Irish Organic Mill is a small Irish producer embracing a truly sustainable and locally grown approach, going back to basics on the production of a staple ingredient in Irish kitchens: flour.
Interview by Darina Coffey
With a mission to make our daily bread better tasting, better for us and better for the planet, Irish Organic Mill has gone from strength to strength by producing 100% Irish flour in the most natural way possible.
We caught up with co-founder Micheál Rafferty to find out why Irish Organic Mill’s flour is the cream of the crop and why going back to our ancestors’ methods of growing and milling makes all the difference to the finished product.
Tell us about idea behind Irish Mill Organic flour.
Irish Organic Mill is a new venture formed by two organic farmers from Monaghan. We wanted to offer Irish bakers and artisan bakers a truly Irish alternative to the imported flours we use every day in Ireland. We wanted to bring to market a flour product that is truly local, grown and milled in the way our ancestors did it, without chemicals and using mill stones for grinding.
So why organic flour? Why did you start making flour in the first place?
Well, we believe organic really is the only option if you want to produce a low environmental impact food product and organic really ticks all the climate change boxes for us and our customers. On flour, we looked to the success of other brands like Flahavans, Glenisk and Tartine Bakery and wondered could we join this movement by offering a locally grown organic flour alternative with low food miles.
What are the benefits of choosing organic flour over “regular” flour?
Our farms and our mill are dedicated “organic only” operations, so we only use grains in our mill that are Irish and certified organic. Organic is really nature friendly, in fact it is very similar to the farming practices used years ago before fertiliser and chemicals were invented. We hope that growing our golden grains without pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, growth regulators or synthetic fertiliser is better for our planet.
How does Irish Mill Organic flour differ from “regular” flour in the finished bake?
One of the big differences is the taste, freshness and that we mill to order. This means the flour is freshly milled and we don’t separate out the wheat germ which contains all the natural oils. It can be difficult to see where the wheat for your flour comes from and how long ago it was milled, but we are proud that our flours are freshly milled and 100% Irish from “soil to slice”.
What ingredients do you use in your flour?
As an organic product, we do not add anything to what comes from the fields of Monaghan. We don’t add preservatives, or rising agents or fortify our flour in any way, which means it’s a truly natural product, and gives a beautiful light brown colour to the breads. If you normally use a self-raising flour, we suggest mixing in an organic egg to your soda bread mix or adding in a rising agent like organic yeast to your mix.
Where do you make your flour?
Our mill is located in a food grade premises at the Ballybay FoodHub, which is a Centre of Excellence for food innovators in County Monaghan. It is headed up by CEO Finbarr Daly and his team at Enterprising Monaghan who have been a huge support to us.
How do you make your flour? What is your secret?
Our big secret is on our labels and we shout it loudly from the rooftops. We are IRISH, ORGANIC and our flour is STONEGROUND. Modern milling technology uses up to 5 steel rollers in their break systems which can involve higher temperatures during milling when compared to using mill stones. We believe the old ways are the best and have decided to go back to the methods our ancestors used for growing and making flour.
Can you tell us about the sustainability of Irish Organic Mill flour?
Our ethos at Irish Organic Mill is to promote food production methods that are good for the planet and organic all the way from the soil to the finished flour. In terms of sustainability and protecting our planet and waterways, this is the only option for us and our mill as an “organic only” food facility.
What is your most popular product and why do you think that is?
Our Coarse Wholemeal is a huge hit with home bakers because it brings a totally new taste to soda breads. Our home bakery customers that try it then go all the way and use our Strong Plain Flour to switch over their soda bread to all organic flour ingredients.
What is your favourite thing to bake with Irish Mill Organic flour?
I have two favourites: sourdough and soda breads. The sourdoughs have that beautiful natural brown tint in the crumb and are so light for breakfast or in a sandwich.
What are the secrets to your success and how will you grow your business?
It is all about products and people. We are looking at putting in a second mill line to double our capacity as demand has grown much faster than we expected.
Tell us about “Our Daily Bread” and your involvement in that project.
We met Robert Meyers and his bakery team at the Catex Exhibition in RDS last year and we both saw huge potential in developing an Irish bread using Irish organic flour from soil to slice. Robert’s team in Limerick have delivered that, and we continue to work closely on other new and exciting ideas…
Tell us about your collaboration with The Happy Pear.
We worked with the team at The Happy Pear to develop a vegan organic Irish soda bread and they have added this to their shop range and it’s a big success. They use our Coarse Wholemeal and our Strong Plain Flour.
What can consumers look forward to seeing from you in the future?
We want to expand the range of flours available on our website and to work with our artisan bakery customers to promote Irish grown organic breads.
Where can people try your wonderful products?
On our website www.organicflour.ie and in independent stores like Fallon & Byrne and The Fumbally.
How did you get your products on the shelves of stores like Fallon & Byrne, Dublin Food Co-op, The Fumbally, Strandfield and Urban Co-op?
These independent stores were top of our list when we got up and going. We wanted to work with them as they focus on premium quality products and are great for supporting local producers and we are very grateful to them.
Anything else you would like readers to know about Irish Organic Mill?
Join us on our Instagram page @Irishorganicmill where we run promotions and other fun stuff!