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On- Farm Bakery

HOW WE GOT STARTED-We got into the bakery business after being over the road truckers for nine years. We had been in a serious accident and needed something else to do for a living. For 12 years we had baked bread in a brick oven for the Kalona Historical Society's Fall Festival, so when we decided to start baking, it was not something new. We started baking out of our house in the fall of 1982. By March 1983 it was build a separate bakery or do something else --that's how fast the business was growing-- so we did. The new bakery opened its doors in May 1983 with 20 loaves of bread and rolls. When we started they bakery, we only had two kinds of bread, plus whole wheat raised donuts, cinnamon rolls, apple nut rolls and hamburger buns. Since then we have added four-grain bread, pecan nut bread, raisin bread and wheat seed bread. We make our own grapenuts, granola and six kinds of cookies. We also make whole wheat angle food cakes and noodles. We specialize in whole grain products and do not make wheat bread unless it's ordered. Everything is made from scratch--no mixes.

BUILDING, EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES - Our bakery is a 42 foot by 24 foot building. It's divided into four parts--slightly more than half the space is the kitchen. There is a five-foot by six-foot bathroom and a four-foot by four-foot office, and the rest of the space is the customer service area. The kitchen contains a coffee maker, a convection oven that holds up to 30 loaves, a proofer (for raising the dough), a deep fat fryer for donuts, a sink, a table, a standard refrigerator, a 20-quart mixer, a bun maker, two Magic mill grinders and a noodle machine. There are also counters for work space. We use only 100 percent whole wheat ground fresh every day in our breads. We use no refined sugar, except in some of our cookies, and we use low cholesterol corn oil and "butter match" (70 percent butter, 30 percent oil). Except for the wheat and honey, the baking supplies come from the local branch of a national food distributor. The wheat, which is high protein, comes from Walton Feed Co. Montpelier, Idaho. The honey comes from a local farmer. We use no mixes--everything is made from scratch.

ZONING AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS - Because the bakery is in an area zoned for farming, we can't put in booths to serve coffee and donuts inside, so everything is take out. There have been no restrictions, otherwise. We've had no problems with the state health inspectors--even when we were baking at home. We keep the bakery clean and mopped up, and we receive no complaints. We pay particular attention to keeping the deep fat fryer clean and the oil changed. When we opened the bakery, we had one employee. Today we have four employees, and sometimes we need more help. They alternate days so there are only two working at a time. Junior does the baking, starting at 3 a.m. each day. We have found it is very important to have a good work system in place, so that mixing the dough, raising the dough and baking it are timed right.

FINDING MARKETS - The bakery is four miles from the nearest small town and 12 miles from a city, but we haven't had any problems finding customers. October through December is the busiest time of year for us. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday are the busiest days of the week. In the summer, we get bus tours of people touring Iowa's Amish country. At least twice a week, we deliver 35 loaves of bread and rolls to a health food store in Iowa City. We fill individual orders there, as well. About 10 percent of our business is mail order, through UPS.   The first year we were in business, we advertised heavily. We have found word of mouth is the best advertising, so now we run ads only in the local school publications. We are going on four years in the business, and it has been a good four years. What we would like to do next is expand our operations by franchising. To that end, we have registered the Amish Country Bakery name and logo. We hope to pursue it further in the coming year.

This article was provided by Junior and Ruby Miller owners of the Amish Country Bakery. Reprinted with permission from Successful Farming; Copyright 1987  All Rights Reserved          

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