In this week’s ‘Montana Made’, MTN takes you to a farm and bakery near Power, Montana, where a couple has been sharing their love for the land through a variety of sourdough breads.
“In some way, everybody here in this state, whether you’re from here or not, is made of Montana and to ask that question, ‘How are you made of Montana?’ intrigues us,” said Jacob Cowgill, owner of Prairie Heritage Farm and Blue Truck Bread.
Cowgill and his wife Courtney have been asking their customers that question since opening their bakery in 2016.
The bakery’s name, ‘Blue Truck Bread,' takes after Cowgill’s appreciation for old trucks, and the couple’s love for a rustic lifestyle.
“There’s a certain romanticism to an old pickup truck and a farm and so that’s how Blue Truck Bread came about, and it also gave me an excuse to go buy an old ‘55 int’l pick up truck,” said Cowgill.
The bakery offers four varieties of sourdough bread that include rosemary, sunflower and flax seeds, honey and what’s called, ‘Papa bread.’
“It’s just a plain, round sourdough and it’s just flour, water, salt, it’s named after what my 3-year-old boy used to say when he’d come down the stairs, he’d yell ‘Papa! Bread!” added Cowgill.
He says Blue Truck Bakery’s bread holds true to their motto of “Made of Montana’’, from the wheat variety grown in Montana soil to the baking process.
“The sourdough process is from the wild, microorganisms in the air in the place that we live, and that’s what ferments the bread, So I don’t actually use commercial yeast in the bread to make it rise I use natural, wild bacteria and fungi,” added Cowgill.
He says it was their love for the community in Central Montana, along with childhood memories of growing up near Great Falls that brought them back to the area after living in Missoula for school.
“We were looking back on the east side of the divide and sort of looking at our communities that were shrinking and the schools were closing and consolidating and sort of, bemoaning the fact that all the young people were moving away, and realized that we were those people.”
With limited farming experience, the two moved back to the Great Falls area, started Prairie Heritage Farm in 2009 and began growing vegetables and grains.
“Starting the farm had a lot to do with wanting to live rurally, and certainly we could find a place in the country and work in the city, but it also included wanting to live in the country and and be a part of the land that you live on and so in some way be engaged with the land,” he said.
Cowgill says it was after he had discovered his passion for farming that his bakery came into the picture.
“It was a natural progression from growing these unique varieties to turning that wheat into something, from that to flour to bread,” added Cowgill.
He says his love for farming continues to play a key role in his bakery.
“The trailing of the grains and the experimenting with the plant breeding and creating new varieties or exploring old varieties and seeing how they interact with each other in the bakery,” he said.
Cowgill is a part of each step of the process, from harvesting the grain to kneading the dough and baking the bread.
He enjoys feeling connected to the people who will eat his bread, selling to customers at the Great Falls Farmer’s Market, 2J’s Market, and Electric City Coffee in Great Falls.
“I really like the idea of knowing that those people are eating it are right here in our community,” he said.
Currently, the couple is the sole operators behind Blue Truck Bread. They’ve been able to keep up with the demand and believe this is just the beginning for the bakery.
“The sky’s the limit as far as what I can do, I can mix different kinds of flour together, I can add different ingredients, I mean we are growing a lot of different kinds of grain or different types of wheat varieties and every wheat variety has it’s own culinary characteristics, and so we haven’t even really begun to experiment with that,” he said.
Along with farming, Cowgill says another part of the bakery that excites him is the opportunity to educate others on their love for the land.
The couple will be hosting a baking workshop for the Montana Organic Association Conference beginning of December.
They also plan to build an outdoor wood-fired brick oven next summer that they hope will bring the community together.
“I’ve taken my Papa Bread, which is just the foundation sourdough, and just turned it into a pizza crust and it makes great pizza crust and of course we have our small farm where we can provide the ingredients-tomato and basil and things like that- and have people out and we cook their pizzas right under the open flame of the open-brick oven,” said Cowgill.