Inner Workings Of A Small Business
Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery is truly a family business. Co-owner Katie Zukof and infant daughter Leda Schedler are hanging out in the bakery as Eric Schedler forms dozens and dozens of balls of sourdough into loaves that will be baked in their wood-fire oven.
Eric is multitasking this morning by also having hands-free phone conversation with Jennie Hoene of Ewenique Icelandic Sheep Farm (Seymour, Indiana), one of the many local farmers from whom they buy their ingredients. He’s putting in an order for five pounds of cornmeal.
“She grows everything,” he says. “We’re not really sure how she has the energy to do it.” They also purchase her spring wheat and rye, which she grinds fresh for them every week. “If we don’t see her at market, we get really nervous,” he adds.
They purchased a plot of undeveloped land nine miles outside Bloomington, Indiana 2 ½ years ago and made themselves a bakery with a wood-fire oven. The pile of wood in front of the house comes from a local saw mill. Since the mill would have simply burned the waste wood, Muddy Fork only pays to have it delivered.
Originally, working with local businesses and buying ingredients from local farmers was an ideological decision.
“Over time, come to find out not only is it local, but it’s quite superior,” says Eric.
He believes the freshly ground flour improves the flavor of their breads. That, and since the wheat in particular is high in protein, it works especially well in a brick oven. It makes a strong dough, so they are able to add more water than you typically would. “It makes a lot of steam inside the loaf when it hits the hot brick,” he says. “It springs up beautifully.”
Before they built their commercial kitchen, they made bread out of their home. Thanks to a law that’s been on the books in Indiana since 2009, home-based vendors can prepare “non-potentially hazardous food products” in their home kitchens and sell them at farmers markets and roadside stands.
In the beginning, Eric and Katie made a 10-week commitment to bake bread to sell at the Bloomington Winter Farmers Market.
“I remember the first day that I baked, I didn’t finish until 2:00 in the morning. I said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this again’ — and I was only making 50 loaves,” says Eric.
Now, on his two baking days every week, he produces loaves for 30-35 bread subscribers and local restaurants, as well as some 150 loaves to sell at area markets. That involves being on his feet for 10-12 hours.
Healthy Sweet Roll?
They also make sweet treats. The Butternut Squash Spice Roll is made with local butternut squash which gives it moistness and a bright yellow color. In addition to cinnamon, it has nutmeg, clove and ginger in the brown sugar swirl. The most potent smell comes from the orange zest in the dough.
“We are able to sell them year round because butternut squash keeps so well,” says Katie. They buy the squash from local farmers in the fall and they keep throughout the winter, spring and into the summer when the next harvest comes.
So, does Katie consider this a good-for-you sweet treat?
“Sure, I think so!”