Baking is a privilege

June 8, 2011 | God at work in Us | Number 12
By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Manitoba Correspondent
Morden, Man.
Lynette Froese displays some of her Wheat Song Bakery products that are all made from organic, locally grown grains and natural yeasts.

Lynette Froese is reluctant to call her unique career a business, or even a career. “I was raised to consider work as a form of service, so I try to see this work not just as a business, but as a way of offering a service,” she says.

Froese has a degree in nutrition and a life-long interest in creating healthy food. “In a world where so many do not have enough food, I wanted to give my children a sense of responsibility and of being faithful with how we treat food and produce it,” she says.

When she and her young family lived close to the Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company in Winnipeg, Man., she asked to volunteer at its bakery. “I liked their philosophy and the way they did business,” she says. “A lot of the bread was formed by hand. They use organic ingredients, mill their own flour, and pay a fair wage to the farmer.”

Froese valued the training she received at Tall Grass Prairie, and when her family moved to Morden 10 years ago, she decided to pursue her dream of opening her own bakery. She took a course on how to start a small business and, together with a business partner, came up with a plan.

With two young daughters, and her husband Ken working full-time as a nurse, she wanted to keep her time and family life in balance. Rather than purchasing the local bakery that was for sale, she and her husband decided to buy a house with a summer kitchen in the basement and restyle it into a bakery. She purchased a second-hand oven, mill, bun machine and kneading machine.

Together with Yvonne Stoesz, her business partner and fellow church member at Pembina Mennonite Fellowship, Morden, Froese opened Wheat Song Bakery out of her basement in 2002, carrying on the tradition of Tall Grass Prairie, she says, by becoming a “meeting place where the loaf of bread is born and begins to sing its own song.”

At Wheat Song Bakery, Froese diligently tries to be accountable to the land and to her suppliers by supporting local organic farmers and paying a fair return for their produce.

“For those first five years we developed organic whole-grain products and a customer base,” she says. “We have had a really warm reception from the community.” Members of their house church have been strong supporters and product testers.

But finding a life-work balance has been an ongoing struggle for Froese. Stoesz decided to pursue other work about five years ago, leaving Froese to carry on the work by herself, which often meant working four days a week. With two school-age daughters, she says, “I felt the balance tipping again and so I cut back.” For the past four and a half years Froese has been balancing the baking with part-time immigrant service work, but that is now coming to an end.

Several years ago Froese took a course in England that offered instruction on how to use organic whole grains and natural yeasts. She now uses natural yeasts in a growing number of her products.

And whenever possible, she tries to avoid plastic, using paper instead. It is easy to see how she views her work as a form of service, rather than simply a business venture. Every first-time customer gets a free loaf of bread. She caters to special needs and allergies; recently a customer requested a chocolate cake made with 100 percent spelt flour, so she agreed to give it a try. Every Friday morning she delivers freshly baked pre-ordered cinnamon buns to schools and businesses in the community.

“I love being involved in the physical act of feeding people, of providing something that is beneficial to their health,” she says. “It is a privilege to be able to use the gifts I have to make a living and to help others.”

Froese has offered cooking classes for the regional health authority and 4-H Club programs, and she is dreaming of a course for people who want to learn the art of baking and bread-making using locally grown products.

Froese used to get up at 3 a.m. to go to her basement bakery and begin the day’s mixing. Now she sleeps in until 5. “I really like that quiet time in the morning,” she says. “It allows me to think and meditate before everyone wakes up.”

Lynette Froese displays some of her Wheat Song Bakery products that are all made from organic, locally grown grains and natural yeasts.

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