and pastry recipe to leaven the dough. This is important to us for taste and texture as well as the health benefits of a slowly developed, naturally leavened dough. All of our loaves require a minimum of 12 hours to fully proof and develop in flavor and texture.

What is one of your favorite farm-infused recipes you wish to share?

We LOVE French toast at our house and eat it several times a week.  We almost always have it on a weekend morning, using one of our leftover breads from Bread Day.  We love French toast because it is quick to make, almost always turns out, and is always a crowd pleaser.  This recipe is based off of Joanna Gaines’s French Toast recipe from her Magnolia Table Volume 2.

French Toast

12 slices thick bread (we love using our challah bread or brioche bread, but any bread will work well!)

3 eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

½ cup heavy cream

2 t vanilla

4 T bourbon or spiced rum

2 T maple syrup

2 t cinnamon (or I like to use pumpkin spice here as well)

Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together.  Dip slices of bread in the bowl, making sure to get the bread nicely soaked with the batter.  Cook in a heated pan with lots of butter until slightly browned on each side.

 

What is at least one farm tradition you uphold?

We are first generation farmers… neither of us grew up on a farm. My grandparents and great-grandparents were farmers in Pennsylvania where my Grandmother ran a successful dried flower business. But on Daniel’s side of the family, he actually had an ancestor that was eaten by a pig… so we are really stepping out and creating our own traditions.  Our favorite farm tradition would have to be making meals for our family and friends where everything on the table is either from our farm or from surrounding local farms.  We love to look around the table and tell where each ingredient came from.

What inspires you to continue a farm lifestyle?

When Daniel was still serving in the military, we longed for the day when we could work TOGETHER towards a common goal.  It often felt that we were pulling in opposite directions and we were so excited to create a living where our passions and gifts worked side by side, in unison.  We have found that here on our Farm and it is a joy every day to be a team, using our gifts and working together.  Daniel keeps the farm running and makes the most delicious breads.  I make the lattes and delight in creating beautiful and hospitable spaces around the Farm and in our Airbnb. We are living our dream and we are inspired to keep dreaming TOGETHER.

Also, every Bread Day we are inspired.  As we look out (me from behind the espresso machine and Daniel from in front of the wood-fired oven where he is making pizzas) and see the community gathering together, we feel incredibly inspired.  To see friends laughing together over lattes, to see children connecting with the farm animals, to see a family eating a picnic together on the lawn, to see this space being enjoyed to the utmost- that is what inspires us to continue working to make this place even more beautiful and nourishing for our community.

What words of inspiration or uplifting wisdom to you hope to impart on the future generation of farmers, ranchers, beekeepers, and homesteaders?

If we could offer any advice, it would be to center your business and pursuits on what is most satisfying, life-giving and purposeful to you, rather than straining and stressing to fit a mold read about in the latest how-to book. Our vision and passion was to work side-by side, as a family, pulling together in the same direction on the land. Amidst the various opportunities, life’s changing seasons and developed purposes, we have not compromised that vision. What successes we have experienced stem first and foremost from that strict adherence to our original vision.

Where can people find you/your products online?

Currently we do not ship our bread items but we have some merchandise available for purchase, as well as our wood-fired maple syrup.  You can learn more about us through our website www.seasonsyieldfarm.com or follow us on Instagram @seasonsyieldfarm

 

 

 

 

 

 

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