Four Star Farms rises to occasion meeting demand for flour, grains

The Recorder, May 13, 2020. By ZACK DeLUCA, Staff Writer

Over the last two months, more and more people staying at home have rediscovered a new hobby — baking. With ingredients like flour and yeast in short supply at grocery stores, Four Star Farms has risen to the occasion locally to meet the increased demand for flour, grains and other supplies.

The Northfield farm reopened its online store for shipping via USPS Priority Mail. The farm previously decided to schedule an end for its sale of flour to pursue opening a brewery on the property. However, they have since re-opened the farm’s online store to meet the new demand for flour.

Founded by Bonnie and Gene L’Etoile, Four Star Farms is nestled along the banks of the Connecticut River. The family’s heritage is deeply rooted in agricultural tradition. The pair raised their two sons, Jacob and Nathan L’Etoile, both of whom live on the farm with their respective families and are actively involved in different aspects of agriculture.

Elizabeth “Liz” L’Etoile married into the family and serves as the farm’s director of sales and marketing. According to Liz L’Etoile, the family heard from so many home bakers and cooks that, because more people are trying out new cooking and baking recipes while staying at home, grains and flour have proven hard to come by, prompting them to re-open online temporarily. Liz L’Etoile said they will continue to sell flour as long as their supply lasts.

“Our swan song is turning out to be greater than we originally anticipated,” Liz L’Etoile said. “We’re really thankful we can offer something that feels needed — that we are able to provide good flour to people who need it.”

The ongoing pandemic has even seen ingredients required to make bread from scratch run low or be depleted entirely, according to L’Etoile. She theorized that many people are trying their hand at baking in part because it can be relaxing.

“In my personal opinion, it’s something that is comforting and nourishing,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing something good for my family.”

Just last week, Four Star Farms shipped 145 packages to meet online orders for flour. Before, L’Etoile said, an average week would have seen 10 packages shipped. A standard package contains five to 10 pounds of flour, but lately, orders have been for 25- or 50-pound bags.

The income from online sales has helped to sustain Four Star Farms’ payroll, L’Etoile said. This has helped make up for the decrease in business from restaurants and bakeries that are now working in limited capacity, or closed entirely.

Orders for grain/flour close each week on Fridays at noon for shipping on the following Thursday. Grains remaining: Warthog Hard Red Wheat (berries and flour), Zorro Hard Red Wheat (flour only). Orders can be placed on the farm’s website, fourstarfarms.com. Inquiries should be directed to liz@fourstarfarms.com.

The farm also grows turf for lawns, as well as hops and malt for use by local brewers, and the family farm is transitioning away from flour sales to focus on opening “The Brewery at Four Star Farms.” According to L’Etoile, the brewery is aiming to open sometime this summer.

“It’s right around the corner,” she said.

According to the farm’s website, Four Star Farms is a sustainable family farm providing locally grown grains, freshly milled flour, hops and turf. They pride themselves on the level of quality passed along to its customers, only offering crops that have been grown in its own fields, and have been processed and packaged to-order right on the farm.

Bonnie and Gene L’Etoile began their respective farming careers part-time in 1977. By 1986, they decided to continue generations of farming — from Bonnie L’Etoile’s side of the family — and go into agriculture full time. They bought a former dairy farm in Northfield and started the current location.

The name Four Star Farms comes from the family surname, L’Etoile, which means “the star” in French. When the L’Etoiles began farming, there were four stars working hard to make it succeed. Today, the family, and the farm, continues to grow. Zack DeLuca can be reached at z d e l uc a @recorder .c o m or 413-930-4579.

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