It’s 9:00 a.m. in the morning. At this point, most bakers are finishing up and heading home for the day. But at the Innisfree Bakery, we are just getting started. During our first “shift,” we turn on the ovens, and get out our tools and ingredients we will need for the day. While we are doing that, two people start taking our orders for the day. One person calls different stores in the area where we sell our granola. Another person walks around the different spots in the heart of our village, taking bread and granola orders from those who weren’t able to put their orders in the night before. And not a moment too soon, the music gets turned on!
To continue forward, it might first be helpful to take a step back. Innisfree Village is an intentional community for adults with physical and intellectual disabilities. There are 40 residents, referred to as coworkers, that live on 550 acres of land in Central Virginia, just north of Charlottesville. There are also over 20 caregivers, referred to as volunteers, that live with them in a family style atmosphere. More than 20 other staff members and volunteers work to help keep things going around here. In addition to our bakery, we have a woodshop, a weavery, an art studio, a farm, an herb garden, a vegetable garden, and a kitchen that prepares lunch for the community four times a week.
Residents participate in these workstations, including the bakery, in a careful way that is compatible with their skill levels. They earn a sense of satisfaction, while having fun and producing many creative, useful items for people both within and outside of our community.
Back in the bakery, once we have our orders, we get to work. We mainly work with straight doughs, though a poolish or sourdough is known to make an appearance every now and then. We measure by volume, so we pay close attention to how we measure, to help ensure as much consistency in our products as possible. Our granola, made in 25 pound batches using the recipe we’ve been using for who knows how long, usually gets put together and in the oven pretty quickly. Once our bread is on the mixer, it is time to fully engage our senses. In a very untraditional fashion, we add most of our flour while it is mixing. We use our eyes, ears, and hands to let the bread tell us when it’s had enough. There are several stops for us during the mixing process, so we can see how the bread feels. We make two different types of bread every Monday and Thursday, from hot pretzels and country white to multigrain rye and pesto parmesan. After the bread is finished mixing and left to rise, we clean up and put away everything we don’t need, and have a tea break. Dancing sometimes ensues.
Next our second shift comes in. It is during this time that we shape and form our loaves. We mostly make sandwich loaves in loaf pans, though boules and batards are made too. During preshaping, our technique is to push and roll. And to push and roll, until ball is formed. We do this until we have all the loaves we need. With any extra dough, we make sample rolls and deliver them to our friends around the village. For the final shaping, we begin by making a “pizza pie,” flattening out the dough, and then rolling it into its final shape, making sure our seams are closed before we put it in the loaf pans.
After lunch, we slice, package, and deliver the bread and granola to those who ordered it. We also do a final cleaning of our baking space before we leave for the day.
Everyone who comes to work in the Innisfree Bakery learns the skills needed to contribute to the bread baking process. We leave knowing that we provide nourishment and nutrition to our friends and family in community. And that each person has skills that they can use outside of the walls of our bakery.
Innisfree Village is a fully licensed intentional community for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. For more information about the bakery, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Innisfree Village, email email@example.com, or visit our website at innisfreevillage.org.
Graham Mullen is the Head Baker at Innisfree Village. He first joined the community in 2013 as a volunteer from Northwest Alabama.