2012 22.1 Meet your Fellow Tilth Producer, Krissy Biernacki

Tilth’s Kelsey Maki chats with Krissy Biernacki of Blue Skies Bakery in Trout Lake

Krissy and her husband Todd decided to change careers six years ago and have since established a small farm and bread bakery between Trout Lake and White Salmon. With backgrounds in horticulture and chemical engineering the pair was poised for success. Todd has come full circle as a chemist, applying his skills and drive to baking. Krissy manages the farm and its local connections, and delights in her community and the food ethics that surround them.

Tell us about your beautiful soil
I have about half of an acre in production and I’ll probably expand that this year. Our soil is beautiful loam and absolutely pristine. The pasture used to flood, so it was never really grazed. There had never been a building on this land until we moved here. I like figuring out how to really nurture the soil. For me keeping the soil pure keeps our food pure. If we take care of our soil, we’ll have it forever, if we don’t, we’re making a big mistake.

Any advice on taking care of the soil?
There is a real issue around compacting soil, especially with the use of heavy equipment or u-pick operations. With a landscaping background, I’ve considered this issue for some time. Maybe it’s just because in farming you have to live with tractors. That’s what I’d say to people just starting out—learn more about the soil and how to preserve its healthy structure.

Do you have a favorite crop?
Asparagus. It’s new for me – it’s just coming in to where I’ll be able to sell it this year. And it’s perennial. I’m discovering that when you have two small children and a bakery business, perennials are great. I love growing kale because it just does its thing and it has such a long growing season. And I love growing carrots because I could never grow them in Seattle in all the clay – here in the loam they are just gorgeous.

You’ve been a member of Tilth Producers for three months. What motivated your membership?
Part of it is my personal evolution from “I’m a gardener” to “oh I’m actually a farmer.” The other reason is that this area is so geared towards Oregon. Everything we buy is from Oregon, everywhere we go is in Oregon. But we are Washingtonians. In terms of running a business, we’re in Washington and it’s really nice to connect to what is going on in Washington. For Washington farmers, it’s important to be involved in Tilth Producers to know what’s happening in our state.

What’s the best thing about going from the city to the country?
I value the diversity of ideas in our local community. One of my greatest motivations for moving was to get out of the Seattle opinion bubble – it’s interesting to me to live in an environment with more diverse political opinions. This area is also very mixed economically. My son goes to school with a kid whose family literally lives in the woods and they forage and hunt for their food. Their parents are deeply involved in the school, and I love that. It opens my eyes and my mind. I hope our kids can see that. People here cross the political spectrum and cross the religious spectrum, yet are all so supportive of local and organic food. Many people think of “local, organic” as being a liberal value but that’s not the case.

How is your bread business doing?
Amazingly well, I’m happy to say. The local community is supportive and happy to buy high quality local produce and bread. Even after just two months operating our bread business, we’re in the White Salmon Thriftway and some of the larger hotels and restaurants in Hood River. We also sell to the general store in Trout Lake. They have been one of our stellar customers; in hunting season they were selling up to 40 loaves over the course of a weekend! Loaves not sold commercially are donated to the Trout Lake farm-to-school program, so we have a wonderful closed loop. We’re so lucky that folks here desire local food and are willing to paying fair prices for it.

What’s your bread like?
There’s been much thought, training and hard work along the way. Todd’s signature bread is Blue Heaven Leaven; a long fermented, naturally leavened, and all organic bread. It’s kind of a magical bread in that it has a real depth of flavor, great texture, it’s healthy, and it keeps really well! It has developed a good following.

Why organic?
Todd and I both feel like it’s the right thing to do. It’s cleaner – it’s healthier. We began our bread business very mindfully and we’re trying to create the highest quality product we can, that as much as anything else motivates many of our choices.

Tags: Blue Skies Bakery, Bread, Family, Farmer, Krissy, Small Business, Soil, Todd, Trout Lake