by Elizabeth Theriault
The other week I called Ben Gleason of Gleason Grains in Bridport. I had heard through the grapevine that he had the best grain on this side of the Mississippi and I was going to be driving close to his farm while heading up Route 22A from Rutland to Burlington. I was hoping to surprise my boyfriend, an obsessed bread baker, with a tour of Gleason’s grain farm and mill operation.
I left a message for Ben while a nagging voice in the back of my head said, “ this guy is going to think you are nuts, he probably has better things to do then show two strangers around his farm.” To my delight, Ben rang back a few hours later and left me a lovely message inviting us to set up a time to come by that weekend.
We pulled up to Gleason Grains to find an unusual hay bale house with soft, curved corners, a roof meant to resemble a thatched English cottage, and textured walls with green trim. It was a pretty chilly morning and part of me just wanted to curl up in that hay house with a warm cup of tea. But just as the thought crossed my mind, Ben appeared from behind his house, rosy cheeked and smiling. He gave us a hardy hand shake and immediately brought us into the mill.
Ben grew up on a farm in Connecticut, but it wasn’t until after college, when he took a job as a computer programmer for Kodak, that he realized that farming was for him. Ben fled his desk job in search for a higher quality of life and found himself in Greece where he admired the balance and tranquility in their life style. Ben later came back to the United States in search for a life that would provide this same feeling.
When I asked Ben if he felt like he had achieved the equivalent, he chuckled and said, “No way. Farming is incredibly hard work. You have to work all the time.”
But when I asked him if he was happy with his choice he declared without hesitation, “ Oh yes, I love it, I love the fact that every day is different, I love that even when things go wrong it just makes the day more interesting and I learn something new. Like recently when the power went out and I was in the middle of feeding grain into my mill. I had to recalibrate the whole mill. But the next time it happened I was there twice as fast to fix it.”
Ben shared with us his love for wheat. He has even traveled all over the world learning about the many different kinds. For instance, he brought a unique strain back from Denmark that he is now growing and saving the seed.
We took a walk out to look in his fields and admire the long rows of small wheat plants that had been uncovered by the recent rain. I could hear the admiration in Ben’s voice for the plants he tends and nurtures all year long, either while in the ground or processing in his mill.
There is something magical about Ben and Gleason Grains; maybe it is his English style hay bale home, or Denmark wheat field, or his Greek inspired lifestyle. As Ben shared his life’s work with us I realized Gleason Grains was Ben’s dream and vision for a better quality of life and then it hit me that that is exactly what I taste in his flour, a better quality of life. The rich, warm flavors linger in your mouth; there is a subtle nutty flavor, then vanilla and maybe even a hint of fresh grass. It gives the experience of eating bread with a deeper meaning. I often find myself taking more time to savor each bite of bread made with his grains and am often inclined to invite people over just to try it.
While standing there with Ben I realized that my relationship to flour had forever changed. I am so relieved that I made that call and decided to meet Ben and experience Gleason Grains. You can find Gleason Grains at the Rutland Co-op, but I also suggest checking out his website at gleasongrains.comand buying directly from Ben so you have the pleasure of meeting him and choosing from all of his products!
Elizabeth Theriault is the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link.
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.