King Arthur Flour Sends Baker, Supplies for Volunteer Project in Dominican Republic
Employee-Owned Company Sends Baker and Supplies for Fourth-Annual Volunteer Visit
May 12, 2009 Norwich, VT The King Arthur Flour Company of Norwich, VT, shared its centuries of knowledge and good flours in the Dominican Republic for the fourth year in a row, sending King Arthur Bakery Operations Manager and Baker Martin Philip to work with and teach locals using clay ovens built by volunteers in 2005. The ovens are intended to provide both a focal point for community gatherings and a means of sustenance and income for impoverished families.
"The mission was basically to work on baking with the villagers in the hope that they'll develop a microeconomy around baking in the ovens," said Philip, who visited the Dominican Republic April 15-24, 2009. Some of the local women have created a cooperative that earns money by turning used plastic grocery bags into reusable woven totes, and the proceeds from those bags, sold here in the United States, have already helped many improve their situations, Philips said. "We're trying to help build their capacity so they can do the same thing with baking and selling bread."
Philip joined a group of student volunteers from The Sharon Academy in Sharon, Vt., for the April 2009 trip to the rural mountain town of Cotui, Dominican Republic. Trip organizers first recruited a volunteer baker from King Arthur Flour in 2006, and it was such a success that the company has participated ever since.
Many employee-owners at King Arthur Flour donated their free bag of flour for the month of April for Philip to bring; volunteers brought with them about 200 pounds of donated King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, plus yeast and baking tools.
Philip taught locals about all aspects of baking, from measuring ingredients to mixing, kneading, and shaping breads, and loading and maintaining the oven. He made Pan de Agua - "everybody's daily bread there" - and other traditional foods, like roasted peppers, foraged local nuts, and homegrown potatoes and squash, in the clay ovens. "A lot of effort goes into gathering wood and heating the oven, so using the oven's heat to prepare a variety of things makes the most of people's time and energy."
Other volunteers on the trip spent time on the construction of a medical clinic to serve the small community of El Limon.
"The value of this trip is the sense of global community it fosters," Philip says. "We're showing these people that we're sort of all in this together, that we in this place so far away care about improving their lives. We're providing instruction and a way that, if they'll pursue it, these people can improve their lives substantially."
America's oldest flour company, King Arthur Flour has grown from a regional staple to a brand known nationwide not only for its high-quality flours, mixes, and baking tools, but for its passion in sharing the joy of baking. With more than a million bakers having participated in its classes and workshops, King Arthur Flour is the world's largest educator of home bakers. King Arthur Flour offers more than 1,000 professional-grade baking tools and ingredients through its catalogue, online at kingarthurflour.com, and at The Baker's Store in Norwich, VT Through its products, publications and educational programs, King Arthur Flour continues to strive toward its mission: To be a creative and profitable company that's a product, information, and education resource for, and inspiration to, bakers worldwide.