Farm to Altar Table – a season of fruitfulness

Summer marks the beginning of the harvest season for grains like wheat. In July, the Farm to Altar Table project, led by Elizabeth DeRuff, harvested wheat at the Bishop’s Ranch, yielding an excellent 450 pounds from the 50 pounds that had been planted. Like last year, the wheat planted is called, Red Fife, chosen for it’s exceptional flavor, suitability for bread baking, and it’s rich heritage. Elizabeth will be distributing the flour to eight Episcopal congregations in the California and Northern California dioceses to be baked into communion bread over the next year.  

For the fourth year, the Eucharist bread at Clergy Retreat will be baked with wheat grown at the Bishop’s Ranch.

In August, there was a second harvest at The Ranch by a group of volunteers including many from St. John’s, Ross, drawn to get their hands in the soil and learn hand-harvesting, threshing, winnowing and milling. This second crop was Sonora, the oldest variety of wheat in North America. Sonora was brought over by the Spanish. The mission friars calling for wheat seed to plant so they could provide communion bread.

Elizabeth also leads bread-baking workshops and, over the past few months, has done so at three San Francisco congregations: Grace Cathedral, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Mary the Virgin.These gatherings were warmly received by the bread bakers as a way to learn professional bread-baking skills and enjoy camaraderie in the kitchen. In each case, the workshop was the first opportunity for the bread bakers to gather as a group.

Farm to Altar Table will start a new “seed blessing” tradition this fall. Sponsored by St. John’s, Oakland, each participating congregation, as well as all those gathered at this week’s Clergy Retreat, will receive a portion of seeds from the harvest, bless them and then return them to be replanted for the next crop of incredibly delicious, nutritious, and sacred wheat.