April 21, 2010

Meredith Goad: Whatever you knead

Don't loaf around about registering if you want to attend the popular Kneading Conference, where you can learn anything you want about bread and grains.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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Children prepare dough for pizza at a workshop during last year's Artisan Bread Fair following the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan. This year's event, July 29-31, has been moved to the Skowhegan Fairgrounds to accommodate more participants.

Photos by Tessa Burpee

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Last year’s rain fails to deter participants in an oven-building workshop. This year, there will be two wood-fired oven workshops – one for clay ovens and one for brick ovens.

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WHAT: Kneading Conference & Artisan Bread Fair

WHEN: Conference is July 29-30; Artisan Bread Fair is July 31

WHERE: Skowhegan State Fairgrounds, 33 Constitution Ave., Skowhegan

HOW MUCH: Early bird rate of $250 if registered by June 15; standard rate is $300; bread fair is free.

CONTACT: Call 947-6622, Ext. 142, to register or go to

"They may be very passionate home bakers, they may be professional bakers," Hebb said. "They are farmers who are interested in adding or improving grain cultivation on their farms, but often they show up at the baking workshops because they're interested in value-added products and what can they do to improve the revenue sources for their farms."

The hands-on workshops are the heart of the conference, the place where folks learn how to bake boules and build bread ovens.

This year, there will be two wood-fired oven workshops -- one for clay ovens and one for brick ovens.

"Some people come and they never leave the oven-building area," Hebb said. "They really are excited. They take off their shoes and socks and they're tamping down wet sand and clay, and then they're molding it into an earth oven. It's really, really fun."



If even the early bird registration is too rich for you, no worries: the Artisan Bread Fair that follows the conference on July 31 is free and packed with demonstrations, art, music, seed exchanges, baked goods and baking equipment.

Professional bakers will be on hand to sell you their breads, answer your questions and teach your children how to make pizza.

"We'll have demonstrations of home mills, so if you're interested in buying locally grown wheat or buckwheat or something like that, you can mill your own flour and make your own bread," said Dusty Dowse, a biology professor at the University of Maine who is organizing the bread fair.

Last year, some vendors were reluctant to sign up for the fair because it was being held on the same day as the farmers' market, Dowse said. Just 15 vendors came, and they were stunned when 600 to 700 people turned up to buy their pita, sourdough and scythes.

"All the foodies showed up," Dowse said.

Word got around. This year, about 50 vendors have already requested space, and there may be more.

"This time around, we're going to have plenty of picnic benches for people to eat their nan and their pitas and their curry or whatever they're going to get," Dowse said.


Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Kneading Conference participants range from foodies to professional bakers.

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The Kneading Conference in July will draw professional and home bakers, chefs, oven builders, millers, farmers and people with an interest in sustainable agriculture.

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About 50 vendors have requested space at this year’s Artisan Bread Fair.

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