Bard Bread & Pastry is a naturally-leavened bakery in Viroqua, WI that strives to help build a resilient food system through local and sustainable sourcing, transparency with their customers, and regular contributions to programs addressing food security in the community.
The Bard origin story began in 2018 when we (Matt and Natalie) moved to Viroqua to start a diversified organic farm with some friends. We realized right away that there was no local bakery making artisan bread. To fill the void in our pantry, Matt started making sourdough bread and a little extra for our neighbors and farm partners. As the farming season came in full swing, the baking stopped but was always on Matt's mind. As the summer and farming season came to a close, Matt decided to change gears and focus on starting a sourdough bakery in Viroqua. Under the name ‘Ocooch Rising’ he hosted a pizza party fundraiser and began a small subscription service. Within the first few months he decided to change the name to ‘Bard’ as the use of ‘Ocooch’ was mis-informed and inappropriate. In the weeks and months between then and now there have been innumerable lessons of patience, failure, and generosity. We are grateful for everyone that has played a part in getting us to where we are today.
Photo by Jae Arnold
It is our opinion that businesses can and should be doing more to help build a better world. Keeping the principal “Think Globally, Act Locally” in mind, we are constantly investigating the ways we can do our part in our community to build a better food system. By focusing on local farmers, local and regional producers, conscious consumer interactions, and transparent business practices, we hope to be the change we want to see. In an effort to keep ourselves accountable, we drafted the following ‘guiding principles’ as a part of our Operating Agreement:
Cultivate healthy, appreciative, and transparent relationships between owners, customers, suppliers.
Promote cross training and skill development among owners.
Be a good ancestor. To us, this means doing our best to keep a broad perspective of how our actions will affect the lives of our children, and their children, for many generations to come.
Be open to conflict, critique, and criticism for the purpose of being flexible to change.
Have integrity in product sourcing.
Improve accessibility of our product line in our community.
Challenge and expand our ‘bubble’.
Balance a culture of mindfulness with a culture of efficiency.
It will be a challenging road. Changing the world, baking bread, and ‘being here now’ all at the same time. Compromises will be made. There will be tough days, early mornings, over-prooved dough and thin margins. All things considered, we are grateful for the chance to live this life and we are happy to have you here with us. Thank you!
Photo by Jae Arnold
All of our bread is naturally leavened. This means we carefully maintain an active wheat culture full of living yeasts and bacteria that do most of the heavy lifting in our bread making process. Our bread products are fermented anywhere from 6 to 18 hours after our levain is added to the dough. This allows for a more nutritious and flavorful product with greater shelf stability.
We currently buy all of our flour from Meadowlark Organics located in Ridgeway, WI.
You can learn more about our sourcing here.
Photo by Jae Arnold
Born and raised in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Matt has trained in a number of disciplines throughout his life: firefighter, research technician, farmer, camp-counselor, and now baker. His baking passion started in 2016 when a couch-surfing friend wanted to make some bread. It would seem, from that first bake, Matt was hooked. The careful process, the transformation, the living quality, and of course the final product are all a part of his love for the craft of baking.
Natalie is a Wisconsin-born and raised printmaker,, graphic designer, and muralist. She feels lucky to have landed in Viroqua, where she can be a self-employed artist and also have time to garden, bike, dance, and be an active member of the Viroqua community. She also feels lucky to have such a thoughtful, creative, and ambitious person (Matt) as a partner in life and business! At the bakery, she focuses her energy on marketing, bike delivery, and farmers markets, and other events.
All photos by Jae Arnold.