“I’ve always felt strongly about doing something for my community and having more of an investment, not just a business to make money but in connecting my community through bread,” Don Guerra, owner and founder of Barrio Bread said. “The most important thing to me about living in Tucson or any community is being part of it.”
Barrio Bread is a company primarily focused on providing natural leavened bread and outreach education to the Tucson community. Guerra aims to inform people on the benefits of eating this style of bread and developing a local grain economy.
“The bread production is the economic engine, but education outreach is important. It’s what drives my business,” Guerra said. “I’m really interested in reinvigorating the local grain economy through using grains grown from farms nearby. It’s up to me to tell people what they’re eating and why I’m making bread with the grains that are local.”
Guerra has been baking for 27 years, starting at the age of 20 in Flagstaff. Located in Broadway Village Shopping Center, Barrio Bread is his third bakery and his most beloved business experience. “I’m a lot more in touch with my ingredients,” Guerra said. “I can go out to the fields of wheat and walk in them to investigate how they are growing. I’m a part of the cycle of bread making from growing to serving.”
The demand for sustainable foods has heightened over the past few decades. Buying local or organic produce is now a part of the decision-making process for consumers. The relatively new concept of community baking has developed, which is to get in touch with where the ingredients come from.
“When I first started I never thought about the raw ingredients,” Guerra said. “I would just open a bag of flour and mix it with water and it would come about as bread. As time passes and the world changes I think people are really having a newfound interest in what makes their food and how the food gets on their plate. As a baker that’s always been my curiosity. I’m very proud of this bakery for focusing on that and being about the grains.”
Guerra uses the French sourdough process where local wild yeast and bacterial cultures leaven the bread.
“The other option is using baker’s yeast and granulated yeast that’s made in a laboratory its dried an inactive but once you add it to water and flour and mix it makes the bread ferment,” Guerra said.
Each type of fermentation produces different effects on the bread.
“The bread I make takes a long time. It’s a low potency so about 24 hours start to finish that the loaf of bread develops,” Guerra said. “It becomes a highly nutritive bread, so you get a lot more vitamins and minerals. “It’s a natural preservative. The longer it takes for the bread to rise, the longer the bread will last.”
According to Guerra, one of the most important benefits is low gluten content. “The bread is more digestible, you can break down starches and proteins easier when using these wild yeast cultures through acidification. Lower the Ph and these enzymes go to work.”
Guerra has been successful in gaining customers with gluten sensitivities. “. They say they don’t eat bread, they’ve given up on bread because it makes them feel pretty poor,” Guerra said. “This style of bread is really easy on the gastrointestinal system.”
According to Guerra, the freshly milled grain is also a flavor enhancer. “It’s a style of bread that if you have the right technique, all you need is flour, water, and salt and you can get some really good outcomes, from the crispy outside of the crust that’s bitter to a soft tender crumb that has more sweetness from the wheat.”
Its about the story too, “Everyone loves a good story,” Guerra said. “I can tell a story with the bread, from where it grows to who’s growing it and then what I do with it and it all happens within a 20-mile radius. People are really interested in knowing where their food is coming from.”
Click the link to listen to a discussion about Guerra’s experience building a small business and developing relationships with communities all over the world:
Brieana Sealy is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.