THE STORY BEHIND CRUMB SOURDOUGH MICROBAKERY
A Cottage Food Baker
February 2020. We had just moved into our new home ... abundant were the prospects of things ahead! But like innumerable other people during that ill-fated year, I found myself working from home, part-time.
One memorable April day, I saw that a friend on Facebook had started baking sourdough. I was instantly intrigued and envious, as making sourdough bread had long been on my list of culinary enterprises, but I had been too intimidated in to jump in. Perhaps now was the time to take on this challenge. She answered several questions for me and gave me the confidence that this could be done in her easy manner of explaining things.
On her recommendation, I purchased dried starter from an archiver of 150-year-old San Francisco starter yeast. I brought her to life and named her "Zelda". My first boule was baked on May 3rd. It was quite homely, unimpressive and dense, but it tasted insanely delicious. I was proud, and importantly, hooked. I created an Instagram account and immersed myself in the online global sourdough community, connecting with some of the best, most forthcoming people on this Earth. I studied and stalked many of the influential sourdough bakers online. I bought and read their books. I mined the Internet for answers to my questions. I experimented, failed, tried again, and often pushed the boundaries of bread-baking to see what would happen, not always successfully. Sourdough would become a part of nearly every meal––sometimes it is the meal––and there's a perpetual fine layer of flour in my kitchen.
During this time, I returned to work but continued baking every weekend. I gifted a lot of bread to friends, neighbors and co-workers since I was baking more than we could eat. Eventually my skills and knowledge gave me the confidence to begin bartering for things like farm-fresh eggs, wild chanterelle mushrooms, Dungeness crab, and smoked kokanee. People were raving about my bread, giving me valuable feedback and encouragement. This was definitely a fun hobby!
The idea to start a cottage food operation (CFO) didn't occur to me until about February of 2021. I didn't even know that we had the option of doing this in the United States. Under Oregon's Home Baking Bill, I could bake from home with certain requirements and sell directly to consumers from my home (or at roadside stands, farmers' markets, farm stands and similar venues). My sourdough journey took a major turn with this new knowledge.
Crumb Sourdough Microbakery was born on April 7, 2021, just one year shy of my first bake. In May I passed Oregon's Basic Foodhandlers Course and became licensed and insured to bake from home. I sold my first boule in May to a sweet young woman whose mom––who loved sourdough and together they had been following my baking adventures on social media––was ill in the hospital and she wanted to share that bread with her. I felt honored and moved by this tender act of love between mother and daughter involving the breaking of bread. My first and second weekends of June porch pickups sold out within hours. Eventually, customers whom I didn't already know started placing orders and repeat orders.
In 2021 – disenchanted with Oregon's existing laws around cottage food operations – I initiated law reform, and new legislation was finally passed in May 2023, giving cottage food operators and licensed domestic kitchen operators in Oregon more freedoms to grow their businesses without compromising food safety. I look forward to expanding my operations in 2024!