Arabesque Farm & Bakery
Tom & Louise Tuffin, Member Spotlight, September 2012
Tom and Louise Tuffin are long haul advocates for a healthy local food and agriculture system in the Spokane area. They run Arabesque Farms and Bakery in Spokane, along with sons Nick & Jake, and Jake’s partner Robin. They sell fresh primarily through farmer’s markets and are now developing a new location for the bakery.
How did you get involved in agriculture and food systems?
I was born into it and it goes way back. Some ancestors were part of the Oglethorpe experiment and later generations populated the Antebellum South. A great great uncle made a job of promoting and cropping the very versatile soy bean. His brother helped develop rice strains at the University of Arkansas. My maternal Grandfather was an early graduate of the land grant college system. After a stint as an County Agriculture Extension Agent in Tennessee he bought a tract of land near Olathe, Colorado and started the Potato Growers Association of Western Colorado. My paternal Grandfather came from Iowa a consummate farmer and seed saver of equal agricultural pedigree. He and my father helped form an onion growers association and a local farmer’s co-op. I grew up on his farm in Delta, Colorado. Community harvesting, fruit picking and canning, crank telephones, baking with grandma, being squirted by my uncle while milking the family cow still linger in my memory.
You’ve been in Spokane awhile now, what have been up to over the years?
I’ve been involved in the Spokane Tilth chapter off and on since 1983. I’ve worked for years with Barb and Larry Geno of Bear Creek Nursery and Skeeter and others with Friends of the Trees Society. We started a market garden in 1999. 2001 was the first year where we managed to bring stuff to market twice week. The last ten or so years we have been building up to being a strong vendor for the local farmer’s markets. We started making loaves of bread in 2003 to sell alongside our fruit, vegetables and flowers. Then after Louise went to the San Francisco Baking Institute, the baking just took over. Our signature artisan bread and pastries are such a draw that it helped us get established in several markets. The goal of local food security is a long way off. I’d love to get back to farming, that’s my real passion. Baking, however, (pardon the pun) is the bread winner.
Tell me about your bread.
Currently I’m limited by a rented commercial kitchen. I can make seven types of bread: Multigrain, Challah, French, Pomodoro, Everything, Herb & Garlic, Cinnamon. We are anxious to get into our new location because there are some rye recipes that take a week to make. Some bread recipes are like making beer. Sourcing high quality ingredients and keeping your cost down are important. Quality and integrity are short all over the culture.
What is your favorite bread?
Haven’t yet made my favorite bread! I put out samples of the bread at the markets. What I love is that kids are finicky eaters and really honest. If they like it, they really LIKE it, and they bring their parents. The thing about bread is that we learned to make it when as a species we learned to stay in one place and grow enough food and protein. Interestingly it is ingrained in us as a species— we seem to be hard wired to the smell of fresh bread.
Why are you a member of Tilth Producers?
It’s the kind of community I want to be a part of. It’s more of a statewide thing. I started reading Mark Musick’s writing and Wendell Berry’s – he was almost a seer in being able to predict the modern trends in American agriculture. Trying to make a difference today in modern American agriculture is big challenge. We have a huge agricultural heritage to grow on and we have innate agriculture knowledge if we tune in to that.
To contact Arabesque Bakers, ask for Tom or Louise Tuffin at the Spokane, Millwood or South Prairie Farmers Markets or email firstname.lastname@example.org.