Abraham Palmer left a job in IT to start Box Turtle Bakery, a home-based bakery. Palmer uses locally grown ingredients and sustainable baking practices, including milling his own flour from grain. Box Turtle Bakery sells at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon. Palmer spoke to Neecole Bostick about his bakery.
When did you start baking?
I started out-of-the-oven late summer 2009. I was definitely coming at this from another field. I had been doing IT work before, but I had always been interested in lots of different things and I wanted to try something of my own business.
How did you decide on baking, and what drew you to it?
I didn’t really see many people working with lots of local farmers and doing farm-to-table kind of things. I had an interest in the farming kind of things, even though I didn’t have much experience in it. I didn’t have a notion for how it will go, but I thought it was worth a try.
How did you develop it as a craft?
It’s been a long trial-and-error process, working with locally grown crops and farmers. There’s so much variation in the given grain and the given crop, so there’s variation with how the grain mills, because I mill my own flour, and how it bakes with the sourdough bread. I spent a lot of effort in figuring out spelt and whole grain. There’s even a whole routine in finding wood that’s cut properly for the woodfired oven. It has all these facets to it, but it’s a nice intersection between agriculture and food.
What is your favorite good to bake, and why?
That’s definitely a hard question I get at the markets a lot. I certainly only bring foods I like to do. Any of the sourdough stuff is interesting because there’s the process of nurturing a wild culture along with mixing the dough. I have a 7-foot long wooden peel, so a skill set I had to learn was loading and positioning things properly. It’s definitely a slow food kind of thing.
What is your most popular baked good?
Most popular is probably whole grain honey wheat, a basic pan loaf. Lots of local grain, it depends on how my crops handle.
How is your bakery unique?
I always felt like I have an engineering mindset, so I try to figure out the right kind of sustainable mindset for the process; what kind of energy and inputs I need. The woodfire oven is a sustainable resource. I don’t have a mixer, it’s all hand-mixed. I’ve got some solar heated water and solar electricity, and I transport my goods to the market by bike. I’ve tried to figure out how to do this in a sustainable way with the local crops. And it takes longer to find the right farmers and get them
to work together, but it’s a great long-term project.
Why the name?
I like having a good animal mascot. We have box turtles around in our area, I had a box turtle as a kid, and no one else in the world decided to name their bakery Box Turtle Bakery.