Jones, who learned to bake from his Polish grandmother, carries a special fondness for the retail bread business and, as director of The Bread Lab, works with many of the nation's top baker, including Chad Robertson of Tartine in San Francisco. Of note, The Bread Lab is currently undergoing a major renovation into a 12,000-square-foot building at the Port of Skagit (Washington).
In addition to the expanded lab, the new quarters will house a rheological lab, the King Flour Baking School at the Bread Lab, and a milling lab. Future plans include a professional kitchen overseen by James Beard Best Chef Northwest Blaine Wetzel, and a malting, brewing and distilling micro-lab led by Matt Hofmann, CEO and master distiller of Westland Distillery, and Will Kemper, co-owner of Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen.
Jones gets asked all the time whether they are trying to change the modern agriculture system, and he is quick to point out that his team deals with thousand of acres of wheat, not tens of millions (the U.S. grows more than 60 million acres of wheat per year. "We have no illusion that things are going to change on a grand scale. We're not going to feed the world," he says. "We just want to help communities add value. We see these little grain communities are starting to pop up all over the country."
As a farmer, Hunton says that it helps to have to the voices of the "rock star bakers" behind his evolving movement, and their scope is growing. Places like Philadelphia and New York are embracing whole grain breads produced with these new wheat varieties. "What is really exciting is you sort of become a local food bank," Hunton says. "We're now serving nine school districts in our area. And we're able to bring some of these grains to places where we didn't think they would grow before."
Financial support for The Bread Lab comes from such notable companies as Clif Bar, Chipotle and Patagonia, which Jones says is now in the food business and is striving to do in food what the company has accomplished in clothing: create exceptional products while being positive environmental stewards.
It's also pushing for a better life for local communities. "We do nothing in our lab that makes a Clif Bar taste better," Jones says, "but we help train the next generation of wheat and grain breeders to move forward in our field."