When it comes to creating community and local food economies, local bread is one of the basics. And in the little town of Daylesford in regional Victoria, a micro-business called Two Fold Bakehouse is smashing the community baking model out of the park.
The two bakers of Two Fold run a CSB – otherwise known as a Community Supported Bakery. Similar to a CSA (community supported agriculture), a CSB bakes for a group of subscribers who pay a monthly upfront fee, in return for weekly bread baked just for them.
This system ensures affordable fresh bread for families, a reliable income for the bakers, and zero waste created in the process.
Alison Wilken and Katie Bauer bake loaves of sourdough in Alison’s kitchen each week for their monthly subscribers – who each come and pick up their loaf on a Thursday afternoon.
These loaves are made with flours all sourced from local regenerative grain farmers. The salt, olives and fruit in some of the loaves is all sourced locally too. In the words of Alison and Katie:
“Our bread is about much more than bread. Our bread is farmers in wheat fields and under fruit trees, it’s millers milling and flour bags filling, it’s bakers crafting loaves that nourish, and it’s the local community that gather and grow, around us.
We bake naturally leavened, organic loaves, using organic stoneground flours, and work with the seasons; changing our loaves to suit what’s growing around us. We support regenerative agriculture and small family farms, who together form a part of a movement towards a local grain economy”
Two Fold Bakehouse is an amazing model of a community-based business which supports the local community and enhances it, too.
While devouring their bread, I was so glad to sit down with Alison and Katie in Alisons kitchen, during the weekly community bake, to find out how Two Fold came into being…
When did you start baking together?
A: About 18 months ago, as we started Two Fold. It just seemed like a good idea. Katie was volunteering at the famed RedBeard Bakery in Trentham – helping them shape loaves and load the oven. I was just hanging out there (to clarify, Alison is a sourdough baker with 30 years experience ).
John Reid of Redbeard kind of pushed us together and said – do it! And so we did (laughs).
K: I just loved the baking I was learning, and also I’d been trying to track Alison down for a while… and then this opportunity arose, and I just jumped at it.
A: Both Katie and I both wanted to be part time (as opposed to full-time) bakers, and we both wanted our baking to have a local community focus.
My previous sourdough bakery, which was a while ago now with Scotty (Alison’s partner) was a wholesale affair – so we were making great bread, but we were essentially in a factory all day. I wasn’t interested in that anymore, but I wanted to keep baking.
And so how did Two Fold come about, then?
K: I finally got Alisons number off John and came around and sat in her kitchen and asked if we could do something together. Then the Daylesford Farmers Market started up, and we were offered a spot there for its first week.
That was fine for a while but we wanted to start the CSB model, which needed a solid kitchen to work from. So Alison & Scotty turned their home kitchen into a (very small) commercial sourdough baking facility.
We kneaded by hand for the first year, then on our first anniversary we bought a bread mixer! Which was a bit of a game changer, for both our bodies and our business.
A: For me, it was about wanting to make local bread for local people. But it was also about being able to use the flour I wanted to use. And wanting to have people believe in this vision as a viable community-based business model.
K: also, we knew that we lived in a community that would be responsive to this kind of model, so we just needed to do it. We didn’t have this huge idea or multi-year business plan, we just wanted to do it bit by bit, get a community response, and then add another bit – and move forward that way.
So what is the CSB monthly model?
A: People pickup a mid-week loaf, on a Thursday, of whatever bread we bake that month – based on whatever the best flour is at that time of year, and what we feel like! And we still do a local Sunday market stall, so then that bread gets you through to mid-week.
The bread gets baked that day and then put out at our pickup point, which people collect from in their own time. Their names are on the bags. There’s usually extra bikkies with a little honesty jar, too.
We put out a little email each week to subscribers talking about the loaf and the source of the grain, so they know what they’re getting.
For me, after decades of using commodity wheat, being able to work with grain from small organic producers who are trying out new grains was central to the idea behind Two Fold. I’m loving that aspect of it.
K: We have ideas in the works to potentially move the CSB model to a school term basis, maybe with a second pickup point at the local primary school. We’ll see.
How many subscribers did you start with?
A: about six or seven, I think. We just had to start, and just do it. It’s gone up a lot since then, we’re baking 40 loaves today – and we have a commercial subscriber, too, who we bake for that same day. It works out well.
And where to from here?
A: The subscriber model is really ideal for us, that’s what we’re ultimately working towards for the whole business. The Sunday markets are great, but it’s a long day, plus a day of baking on the Saturday – so a full two days of work.
Also, at the markets, the response is variable depending on the weather, so there’s the possible leftover bread – I hate waste! With the subscription model though, there’s no waste, and it’s far less work, all up, than a market. So that’s ideal – for us, and for the bread too.
What was your inspiration for this community baking model?
A: primarily for me it was trying to reduce waste – if you have a bread shop in the main street, you have to keep it full, and generally, that often leads to waste of some kind. And also I don’t want to make that much bread.
K: once we had the basic idea, I researched a lot of other bakers doing similar things – mostly in the UK and US – small operators like Alchemy Bread, whose setup looks amazing, and her story is, too.
It’s such a great circle that you’ve created – your subscribers know their baker, you know both the subscribers and the farmers who grew your grain…
K: yep that’s one of the things we love best about this model – we know all the farmers we buy our grain from, and even the fruit that we put in our loaves, too. We get to go out the farm, spend the afternoon with them, have a tour and a cuppa.
A: this month, the flour is from WoodStock Flour, Wholegrain Milling, and Burrum. The wattle seeds are from a place in SA that Katie visited, the olives and salt are from Mount Zero over in the Grampians. The dried fruit this month is from northern Victoria. We try to keep everything as local as we can.
Do you hope this is the start of a movement of small community bakery models in Australia?
A: we know multiple crews who want to start up doing this, so it will be great to see where this leads. A crew over at Halls Gap, Blue Wren Bakery, has started up a CSB recently – so that’s great.
A CSB is definitely a viable model for a community livelihood, especially if you added different streams of delivery, like joining up with a local veggie box scheme, I think. Once you get the community support, and the numbers to make it worthwhile each week, it can happen.
Well, there you have it – community resilience, made delicious. We would love to see one (or three) of these micro-bakeries in every town… and when you think about it, there’s no real reason why this can’t happen.
Know a good sourdough home baker? Maybe it’s time to see if they would bake for your family too, and watch it spread from there.
If you’re lucky enough to live near Daylesford, you can subscribe to Two Fold’s CSB via their website. Viva la community!
Big thanks to Mara Ripani for the gorgeous photos, and to Alison and Katie for talking to me, while I attempted to eat all their biscuits.
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- DIY Sneaky Sourdough recipe
- Grainz is a annual conference connecting Australian grain growers and users, with a focus on heritage varieties
- Australian Seedbank Partnership has lots of great resources on resilient grains
- Dark Emu – agriculture or accident – Bruce Pascoe
- Check out Alchemy Bread‘s ‘cottage bakery’ model. Also, Bonnie has a sourdough Baking for Beginners book, which is quite fabulous.