Local food heroes to be featured at April 9 Archuleta Food System Summit

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By Rose Chavez | Food System/Food Equity Coalition

Please join us for the upcoming Archuleta Food System Summit on April 9 at the CSU Extension building from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

To register and learn more about the event, please visit: https://www.foodcoalition4archuleta.org/archuleta-food-summit.html. 

During this exciting event, we will feature local chefs, advocates and some of our local growers and producers who are past and future participants of the Pagosa Farmers Market. Both the local live market that takes places June through September and our year-round online market available at pagosafarmersmarket.net provide these critical food system actors a physical place and virtual platform to share their amazing products and labors of love. 

Come join us on April 9 and meet some of these amazing people from Archuleta County and the surrounding region. 

Local food hero: artisan bread baker Ali Braun

Today, we would like to feature the story of Ali Braun, an artisan bread maker. She shares some history and dreams for her business in her own words.

“Artisan doesn’t have a specific definition, but for me it designates that I don’t bake with any preservatives or stabilizers, makes for a short shelf life, but a much tastier product.

“I worked in hospitals for 30 years, 27 of those as a critical care nurse. I loved bedside nursing and patient care and wasn’t really interested in management or moving ‘up’ but 12-hour shifts and nights get harder when you’re an old nurse! I knew I wanted to do something creative and with food and thought for a long time it would be coffee. I took a bread class at a kitchen store and was immediately obsessed. I felt like so much of what I learned as a nurse translated to baking. 

“Though I like to think I’m a completely free spirit, I am a rule follower and while baking is immensely creative if you don’t follow your formula and measure carefully, your bread will suffer. The math for calculating a medicine dose and a bread formula are so similar! Once I discovered bread and baking, I started classes at The San Francisco Baking Institute, where they teach shorter classes that focus on production. I loved continuing education as a nurse and I found the same with baking, so much to learn as I progressed as a baker.

“I love doing this because commercially produced bread really bears little resemblance to bread; it has an ingredient list a mile long, sugar(!) and lots of additives to give it an epic shelf life. This all destroys the true flavor, texture and health benefits of bread. Bread made from a local sourdough starter, just like local honey, has many health benefits. The health benefits of locally sourced food are well documented and I enjoy contributing to that and I love handing fresh bread to people and hearing what they will make with it.

“We built The Dyna on a trailer so it would be mobile and able to go with us in our retirement years. I believe there may only be one or two ‘food trucks’ or mobile bakeries in the states. And now I know why. Controlling the environment in the trailer to bake is tricky, bread likes to be mixed and proofed at a very certain temperature and humidity ranges and maintaining these for Colorado winters and summers has been challenging for sure. I am lucky to be married to a very handy mechanic who has done a lot of revamping and tweaking to the trailer. The bread does love the humidity of a winter storm if I can keep it warm enough.

“The main obstacle has been financial. It is difficult to replicate a nursing wage baking. Coming up with the money for the trailer required a big dip into my retirement account, but I’m also blessed that I had it to dip into. Another obstacle is pricing. I can’t compete with a $4 loaf from the grocery store.

“I have had successes. Just getting the trailer built felt like a big accomplishment! Starting the business while still working as a nurse. Keeping it alive for almost two years now and just taking on my first restaurant for wholesaling. We’ll be at two farmers markets this summer in Pagosa and Bayfield.”