We’ve all heard the refrain: Buy local. But that concept doesn’t just apply to fruits and vegetables. Grains such as wheat and corn grow across the state and their flours should be key components to any locavore’s grocery list. The benefits of adding them to your diet go beyond just making it more delicious.

“Having access to local food supply is really important when we experience disruptions,” says Audrey Paugh, marketing and networking specialist at the Colorado Grain Chain. “Climate change, COVID-19, and even issues happening in Ukraine right now—all of those things highlight the continued trajectory of less predictability [in the global food system.]”

That’s why the Colorado Grain Chain—a membership-based nonprofit organization consisting of bakers, brewers, maltsters, millers, distillers, farmers, and consumers—advocates for strengthening the Colorado grain economy. “We focus on outreach, education, and facilitating market connections that center the nutritional benefits of whole grains, as well as the environmental benefits of growing a diversity of grains locally,” says Paugh.

Colorado’s unique growing conditions—including limited access to water, a short growing season, and relatively poor soil health—make farming difficult to say the least. But growing grains suitable for Colorado’s climate, and supporting those efforts at wholesale and consumer levels, helps ensure the livelihood of these farmers and their land.

Fresh, local flours lend loads of flavor, too. To help you make the most of them in your own kitchen, we spoke with a few bakers, millers, and farmers to get their recommendations. If you’d rather let someone else do the baking, though, look through the Colorado Grain Chain member map to find bakeries and restaurants that are part of the movement.

Bow & Arrow Brand

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Farm & Ranch Enterprise. Photo courtesy of Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

Situated on tribal land in southwestern Colorado, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Farm & Ranch Enterprise’s Bow & Arrow Brand has been around since 1962, but its cornmeals are a relatively new addition. “It’s about a 7,600-acre farm, so about a third of that goes into some type of corn,” says Simon Martinez, general manager for the Farm & Ranch Enterprise. “Being able to provide jobs in this area is a big deal.”

Using certified non-GMO seeds, yellow, blue, and white corn are planted with enough acreage to guard against cross-pollination. Water, or a lack of it, is a big concern for Martinez and his team. “We farm in the desert,” he explains. “Ninety percent comes down the Dolores River.” To help mitigate issues from drought, the Farm & Ranch try to keep their water usage to a minimum. “We have to be more observant on what the climate is allowing for now,” Martinez says. “We’re at the mercy of water.”

In addition to wholesaling to regional brands, including the Denver-based Raquelitas Tortillas and Arizona-based Hayden Flour Mills, Bow & Arrow’s on-site mill produces cornmeal and polenta for home cooks. The white cornmeal is more cakelike and can even seem a little sweeter, says Martinez. “Yellow is more conventional for cornbread,” he says. “Blue is a little grittier, used for blue muffins or pancakes.” Find recipes for these dishes and many others on Bow & Arrow Brand’s website.

Order Bow & Arrow cornmeal online via Tocabe Marketplace, or find it at the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose and Valley Roots Food Hub in Mosca.

Grains From the Plains

Kevin and Laura Poss. Photo by Jessica Ashauer

In the small town of Hugo on Colorado’s Eastern Plains, Kevin and Laura Poss operate Grains From the Plains, a farm spanning 1,000 acres of land, about 330 of which go toward dryland (non-irrigated) wheat farming.

“We’re conventional farmers; we don’t use chemicals. We till the ground to kill the weeds, start that process about the first of May,” says Kevin, a fourth-generation Lincoln County farmer. “September is when I plant the wheat. It grows just a little bit, then takes a nap for the winter. It starts growing again in February, and the harvest is typically mid-July.”

The Posses grow different varieties of wheat from year to year. The varieties that are available now, which you can buy as whole grains or as flours, include Turkey Red, an heirloom from the 1800s; Scout 66, an heirloom variety that Kevin’s grandfather also grew; and Hatcher, a modern variety from Colorado State University, which Laura dubbed Rustic Red for marketing purposes.

Laura recommends Scout 66 and Rustic Red for bread, and Turkey Red as an all-purpose flour. “If I could only have one kind of wheat, I’d have Turkey Red,” she says. Flour is milled to order and ships within 24 hours or less. “The mail lady comes at 10:40 a.m.; we mill it at 9 a.m. The customer will get it in the Denver area the next day,” Laura says. “I think we have the freshest flour in the state.”

Order directly via the Grains From the Plains website.

Mountain Oven

Mountain Oven flours. Photo courtesy of Mountain Oven

In 2010, Chris Sullivan started Mountain Oven in Crested Butte, eventually pairing up with Dana Whitcomb and moving to Paonia to open their organic bakery and mill in 2018. “We try to source as locally as possible,” Sullivan says. “Our mission and goal are to help cultivate a revitalized grain economy in the North Fork Valley and the Western Slope.”

About 60 percent of the flour for the bakery is milled in-house, with the goal of eventually reaching 100 percent. “The primary flour for our bread program is a sifted flour we make from a combination of hard red spring and hard red winter wheats,” Sullivan explains. Sullivan’s team adds water to the grains to better separate the grain’s bran (outer skin) from the endosperm (the bulk of the inside of a grain’s kernel, containing starch and carbohydrates). This yields an 80 to 85 percent extraction flour, meaning unlike a cheap, highly refined all-purpose flour from the grocery store, it contains some of the bran and germ found in a typical whole wheat blend.

Mountain Oven’s line of bagged flours include that sifted bread flour and four others: single-grain flours made from White Sonora and Rouge de Bordeaux wheat, a whole-wheat blend, and a whole rye flour. “We just started to get more Western Slope spelt in the bakery, so we’re starting to formulate with that right now,” Sullivan adds. “We expect to have spelt flour available as well.”

The sifted bread flour, strong and flavorful, is ideal for bread, pizza, and pasta. The lower-protein White Sonora is best for desserts, such as cookies, muffins, scones, pie crusts, pancakes, and waffles. The Rouge de Bordeaux and whole-wheat blend flours are versatile and work well in nearly any whole-wheat recipe. And the rye imparts a nutty, malty flavor. “We sneak it in at smaller percentages,” Sullivan says. “Even 10 percent rye in a bread or a cake gives a pretty substantial boost in flavor complexity.”

Purchase from the Paonia bakery or a retail partner in the region.

Moxie Bread Co.

Scoop of local grains from a bag.
Grains to be milled at Moxie Bread Co. Photo courtesy of Moxie Bread Co.

In 2015, the late Andy Clark founded the first Moxie Bread Co. bakery in Louisville, eventually expanding to locations in north Boulder and Lyons, as well as a wholesale stone mill.

Moxie sources its grains from farms across Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. “We view ourselves as revolutionary because we don’t sift our flour,” says lead miller Kalyn Pembridge. “[Clark believed] you can heal your gut by keeping all the nutrients there.”

Moxie offers more than 10 different flours, some made from wheat and some not. Pembridge recommends Moxie’s red wheat flour as a standard go-to, especially for beginner bakers, and its white wheat flours for making biscuits. As for the specialty flours, such as einkorn, emmer, spelt, and kamut, they are denser and should mainly be used for boosting flavor along with more standard wheat flours.

“The whole reason why I’m here and doing this is because I believe in regenerative farming and sustainability and lowering our carbon footprint,” Pembridge adds. “You’re creating a genuine community by buying from local farmers and producers.”

Moxie sells flour at its locations in Louisville, north Boulder, and Lyons, as well as Lucky’s Market in Boulder and Fort Collins and Leevers Locavore in Denver.