River Rock Kitchen & Bakery Co. & Penner Farms (2018 program, 2019 calendar)
At 3am, when the world is taking its first breath, Montana Rasmussen and her team at River Rock Kitchen & Bakery in St. Peter begin their workday, hauling fifty-pound bags of flour, mixing sourdough by hand, baking for hours on end to create their luscious delights. It’s a dream come true for Montana, who always wanted her own bakery. “I love food,” she says. “What we eat and where we eat matters, so I fully believe in being part of our food system.”
Not only does Montana love the art of cooking and baking, she excels at it. Each taste of her breads, pastries, soups, and quiches reveals the freshness, quality, and care both she and her farm partners take to deliver exceptional products. Ben Penner of Ben Penner Farms in Belle Plaine, is one of those farmers. His wheat is grown, milled and distributed in Minnesota and usually reaches Montana within two weeks of being milled. It’s so fresh Montana notices it sometimes varies from bag to bag, depending on which field it came from and when it was harvested.
Ben’s mission is to inspire human flourishing through agriculture. He grew up on a wheat farm in central Kansas, so wheat and farming are both in his blood. He grows spring wheat and a hard heritage variety originally from Ukraine called Turkey Red. Ben hopes to showcase wheat’s potential for variety in both flavor and milling characteristics. He says, “Similar to how coffee, wine, and chocolate have been differentiated over the last thirty years, I believe there’s room for that with wheat.” Montana adds, “Everyone knows a tomato picked ripe, still warm from the sun is better than a tomato picked green and shipped long distances. The same concept is true with wheat; it has the most complex, interesting, flavors. Fresh wheat is a whole different beast.”