How Sweet It Is

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

A couple of years ago, when "city farmer" Carolyn Ioder began baking bread for her family, her aim was to match the taste and texture of a homemade loaf in which the baker used only fresh ground flour as the base ingredient.

The former librarian then discovered that she, too, could grind wheat berries into flour for her own bread making. Beyond that, she discovered her other key ingredients were her own homemade applesauce and the honey she was harvesting from her own beehives.

With that revelation, Ioder, a former Peace Corps volunteer, began sharing her homemade loaves with neighbors via her own Austin neighborhood-based Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription service. In 2011 she begun selling her Basic Bread brand online via, an LLC, and the umbrella under which she produces not only the bread, but also goat milk and related food products made from it. In the future, she plans to offer manure and honey.

"I call it basic bread because I grind the flour. I make the applesauce. I produce the honey," said Ioder, who regularly teaches cheese-making classes and more for Sugar Beet Cooperative in Oak Park.

This urban farmer's long view, she says, has always been to come full circle and "replace Jewel" by growing her own food — e.g., supplying her own milk, eggs, cheese and sugar — even though she lives in an urban environment.

To do it, like most farmers who work the land, she says her days are long and mostly spent tending to her flock of eight chickens and six goats that reside with them just over the border of Oak Park in Austin.

A couple of years ago, to free up more yard space, Ioder relocated her three beehives down the street to Root-Riot: Harambee, 500 N. Waller, Chicago. There on an eighth of an acre, or four rented garden plots, she tends to her bees and grazes her goats, which certainly adds an interesting dimension to that community garden, she said with a smile.

"This will be my fourth summer tending the bees at Root Riot, and if you go on to Google Earth, and key in the firehouse (next door to Root Riot), you will see me sitting in front of a hive over there," she noted, laughing. "There is a picture of that, and two goats in a 20x20-foot pen."

The Root Riot Garden Network also includes Root-Riot: Kuumba Tre-Ahm at 2908 W. Warren Blvd. in Chicago's Garfield Park neighborhood and another productive community garden at 836 Madison St. in Oak Park.

So far this season, tending to the hives has been going a bit better than the previous two years when drought was an ongoing issue and negatively affected her hives. Another plus now is that Tari Delisi, a beekeeper and landscape designer from Oak Park, is partnering with her, which streamlines everything, from early in the season to successfully over-wintering the bee hives.

"I love honey. Once you put it in your mouth, it is so good," Ioder said. "But, oh girl, you have to be very careful with the honey you buy in the store. There is so much of it now from China that is not real honey. There is nothing better than making it myself and know that it is the good stuff. And once I eat it, there is just no comparison. I also like the bees. Their honey is from our flowers and our pollen … the taste of our community."

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