Flour power!

Matt Bowman of the stone ground flour company has recently taken residence of Little Duxmore farm and with his team of dedicated staff is taking the Island’s organic flour market by storm.

I was introduced to Matt’s flour through a supplier to St Helens Restaurant. Knowing my passion for Island ingredients, Stuart and Phil of Carisbrooke Cuisine (408409), suggested we try it for bread making and since first using the Vectis Malty, customer feedback has been so positive that I have continued to use more products from Matt’s range in the daily menus at the restaurant.

Mark: How long have you been involved in milling?

Matt: Since childhood. My Mother’s family have been millers in Nelstrop in Stockport for about 200 years. We moved to the Island when I was 4, but whenever we headed back up north, I would spend as much time as possible working in my uncle’s mill.

Mark: You really have got flour in your blood then Matt!

Matt: Yes, on leaving college I took an apprenticeship at Marriages Mill in Chelmsford. An old boy called Jess Whiteman taught me to grind flour on stones, although they were turned electronically the grinding methods were traditional. We use these same methods at Little Duxmore.

Mark: And then?

Matt: In 1985 I moved to Ranks Solent Mill in Southampton where they used much more modern roller mills. I stayed for two years, but then did not work in milling for the next eight years. Eventually though I did find myself drawn back to the life and we leased Lower Calbourne Mill in 1995 it was then that we formed the Stoneground Flour Company. In 2001 we moved to a water mill in South Oxfordshire and continued the company there. But the Island and its people are addictive and we returned in 2004 to take up at Langbridge Farm.

Mark: How far have you come since 2004?

Matt: We were milling about 100 tonnes of grain per annum at Langbridge and by the end of this year that will have increased to 300 tonnes at Little Duxmore mill.

Mark: Is all the grain organic and from the Island?

Matt: Thirty tonnes of what we mill is organic, twenty of which comes from our own 107 acres. We have 77 acres certified organic by the Soil Association and the remaining 30 acres will be certified by 2008. We buy a further ten tonnes of organic grain from other Island farmers, the remaining 270 tonnes also comes from Island farmed grain and is used to make our standard flours a majority of which goes to mainland buyers and larger island bakeries.

Mark: So what organic grains have you got sown this season?

Matt: We have 5 acres of rye, 2 of barley, 2 of spelt, 5 of wheat and 5 acres of naked oats. This crop is particularly exciting to me because we are planning an Island muesli, which will be made solely using organic Island grown grain.

Mark: Where do you see your company going?

Matt: We are looking at various ideas, but I see the future being in the production of more end lines. We are already making pasta, a tricolour macaroni and a Reishi mushroom pasta and as mentioned are planning an Island muesli and it would be great to see our products available through the Co-op local scheme. We are also looking at introducing organic egg production to help fertilize the land and help fill the gap in the organic egg market.

Matt has an amazing set up at Little Duxmore. The modern machinery and building are a far cry from the Yafford and Calbourne mills I remember as a child. But despite the shiny exterior, a feeling of nostalgia remains. Maybe it is the smells, or the sound of the stones grinding the flour, whatever the reason, Matt is proud of the tradition behind his industry and this is clearly reflected in the end product.

I would love to hear that flour sales have rocketed since this article was printed and that you are all making your own bread on a daily basis, or at least have tried the recipe on page 87. But if not, please go out of your way to try a loaf from someone who does use Matt’s fantastic flour from one of the following Island bakers or food producers:

Bembridge Bakery, Brighstone Tea Rooms, Calbourne Classics, Freshwater Bakery, Hamiltons, Island Biscuits, Market Bakery, The Essex, The Hambrough, St Helens Restaurant, The Royal Hotel and The Pond Café.

The Island Stoneground Flour Company’s products are available from: Afton Park Farm, The Windmill, Briddlesford Farm Shop, Carisbrooke Cuisine, Easy Weigh, Farmer Jacks, The Garlic Farm, Godshill Organics, Horringford Farm Shop, Ralph’s, Shanklin Healthstore, Two Fishes Delicatessen and The Country Kitchen.

Contact Matt on 01983 885050 – Bread recipe on page 87.