Longform

Big Brain Awards 2013

Page 4 of 13

But that hasn't stopped Jeff Zimmerman from bringing back the name and the grain that once thrived in the Southwest.

A quality management specialist turned slow food activist, Zimmerman's revival of the Hayden Flour Mills process began with his family's growing interest in the resurgence of authentic foods, "just like people bringing back heritage tomatoes, veggies, pork. We just thought, well, let's just see if there are ancient types of wheat."

Zimmerman and his daughter Emma began their quest to reclaim the heritage grains lost in the age of industrialized farming by enlisting the help of farmers, anthropologists, and organizations like Native Seeds Search in Tucson.

Not long after the Zimmermans' operation launched, they connected with pizza-maker and slow food aficionado Chris Bianco.

"He's probably the original guy for using local ingredients in his food," says Zimmerman, "but the one ingredient he didn't have was wheat."

A champion of the Zimmermans' efforts, Bianco invited Hayden Flour Mills to move in behind his sandwich shop, Pane Bianco, setting up their 1,600-pound Austrian stone mill and sifter and producing the various flours used by Bianco's restaurants and other Valley chefs across town. You can also buy the flour at farmers markets and specialty shops (including Pane Bianco) around town. For a complete list, go to haydenflourmills.com

As New Times sat with Zimmerman in the back of Hayden Flour Mills' cozy headquarters, Emma entered through the back door carrying a large white pastry box and declared, "It's a cake for Charles' birthday."

She was referring to Charles Hayden, original founder of the Hayden Flour Mill. April 4 marked the 188th anniversary of his birth, and Emma made a cake using the very same flour he would have milled.

The Zimmermans do well to pay homage to their inspirational founder and his heritage grains. So well, in fact, that direct descendants of Charles Hayden himself have reached out to offer their praise and their support to the operation.

In this sense, Hayden Flour Mills is very much a community organization, a tight-knit family of farmers, chefs, and local food enthusiasts working under the Hayden Flour Mills umbrella. "We have a network of farmers passionate about growing it and a network of chefs passionate about using it," Jeff Zimmerman says.

Even with all this success, Zimmerman does not claim be an innovator. In fact, he modestly denounces it. "If I've thought of something, at least a hundred other people have thought of it before."

True, perhaps. But the Zimmermans are the ones who did it. — Katie Johnson


THE SIMPLE FARM

Picture Grant Wood's American Gothic with a really, really, really good-looking couple and you've got Lylah and Michael Ledner.

It's amazing that reality TV hasn't snatched up these two — yet. They've got all the elements: They're baby boomers who met (relatively) late in life, moved to North Scottsdale, and started a church in their home, then leased a few acres of old horse property between ritzy housing developments to start a farm.

"I used to buy designer shoes; now I buy designer seeds," Lylah Ledner says with a smile, pausing for a moment to chat as The Simple Farm's Thursday morning "French Market" winds down and the April day begins to heat up. Lylah's got fresh dirt under her nails from picking weeds; somehow, her bubblegum-pink lipstick is just as fresh.

She relaxes in a plastic chair at a table draped with black-and-white-checked oilcloth, pausing to empty the big pockets of her apron: a syringe from giving a goat an enema; a French knife given to her by a customer; someone else's business card; and an iPhone with a screen so shattered it's hard to believe Lylah can get it to work. But she does, and you know because she's a frequent poster on Instagram (@thesimplefarm) and Facebook, and you can find The Simple Farm's blog at thesimplefarmmarketgarden.com.

The Ledners got a head start on the local farm craze, moving to the Valley in November 2009, ripping out "oleanders to the sky," and planting a garden as a way of connecting with the land.

Sounds corny, but there's a lot of love on this farm. Love for the customers, the animals (they are now up to six goats that are milked twice a day — that's a lot of milking), the sweet, ramshackle French décor. Lylah tears up more than once, talking about this business that is clearly much more to these two.

A customer walks by and asks Lylah about a tree.

"It's a Pakistani mulberry tree and it won't make you sneeze," she says, not missing a beat, adding that she gives the leaves to her goats to get their milk to dry up. Another wants to know if you can make ricotta cheese out of goat's milk (yes) and another asks how to make quark (Lylah's got several websites to recommend).

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