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Wheat Connections to Ukraine

Ukraine is more than a country on the far side of the globe under attack by a brutal dictator. The Russian aggression affronts me. It saddens me what is happening inside the country and neighbouring nations. I feel, too, for those who’ve emigrated to Canada and are watching what’s happening in their homeland.

The Ukrainian flag, golden wheat field, blue sky … one interpretation

But we also have physical and symbolic ties to Ukraine 1 that are long-standing.

Wheat seeds in their pockets

These ties began with the wave of Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in Canada in the late 1800s. Many of these arrivals were farmers. They were encouraged to contribute their agricultural expertise to an expanding wheat industry. The most substantial concentration of Ukrainians settled in the prairie provinces and British Columbia. Their presence looms large today.

Wayne Gretzky is probably the most famous Canadian of Ukrainian heritage. Artist William Kurelek celebrated his Ukrainian roots in his paintings of prairie life. Politicians Roy Romanow (former premier of Saskatchewan) and Gary Filmon (an ex-premier of Manitoba) also have Ukrainian ancestry.

A common theme is that the first immigrants arrived with wheat seeds “in their pockets,” along with their religious customs, food, art and other cultural traditions. In many parts of Canada, Ukrainian culture is deeply woven into the fabric of the local communities.

Turkey Red wheat

We learned in school that Ukraine was one of the breadbasket nations. Much of the bread we eat to this day has strains of Ukrainian heritage from those early days. Turkey Red wheat, in particular, was directly from Crimea and Turkey before that.

Turkey Red wheat once covered over 90 percent of the wheat acreage of the Great Plains2.

A large percentage of the Canadian landmass also grew Red Fife wheat, a close cousin of the Crimea-based Turkey Red. These varieties also contributed genes to Marquis wheat, initially developed in Canada and made its way south.

Turkey kinds of wheat found a home in North America because they moved with people who knew and grew this staple crop. The early Ukrainian immigrants left quite a legacy!

A fleeting respite from the horror of the war

But last week, the North American connection with Ukrainian farmers and bakers came under the spotlight once again.

In a newsletter, the U.S. baking instructor Mitch Stamm shared a poignant dispatch about a Ukrainian baker he met at a prestigious baking competition in France.

“Originally from Kharkiv, Bogdan Krasnoperov lives and works as a baker in Odesa. Exposed to land, air, and sea attacks, both cities are vulnerable, practically permeable. As an 18-60-year-old male, he is registered and prepared for military service. While he waits to be called up, he and the cooks that work for a private business are working without wages 10 hours per day baking bread and preparing food for soldiers and journalists. Exhaustion has registered little effect on his voice; it remains still, resolute. Baking provides a fleeting respite from the horror, exacerbating it simultaneously. His wish to do more for people and peace in Ukraine grows stronger and more desperate each day.”

Another casualty of the war: grain exports

There is no telling what will happen with the war, but there is a high chance grain will be involved. Russia and Ukraine represent 29 percent of global wheat exports. Countries that rely on these stocks are already struggling with shortages.

The Ukrainian flag carries a symbolic reference to the country’s fields of golden wheat and blue skies. North American wheat fields owe much to Ukraine, and times like these reveal the substance in our symbols.


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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries

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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland

Morning Breadsong (volume up!) A pile of Salish Sourdoughs just out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven.
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
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  1. Ukraine is the official full name of the country, according to its declaration of independence and constitution. ‘The Ukraine,’ as it is still sometimes called, is a holdover from the Soviet era and thus is disregarded by most Ukrainians

  2. Covering the prairies and rolling hills from Canada down south into Texas

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