Organic stoneground loaves of The People's Bread, made by
a Wanaka family, have been a sellout every week at the Wanaka
Farmers Market since February and are now delivered fresh
from the family's mobile kitchen. Catherine Pattison meets
Ruth Heath apologises profusely for selling out of bread the
morning of our interview.
It is a positive problem for the Albert Town-based baker, who
along with husband, Jeremy (37) juggles bringing organic
stone-ground sourdough loaves to the people with bringing up
their four children, Timo, Caoimhe, Lennox and Ezra.
The Heaths now deliver around Wanaka and Lake Hawea three
times a week.
The ingredient list could not be simpler. Organic wheat, rye
and spelt grains - delivered personally by the grower, then
stone-ground by the Heaths - Wanaka spring water and
unrefined sea salt.
''It's the best quality bread that you can make. Milling the
flour means it is so fresh and full of its own nutrients,''
Mrs Heath (32) explains.
The weekly production of the 60-plus 1.3kg ''superloaves'',
plus the ciabatta and sticky buns she sells at the Thursday
market, is not so simple.
Like many working parents, the Heaths go for the shifts
In the evenings, one will be out in the mobile kitchen making
the dough, while the other takes care of four times dinner,
bath, books and bed.
After up to 24 hours proving, the bread is ready for baking.
Again, one parent is ''in the trailer'' and the other is on
breakfast, school lunches, drop-offs.
In theory it runs smoothly but the reality of working from
home means is there is no separation between being a parent
and being a baker, Mrs Heath says.
''It's really important to be well organised.''
However, if ingredients run low, she might have to bundle all
four kids into the car and make a mad dash to pick some up.
You could say she is used to it, after starting out The
People's Bread this way.
With her husband working out of town, she would trundle
across town once a week at night to a borrowed kitchen to
make the doughs, back again in the morning with pyjama-clad
children to attend to the doughs and then take a third trip
later to bake them.
Mr Heath had been employed as a pharmacist in Wanaka but the
couple wanted to find a way to make a living that fitted in
around their family.
They had always made ''nutritious and delicious'' bread for
themselves and figured others would enjoy it too.
''Especially seeing there is a total lack of real food in
general in the commercial food market,'' Mrs Heath said.
So in April they purchased a mobile commercial kitchen, set
up a Facebook page and a website for customers to order
deliveries online and waited for the proof of the bread to be
in the tasting.
The People's Bread is now sold in two Wanaka outlets; it is
taken over to Queenstown by an organic food business and is
delivered still warm from the oven to their regular
Mr Heath now works part-time landscaping, although the couple
are moving towards the point where the bread will produce a
sustainable income, allowing both of them to be at home
It is about supporting themselves long-term and modelling to
their children that they are able to create something
Mrs Heath is under no illusions about it being a cushy
''There's a lot of hard work involved.''
The lengthy proving process makes producing last-minute order
requests a metabolic impossibility. The whole food beauty of
The People's Bread is that long fermentation, Mrs Heath says.
''It makes the grain's minerals and vitamins bio-available
and easy to digest. The process brings out the natural taste
and sweetness of the grains.''
Gluten is also broken down, adding to digestibility.
''We have people who have gluten sensitivities who buy our
bread regularly because they have no side effects from it,''
Mrs Heath says.
Our interview concludes with toast all round finished. Then
the off-to-school shift begins for Mr Heath and the
get-bread-organised stint starts for his wife.
She likes a phrase a fellow Wanaka Farmers Market stallholder
imparted after watching her painfully selling loaves, with
1-year-old Ezra gleefully pulling her hair from his backpack
''You are mad if you do or silly if you don't,'' he told her.
''I think we are qualified as mad,'' she jokes, with a tired
but happy smile.