Supplier Series: Milmore Downs

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Field of wheat in the Canterbury sun

At Bellbird we like to work with the best in the business. We thought we’d take you along to learn more about some of our incredible suppliers!

First up is Milmore Downs, a multi-generational, certified organic grain farm located in Scargill, North Canterbury. Milmore Downs is one of our two lovely flour suppliers. We asked owners Matt and Alice to answer a few questions!

Can you describe Milmore Downs in one sentence?

Milmore Downs is a 3rd generation family farm that has been producing quality organic flour since 1980. We are a business passionate about supplying wholesome, nutritious, organic flour to New Zealanders.

What does a typical day for you look like?

There probably isn’t a typical day for us as things change from day to day. On the land, we are out checking on stock and crops and, depending on the time of year, harvesting our grain. In the mill there is always something going on; Sam retrieves the morning orders and works through them, and there can also be cleaning of larger lines of grain along with the local deliveries to Christchurch.

What is your favourite part about your job and why?

I think a favourite part of the job for me (Matt) is seeing the process from planting the seed in the ground to seeing a bag of flour heading out to a happy customer. Also getting feedback from customers saying how much they enjoy working with it gives me real satisfaction.

What makes you different from other flour suppliers?

What makes us different from other suppliers is that we are a small family business that has direct contact with our customers. Every customer can talk to the person making their flour and I think this helps us understand their needs and ensure they are happy. We are always striving to send the best quality product out the gate.

Talk us through your process of grains to flour.

After harvest the grain is stored in a large silo. We do regular cleanings from the silos in to mill hoppers before milling. The cleaning removes anything foreign like weed seeds so only the grain is left. The grain then feeds into our mills. We have Zentrofan mills for making our wholemeal wheat, spelt and rye flours, and a stone mill with a sifting box for our semi-white flour. After milling the flour goes to our packing room where it is packed in anywhere from 2kg to 25kg containers and dispatched to our customers.

A couple of other things to note:

My wife Alice and I are running the business in partnership with my father Ian and partner Eva. While we do the day-to-day on-the-ground stuff, Ian and Eva look after most of the admin, and still help out a bit. We also employ Sam full-time in the mill.

We farm and produce flour organically as we believe this is the right way to produce food for people’s health and well-being.

Thank you Matt!

Now some questions for us!

Why does Bellbird have Milmore Downs as their flour supplier?

We use Milmore Downs’ whole wheat flour and rye flour in our breads.

It is important to note the name: whole wheat flour. It is often confused with wholemeal flour which is quite different. To make whole wheat flour, they mill the whole grain of wheat; no parts of the grain are discarded and everything ends up in the flour (endosperm, germ and bran). This is what is called 100% extraction. Wholemeal flour on the other hand is usually white flour that has had some bran added back into it. All flour sold in supermarkets will have gone through a sifting process to remove the germ and bran. If the germ is left in the flour, it doesn’t have as long a shelf-life, which is why supermarkets don’t like it.

The gentler milling process used by Milmore Downs keeps all the goodness of the grain in the flour. This is an important part of the sourdough-making process: many of the enzymes that occur naturally in grains are retained in the flour, which helps with dough fermentation, crust colour and crumb texture.

We also love the fact that the flour is organic and that Milmore uses positive land management practices on their farm. Healthy soil = healthy grains = healthy people! πŸ™

How long has Bellbird been working with Milmore Downs?

We’ve been working with Ian, Eva, Matt and Alice since about 2012, just a couple of years after Bellbird’s inception! 

Which products feature their flour?

All of our sourdough loaves have some Milmore Downs flour in them, usually used in combination with Spray-free white flour from Farmers Mills:

We also sell Milmore Downs’ whole wheat flour in convenient 2kg bags for people who want to bake at home. It is available in our Tannery shop.

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