Who: Peggy Sutton of To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co.
What: Organic, whole-grain sprouted flour
Where: Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Right this moment in rural Alabama, a little company called To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. is on track to produce three million pounds of 100-percent organic, whole-grain sprouted flour this year.
If that sounds impressive, it's even more amazing when you consider that it all started when owner, Peggy Sutton, took to sprouting grains in her home kitchen, and from there a business was born. Here's how it happened.
To Your Health's Beginning
In the town of Fitzpatrick, like most of the South, examining the past and nostalgia are practically required, and expressing love through food is as common as kudzu. To Your Health's founder and owner, Peggy Sutton, has always been a passionate baker and cook, but in 2004, she started thinking about food and its impacts on her body. "I started researching the ways my grandparents and great-grandparents cooked and ate, partly because I didn’t want to see those traditions disappear, and partly because they were so healthy, and I knew their diet played a role," she said.
She discovered an unexpected difference between yesterday and today, especially when it came to grains and flours. "Way back when, most grain sprouted out in the fields because farmers simply left it there until they used it or sold it."
Before the Industrial Revolution, most flour used was made from these sprouted grains. But with the invention of the combine harvester, the practice of sprouting grains was cast aside, like the chaff on a threshing floor, and with it, the valuable vitamins and minerals that the sprouting process produced — nutrients that had once naturally fortified flour.
Bread, Crackers, and Baked Goods, Oh My!
The more Peggy learned about the benefits of sprouted flours, the more she wanted to try them in her baking projects. "The best way to eat right is to eat a wide variety of foods, but in the purest form available. So I decided to try to make some sprouted grain flours myself. I soaked the grains in mason jars, dried them, and ground them into flour with a small home mill," she said.
And then she made her first loaf of bread with the flour, which changed everything.
"I was blown away by the taste. It was so good, and I was hooked," she said. "And to me, that's actually the most important thing. The health benefits are a bonus."
She made more sprouted flour and baked more goodies, giving them to family and friends who shared her surprise and delight. "Folks told me how great they tasted, and I told them how they could do it, too," she said.
But most were more interested in eating the baked goods than making them, so the first incarnation of Peggy’s business had her creating and selling crackers, breads, and more with her homemade sprouted flours.
Getting Down to Business
Soon, her work outgrew her kitchen, and in 2006, she built a commercial kitchen in a barn on her property. As word spread, more and more people wanted her flours, so in 2008, she stopped the baked goods and focused on producing and selling sprouted flours and sprouted grains.
In 2010, the barn was abandoned for a 7,200-square-foot facility. A second was added in 2013, and the company broke ground on another expansion in early 2015. The new space will allow To Your Health to increase its production. "We had to have the extra room to keep up with demand," Peggy said.
Peggy is also currently working with the Alabama Agriculture Commissioner and the Agriculture Department at Alabama's Auburn University to create an organic farmer's co-op, in an effort to encourage local farmers to plant and harvest organic grains that To Your Health can use. "I'd love to say that the grains we use came from my state," she said.
As To Your Health has grown, Peggy has remained committed to keeping operations in her community and providing valuable jobs. The facilities are located off the beaten path on a county road among some of Central Alabama’s loveliest countryside. It's a striking juxtaposition: cattle munching on grass in a pasture, state-of-the-art food production underway in the buildings a couple-hundred yards over.
But it's a testament to Peggy’s love of home, and when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. To Your Health is preserving a piece of agricultural heritage and getting a new generation excited about it, so there's no better place for the company to do its work than out among Alabama's farm fields.
5 Quick Questions for Peggy
How different are sprouted-grain flours from traditional flours? Very different! It’s like comparing night and day. (Editor's note: Read more about the differences here!)
Why use sprouted-grain flours?
First, they have more flavor; they just taste better. But also, they are really better for you because they have more nutrients.
What contributes to the higher nutritional content?
Grains, like all seeds, are tiny packages of vitamins and minerals. They use the nutrients to grow. But when they are ground into flour before they’ve started to grow, all those nutrients stay locked up and dormant. Sprouting them before milling them allows the nutrients to "wake up" and make it into the flour.
What makes them taste better than conventional flours?
The sprouting process breaks some of the grain's starch into simple sugars, and these sugars let each grain's unique flavor come through.
What's your favorite thing to bake with sprouted flours?
I love making crackers with them. The options for flavor combinations are endless.
We've got more from To Your Health's Sprouted Flour Co. coming all this week! We'll learn more about sprouted flour — what it is, how it's made, and how to use it, so stay tuned!