The Farmer Across the Road

Note from Peter:  I've been corresponding recently with a fascinating guy name Bruce Vetter, a retired motorcycle builder who is now a passionate whole grain bread baker. I asked him if he'd be willing to share some of his unique personal story with our viewers and he sent me this photo essay. I'm hoping he'll keep sending us contributions like this -- he represents a rare breed of good old fashioned non-conformists who make life interesting for everyone around them. Enjoy!


When I was 14 I began to lead my life with a process of continual learning.  I've always had great passion for whatever I may be learning and being 68 now I have a lifetime of learning under my belt.  These last 2-3 years I've turned my attention to learning to bake whole wheat bread, which is far more difficult than I expected.  I have 6 grand children and I want them to understand that processed food is not normal.  I want them to know there is a better way to eat.

My goal is to bake 100% whole wheat bread that would be the bread of choice of my entire family.  Using store bought whole wheat flour was a convenient option but I wanted more control over the type of wheat used, the methods of farming and processing, and the length of storage before I get it.

Initially I started ordering winter hard white and red wheat berries from Idaho, shipped in on pallets. The wheat was packaged for the long term in 6 gallon buckets.  I also needed to be able to grind my own grain in large volume while limiting the amount of heat imparted to the flour.














The above 2 grinding mills operate either independently, or, the top one delivers it’s coarse product through the maroon conduit to the lower mill for final milling.  This limits and controls the amount of heat delivered to the final flour.  Each mill will produce 6-8 lbs of flour per hour.  (shown with belt guards removed)

The farmer across the road grows wheat and I asked him if I could purchase a full grain wagon. This amounted to 200 bushels (the product of 5 acres) weighing 14,000 lbs.  The cost was $0.10/pound or $1,400.  It was a lot of wheat and I was excited.  I wanted to get my grain from as close to the grower as possible.  The wheat from Idaho, by the way, cost $0.75/lb counting shipping.









I have  several local friends that think like me, so we shared this wheat by packaging it in my shop purged with Nitrogen and sealed in Mylar bags with Oxygen absorbers all within 5-6 gallon plastic buckets.  In total we packed 344 buckets of wheat .

To test if there is sufficient Nitrogen, we use a flame over the bag.  If the flame goes out we have enough Nitrogen and the bag is sealed.











Counting everything but my labor, the cost of a bucket full of wheat is 8-9 dollars.  This is 1/3 of what I kept, the rest being distributed among other local home bakers.  Each bucket will take me 1-2 weeks to use up, from baking bread to rolling wheat for cereal and pancakes.







Until I read Peter's book "Whole Grain Breads" every loaf I would bake was like a dense brick.  Using his pre-fermenting process of soakers and bigas, now it looks the way proper bread should look: And the flavor and taste is my families favorite.




My grand children are being taught what’s required to bake the loaf of bread they eat for dinner. They grind the grain too and when they do I call them my “Grain Children”.













I bake bread in a wood burning oven during the winters and a gas oven when the weather is warm.  I store about 13 cords of sawmill sawed deciduous wood, mostly oak measuring 6" X 8", stored in 40 large stackable wire metal baskets; each basket holds 800-1,000 lbs of wood with a volume of 1/3 cord.  Each basket is color coded with a tag delineating the harvest date so I can better judge the seasoning.  I have found that from when it is green until it is seasoned the wood will loose 17% of it's mass through moisture loss.   I like this method of storage because the wood continues to air dry, does not rot, and with a forklift I can "plug" a basket into a slot right next to my stove just like an audio cassette.  I have limited handling, the biggest chore involving heating/cooking with wood. During the coldest weather a full basket will last 7-9 days.












During the winter months my wood oven is hot 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but is only big enough for a single loaf at a time.  I'm planning to make an earthen/clay outdoor wood fired oven capable of baking 4 loaves of whole wheat bread at a time.  I'm really excited.






All this work and effort just to create this?  One may ask if it's worth it and to that I can only respond with an emphatic old guy "YES".











By the way, I buy corn from this same farmer too.  In this case I just drive into his field and he fills me up.  My family is also fond of cornbread but that's another story.  (This image is not staged or altered, Farmer Tom can really do this.)











#1 Lisa 2012-07-20 10:53
I can totally relate to what you say about you wanting your grandchildren to know that processed food isn't normal and that there's a better way to eat. You aren't just telling them, you are showing them, educating them, AND getting them involved. I'm trying to teach my two young kids this as well.

I love your wood-burning stove and look forward to seeing the larger stove that you plan to build.

Thank you for the inspiration. I have Peter's whole grain bread book and need to revisit it because I am trying to find a 100% whole wheat bread that everyone in my family enjoys for their daily bread. This was just the post I needed to get out my copy and start mixing up some soaked and bigas.

(Though now I also want to find some local wheat too!!)
#2 Old Codger 2012-07-20 15:49
Lots of neat things tied together in this article. Inspiring and motivating….
#3 Kenny 2012-08-04 02:36

It's interesting to come across a fellow Navy Nuke Submariner! As you know we are few and far between and your logical determination to make the process happen inspires me to continue on my own quest!
#4 Corrin 2012-08-11 16:38

Will you be my friend? You sir, are RAD. I love this post. Thank you for being so inspiringly you.

#5 Michael Moore 2012-08-29 06:23
Bruce, neat to see what you've done with the mills etc. I was considering a similar path (getting local wheat berries and grinding myself). Except my main challenge was to make my own organic sprouted wheat flour.

Any chance of getting more info on your grinding mills and nitrogen setup? Cost to make, what parts you bought, from where?
#6 Gail 2012-08-29 06:30
Wonderful post! Wish I could have a slice of this toasted with Barlean's Flax Oil on top.
#7 iammr.bill 2012-08-29 13:03
Hey man, check out Rocket Heaters. Much less wood used compared to the woodburning stove. I would also be interested in the milling setup that you have.
#8 Charlie Gulyash 2012-08-30 09:14
What is the deal with one loaf at a time? You have a mountain of grain, a double mountain of seasoned wood (which you only use part of the time) and you make one loaf at a time? That kind of patience I don't have. I also grind my own flour and use Kamut, hard winter, Sonora, Rye, and some corn. Since I use only sour dough starter, it's a trick to get the bread doughs ready right when the fire is ready. I make 3 loaves at a time, and that's because my Kitchen Aid 600 only has so much room. (Don't tell me you mix all your dough by hand).
#9 Bruce Vetter 2012-09-02 20:28
@Charlie Gulyash
I'm responding to Charlie questions. During late November to late February, I'm heating exclusively with wood which during a cold winter will require 1/3 of the wood I have stored in those wire baskets. I prefer the wood to season for 3 years. Yes, it's a lot of wood. During these months the stove/oven are hot 24 hours a day and it's not a problem baking one loaf right after the other. I mix my bread in 1740 gram batches so each loaf is 870 grams when it goes into the oven and it's never been a problem for me. I too use a Kitchen Aid 600 because of the metal gears.

The mountain of grain cost $0.10/lb and I personally know the farmer and his practices. Yes, it's a lot of grain. But the manner in which it's stored will give it a very long shelf life and I like to know exactly how it's processed, something I can't get from a grocery store.

I also use two gas ovens and am making an outdoor wood fired earthen oven. I'm excited.
#10 Bruce Vetter 2012-09-04 08:18
@Michael Moore

Responding to grinding mill set up:

Michael, anybody with knowledge how to make things from wood and metal can do this. It can be done in many different ways, all that should work very well. Here's how I did it. Any decent hardware store should have all the materials required.

I wanted grinders that would grind grain non-stop for 24 hours without failure. Mine do that. I use Country Living Mills and they do offer a motorized option but I don't feel it's robust enough for continuous use.

Here's what I used:

Please note that I used round belting and later found that automotive "V" belting was required for the harder wheats.

Regarding packing wheat in mylar bags and buckets, I put in 2,000 cc oxygen absorbers for each 5-6 gallon bucket, purged it with Nitrogen from the bottom up and heat sealed the bag shut. I think adding Nitrogen is a bit over the top and not necessary but I already had that equipment as part of a manufacturing process we do here. There are lots of Youtube videos of people doing this, some people just use a regular clothes iron to seal the bags. This site has mylar bags, buckets and O2 absorbers at a decent price.

I decided to use this hand held sealer that makes a 1" wide seal.

Add comment

Security code


Login Form

Who's Online

We have 33 guests online

Peter's Books

American Pie Artisan Breads Every Day Bread Baker's Apprentice Brother Juniper's Bread Book Crust and Crumb Whole Grain Breads

… and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on

Home Guest Columns Guest Bloggers The Farmer Across the Road