King Arthur Flour Baker Shares Knowledge, Hope in Dominican Republic

Employee-owned Company Sends Baker, Supplies for Second Year Running

The King Arthur Flour Company of Norwich, VT, shared its centuries of knowledge and good flours in the Dominican Republic in late January, sending Baker and Product Development Associate Monte Peterson to work with and teach a local women’s baking cooperative using clay ovens built by Upper Valley volunteers in 2005. The ovens provide not only a focal point for community gatherings but also a means of sustenance and income for impoverished families.

“Prior to baking in these ovens, I wasn’t sure what would be accomplished by these bakes and how much it would help people.

Now I wonder how I could have doubted that baking with and for people would foster community and create a space for planning, dreaming, and discovering one’s own capacity,” said Peterson. “The work being done in this region of the Dominican Republic is extremely valuable and needed, and it is being done in a way that is respectful and builds the capacity of people to work on their own problems. As employee-owners, we can understand what a thrill it is for these people to belong to a cooperative and have the opportunity to earn their own money, which is critical not only for food and shelter but also education.”

“It’s so in line with our mission to inspire and educate bakers worldwide,” said Baking Education Center Manager Susan Miller. “There aren’t many opportunities to help people around the world with baking and this just has such an impact on these people’s lives. There’s just nothing bad about the project, really.”

Peterson joined a group of Upper Valley volunteers for the January 19-27, 2007, trip to the rural town of Cotui, Dominican Republic. Trip organizers recruited a baker from King Arthur Flour for the 2006 trip, and it was such a success that the company agreed to send a baker and some good King Arthur Flour again in 2007. Peterson, who joined the company in October 2005, had spent time on work/service trips in Mexico and Indonesia and jumped at the chance to participate. Many employee-owners at King Arthur Flour donated their free bag of flour for the month of January for Peterson to bring, and all told the company sent about 300 pounds of flour.

During their time in the Dominican Republic, volunteers baked in three community ovens, met with a women’s cooperative that crochets bags for sale in the Upper Valley, and carried out health assessments. A mime/magician who traveled with the group served as an “ambassador of joy,” Peterson said. One highlight of the baking, she said, was making coconut macaroons from coconuts picked fresh each day, then shredded, drained and made into the sweet treat.

“I feel humbled and thankful to have participated in this work,” Peterson said. “Our presence – not just our money – does make a difference. We are human beings sharing and connecting with other human beings, and that connection is more valuable than we realize – it is life-affirming, it gives hope, and somehow this infusion of hope and energy inspires the people of Cotui and its villages to work for their future and for future generations.”

“I hope we’ll be participating at some level each year,” Miller said.

Founded in 1790, the King Arthur Flour Company has devoted more than two centuries to ensuring the quality of its products and the value of its service. Employee-owned since 1996 in Norwich, Vermont, King Arthur Flour’s fundamental mission is to be an education/product resource for, and inspiration to, bakers worldwide.