FAIRVIEW — Wheat is the No. 1 crop grown in Oklahoma, which quickly becomes evident when you drive across the state's western prairie lands. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Statistics Service, Oklahoma farmers planted some 5.6 million acres of wheat in 2013, which makes for a lot of flour.
Shawnee Mills, established more than a century ago, grinds more than 1 million pounds of flour and flour products per day. The company has storage elevators in towns across the state so it can have ready access to Oklahoma-grown wheat. The company headquarters is in Shawnee, but its Okeene mill produces bulk flour for many area bakeries and restaurants.
“I'm ready for my honey now.” It was a phrase repeated throughout this hands-on experience as Fairview third-graders in Lisa Burrell's classroom finished baking their own whole-wheat pancakes.
Grinding wheat into flour and making pancakes was a part of the homegrown, homemade lessons Kris Gosney, of John's Farm, used to acquaint Cornelson Elementary students with Oklahoma's top crop.
Gosney is the marketing side of John's Farm near Fairview, and she is not shy about sharing information about Oklahoma wheat and the way we use flour to make bread and whole-wheat pancakes. Gosney brought along two hand-grinders so each of the children could have a chance to grind little kernels of hard red winter wheat into whole-grain flour.
Dodging a few patches of ice along the way, I drove into Fairview from the east and couldn't help but notice the community was practically surrounded by green fields of sprouting wheat. The school itself was situated adjacent to wheat fields. What a great lesson for those growing up there. It didn't take long for me to share in the excitement as I entered the school: The aroma of hot griddles of pancakes was an enticing welcome.
Gosney was already at work showing fronds of wheat and sharing kernels for the children to feel and even chew on if they wanted. The Gosneys' wheat is certified organic, and John and Kris take great pride in their Fairview's Best Organic Whole Wheat Flour. Their newest product line includes pancake and waffle mix portioned and canned to be made using any liquid. Kris says it's perfect for hunters and campers. Check out their website, www.johnsfarm.com. You can find their flour through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and Native Roots.
Time for dumplings
I know some folks can't tolerate gluten, but it would be hard for me to imagine cooking without good flour. Occasionally, I start craving homemade chicken and dumplings. Shawnee Mills' All Purpose or Self-Rising Flour yields fluffy dumplings. They definitely satisfy the cravings and provide plenty of warming comfort on a cold winter day. Sometimes I think part of the dumpling pleasure comes in the anticipation of their characteristically soft chicken and vegetable-infused dough.
A pot of chicken and dumplings is easier to make than you might think. You can start with already-cooked chicken on hand or cook it in the same pan just ahead of the vegetables in this traditional dish. I like to use the meat left from roasted or rotisserie chicken or chunks of turkey if I have it on hand or in the freezer. Add a selection of vegetables and you practically have a complete meal.
Try making the dumplings with Shawnee Mills Biscuit Mix or Self-Rising Flour to speed up the process even more. Just use their buttermilk biscuit mix made according to the directions on the package. No need to roll it out, just drop in into the broth by the spoonful and put the lid on until they puff up and cook through. Of course you as the cook may need to test a dumpling or two to see that the dough is done in the middle.
Stone Stack Mills near Hydro produces stone-ground whole-wheat flour. Each sack of flour has a number code that allows you to meet the actual farmer who grew the wheat that made your bag of flour online at stonestackmill.com.
Owner Loren Liebscher says its products also can be ordered online. You can also find the flour at Whole Foods and Urban Agrarian Market in Oklahoma City.
Shawnee Mills flour-based products and flours are available in groceries throughout the state. For more specific flours and related products, Stone Stack Mills and Fairview's Best can be found through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and Native Roots Market.
When you buy local products, studies show that 58 to 74 percent of the money spent stays in the local economy. That's good for Oklahoma and good for all of us.
Chicken Loves Dumplings
This is a great dish to warm you on a cold winter day. Add plenty of vegetables and a biscuit mix dumpling and you'll love how fast this satisfying dish comes together. Serves 4 to 6.