Made in Our Hometown: Monks' Bread
Updated: Monday, July 15 2013, 03:24 PM EDT
Piffard, N.Y. - As we continue our Made In Our Hometown series we focus on a company where the bread and butter... is bread. Monks' Bread is at the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard near Geneseo in Livingston County.
Monks start their day and their bread making early. When we arrived at 9:00 AM we got to see the final steps of production. "Some people don't realize that Monks' Bread is really made by monks," Father Isaac Slater, O.C.S.O. told us. He is the Prior at the Abbey of the Genesee.
There are 11 non-monk employees but some jobs, like operating the big oven that bakes the bread, is done exclusively by monks. They sometimes use sign language to communicate on the bakery floor as they live mostly in silence with a focus on growing closer to God. Father Isaac told us, "The basic philosophy is that we make enough to support ourselves and have enough to give to the poor." Some of the bread they make is given to local charities some of the profits go to support foundations in Africa and Brazil.
All of the work is done at the Abbey in Piffard. We saw loaves coming out of the oven, traveling by conveyor belt to spend an hour on the cooling tower then sliced, bagged, sealed shut with a bread tag and carefully stacked to be shipped out all across the northeast and now New England as well. Albany is a new market for the company.
Monks' Bread has been around for 60 years. Originally the monks at Abbey of the Genesee set out to operate a dairy farm. The bread making was started by Brother Sylvester who learned his trade while in the Navy. When he moved to the Abbey of the Genesee he continued baking and people loved the bread so much, the dairy was phased out and the focus switched to the bread.
The company is preparing for the next 60 years with new products.
In the specialty bakery, alongside the fruitcake that has been made for years, they're now making cookies and biscotti and a product they call biscottini which is being sold in western New York wineries.
Ironically, monks don't eat sweets, but they do get one day a month where their practices are relaxed. "That would be one of the few occasions when we actually get to sample some of the deluxe, delicious products from our specialty bakery. The one I like is the cranberry orange cake," said Father Isaac.
You'll find their products in major supermarkets, online or by visiting the monastery in Piffard.
Father Isaac said, "I think people are somewhat surprised when they visit the monastery for the first time and realize they've been eating this bread for years and years and here it is."
Yes, it is Made in Our Hometown.