Vendor Profile: House of Rufus
We love the process, providing a quality product to our customers, and connecting with other local producers.
Adam and Kate Brown are the bakers behind House of Rufus. They are first generation bakers specializing in naturally leavened artisan breads made from locally grown and stone milled organic grains.
Adam grew up in Valparaiso, and Kate grew up in Crown Point, locally raised Northwest Indiana residents. They met while working in local restaurants. The love of food that brought them together is evident in the creative, high quality breads they offer their customers. Their experience serving diners in high quality restaurants shows in the professional way they work and treat their customers.
They've always been bread lovers, but worked too many hours to be able to use the sourdough method of baking. Kate started experimenting with sourdough in 2019, when House of Rufus started coming to the Coffee Creek Farmers Market. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, they went all in and haven't looked back.
Kate points out that sourdough is a way of baking using a natural process of fermentation, rather than using the industrial yeast and flours common in baking today. She says that some of her customers remember that this is how bread used to be made: they come to their boot at the market and say, "This is the bread we used to eat; there is color in this bread!"
Photos and collage by Kate Brown.
I spoke with Kate and Adam at their home bakery, nestled within the woods to the east of Chesterton. They told me of the deer that come relax in their yard, their chickens that they keep for eggs, their bees and their garden, and how they chose to live where their kids could be in nature. It was a beautiful spring day, and the air smelled of soil and sunshine. Here is a little of what they told me:
What do you love about the Coffee Creek Farmers Market?
We love being so close to our customers. People will often come to our booth and we'll just talk about life for five to ten minutes and then we'll think to ask, "Oh, hey, what would you like this week?"
The location of the Coffee Creek Farmers Market is great. It's such a picturesque scene, where we get to see the wildflowers bloom all season, and watch the seasons change in the watershed preserve.
The market is like a family. It's filled with quality vendors - it's a true farmers market. We learn something new every week, like how ginger can be grown locally, or how delicious local watercress tastes. We were amazed by these two items from a fellow vendor this last year!
What are some of your challenges and joys in your business?
We love the process, and providing a quality product to our customers. We love connecting with other local producers in our area, like the local mushroom forager that provides our mushrooms. We keep bees and chickens, and have maple syrup on the property, and we love using those products in our bread.
One challenge is just that we are committed to giving the customer quality. We have perfected our loaves over hundreds of bakes. That means that there are loaves that don't turn out perfectly, so we don't sell those. Sometimes we give away the "ugly" loaves. With simple ingredients, time, patience, and being observant, we can provide a quality product to our customers that we are proud of.
From proofing to baking to serving, Kate and Adam Brown pay attention and bring quality products to their customers.
What do you hope your customers know?
This is a slow process that takes time and affection. If you dismiss a part of the process it won't turn out. We are paying attention from feeding the starter to pulling the loaves out of the oven.
We don't label our products as "organic" because we are not certified organic, but our ingredients are organic. We get our grains from Janie's Mill, a farm and mill just 99 miles from our door (the definition of "local" is within 100 miles). At Janie's farm the owner, Harold, plants the seeds, harvests the grains, mills them, and brings them right to our door. We use mushrooms from our local forager, and tomatoes and basil and peppers from our own garden. These connections are important to us; we wouldn't bake and feed things to our customers that we ourselves wouldn't eat.
Customers that are sensitive to gluten might consider trying our bread. Because sourdough has a longer, natural fermentation, and because we use organic grains, our breads have probiotics and a higher glycemic level, which can actually help heal your body. We're are not physicians, but we have found that if you're not celiac you can try sourdough and see what you think.
Why is developing a local food system important?
So much of our food isn't from here. If those lines stop, what would we have? Right now, we know where to get meat, veggies, and mushrooms from local farmers. We have honey and maple syrup and eggs right on our property. If we couldn't go to the store we wouldn't go without.
We understand that some things don't grow here; that happens. But the overall food system that exists isn't sustainable.
Local famers that are doing things to benefit their neighbors and heal the earth are the way of the future. And we know who is producing our food. The cost to transport the food is less. And we know the food will be safe and healthy, unlike a tomato that is picked green in a place far away, and then sprayed with chemicals to ripen it.
At a farmers market, the customer can meet the producer, which gives everyone a different sense of self. When we can name where things come from, it's much better.
You can find House of Rufus at the Coffee Creek Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons (3-7 PM) from April 20 to November 2. We are located at 178 E Sidewalk Dr. in Chesterton, in the Pavillion parking lot of the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve.