‘It’s what happens when a community starts a bakery’: Celebrating 30 years of Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company

By | September 27, 2020

Thirty years after Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company sold its first loaf, some of the same people are still lining up at the Wolseley bakery for cinnamon buns, muffins and more.

“We’ve grown old together,” said co-owner Tabitha Langel of the bakery, which now also has a location at The Forks. 

“One woman said to me, ‘I hope you’re still here in 30 years.’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I would be 103, that seems a bit of a stretch.'”

Many of those customers played a role in making the bakery what it became since its inception, when six community members pooled money together to help get it going, she told CBC’s Weekend Morning Show host Nadia Kidwai on Sunday.

One person offered their mother’s recipe for making rye bread; another requested Langel replicate a favourite muffin they didn’t have time to make themselves — which became the bakery’s “morning glory” offering, she said.

“I love that exchange,” Langel said. “The bakery is built on a community, and it’s what happens when a community starts a bakery.”

The venture was the result of an idea a small group of people had toward the end of the 1980s, as local farmers were struggling and large chain stores were growing, she said. Their application for a business loan to start the community-focused bakery was denied, but that didn’t stop them.

Together, the group raised the $40,000 they needed to get the business off the ground. 

Customers who have frequented the bakery over the years helped make it what it is today, said co-owner Tabitha Langel. (CBC)

They came from different backgrounds, she said — English teachers who said they believed in the vision because they could imagine it, a 21-year-old grandson of a farmer who offered money his grandfather left him — but had the same goal.

Their vision included creating a space where people could get food with a clear connection to the land it came from, Langel said, which was how the group came up with the name.

Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company opened its doors on Sept. 8, 1990. 

Since then, some things haven’t changed much, but Langel said she’s comforted by a wave of young people in Winnipeg opening co-ops, bakeries and shops of their own with the same ideas as that small group of people in Wolseley had decades ago.

“Global trade, as big as ever. Amazon seems to own the world,” she said. “But in the middle of that, there’s people swimming in the other direction. And that’s good.”

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