farm_sparrow1David Bauer of Farm and Sparrow BakeryPhoto: April McGregerOn a recent vacation to Asheville, North Carolina, I headed to the market to get a loaf of bread. Asheville is home to a large a number of small-scale bakeries, many of which sell primarily at tailgate markets and wholesale to nearby specialty food shops.

I found the market shelves stocked with lovely loaves of ciabatta, baguette, marble rye, and challah, but I was most intrigued by a few loaves that I knew at first glance were special. Packaged in brown paper bags with a hand-stamped wood-cut logo, the loaves were not internationally known bread classics. Instead, their labels heralded unusual ingredients: “Heirloom Grit” and “Kamut.” These intriguing loaves came from a bakery called Farm and Sparrow.

I couldn’t resist calling up David Bauer, Farm and Sparrow’s owner and baker, to arrange a visit. Through my talk with Bauer, I realized he represents a new type of baker. He sees himself as part of a larger decentralized, healthy, and diverse food system. The kamut, spelt, and buckwheat that you find in Farm and Sparrow’s breads are known as landrace grains–grains that developed in the absence of modern breeding techniques. Landrace grains tend to be tougher, more resilient, and not dependent on chemical fertilizers, intense irrigation, and pesticides in order to survive.