Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace - Place-based Transformation

Region Five Development Commission

Funding Received: 2016
Little Falls, MN
Funding Period: 2 years and 11 months
April 10, 2017

You could say wheat is in my bloodstream. 

By Ben Penner, Ben Penner Farms 

In 1874, Mennonites from the Ukraine brought Turkey Red Winter Wheat to the Great Plains in South Central Kansas. I grew up just  a few miles from the location where the first grains were planted, and count this variety as part of my heritage. I m now growing this variety for milling and baking in Minnesota.  www.pennerfarms.com

Ben Penner of Ben Penner Farms:

I’m a farmer and I grow wheat, soybeans, dry beans, lentils, alfalfa on a farm in Belle Plaine, MN. I want to tell you a little bit about my farm and why I do what I do. I am going to share with you some samples of bread that I’ve made and show you how to make it.

I should tell everyone, as I’ve mentioned, I’m a farmer. I’m not a baker. I would not call myself a baker first. So, if you’re looking for baking tips…

Matt Annand of Prairie Bay:

And I’m a chef not a baker. So you have no bakers up here showing you how to bake bread.


But if you have questions about farming or agriculture, of what needs to be done in a rural landscape, I would be happy to talk to you more about that because that’s sort of my thing. The mission statement of my farm is to inspire human flourishing through agriculture. I do that particularly through entrepreneurship and experimentation with different crops and methodologies. I also develop markets and try to help people see the potential for rural landscape and communities that we’re from. So, what we have going on here at Sprout in Little Falls is building an amazing asset to the community and the region.

I started farming about seven years ago, not quite by accident, but it wasn’t exactly planned. I did grow up on a wheat farm in central Kansas, but in the 1980’s there was a farm crisis which knocked a lot of people out of the landscape. I was one of those that when I went to college and graduated, I started a corporate job. I should say I went to graduate school first and then started a corporate job - worked in publishing for 15 years. And then, I discovered was that what I really loved was agriculture and helping people realize a vision for the environment and for making theirs and others’ lives better.

I love wheat. I grew up in central Kansas where some of my relatives came from the Ukraine. I am Mennonite. In 1874 they came to central Kansas and brought a particular kind of wheat called Turkey Red Winter Wheat. I grew up growing wheat and I guess you could say wheat is in my bloodstream. So, I had an opportunity to start an organic farm and I am bring some of  the fruit of that here today.

So the demonstration I’m going to give to you comes out of Peter Reinhart's “Whole Grain Breads.” Does it look like maybe I’ve sold a book or two before? See, publishing and agriculture do actually mix. This book is the best if you want to learn how to make bread with whole grain, and my flour is all whole grain.

Multigrain Struan  - Struan, which means “the convergence or confluence of streams” in Gaelic, is usually made with whatever is available at harvest time.

It’s got several different grains in it. It’s got my wheat which is a spring wheat variety. This is actually from “forefront” which is a Minnesota, Dakotas variety. It’s pretty popular. The berries have a nice red coating to it and a caramel flavor. My other kinds of wheat will have a little bit of a lighter flavor. It’s really interesting how we think about wheat as being something that all tastes the same but it’s actually like wine, chocolate or coffee. You want something that has some flavor.


I’m making some treats for you guys, some open faced sandwiches. Sour cream, lox (smoked, cured salmon), dill, red onion, and scallion. We have samples of this bread for you to dip over here at the mini buffet of different condiments to go with the bread. I wanted the bread to be the star of the show, because it should be and it is. It is awesome, wonderful, you can eat it by itself. But if you want to spoon some of these we have a saffron aioli, a whole grain honey mustard, olive tapenade, honey butter, goat cheese, and basil pesto. I’ll make it all day long until  the bread runs out.

Ben continued through the recipe, enjoying the background music of Hans Blix and the Weapons Inspectors playing to the Growers & Makers Marketplace:

It’s fun to make bread and listen to music because you get a little bit of a rhythm going and get in the flow.

To learn more about Ben Penner Farms visit pennerfarms.com. Ben claims he has a pancake recipe your kids will request four times per week, and it can be found on the site. The full video of the Multigrain Struan Demo can be found on the Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace facebook page.