When Tucson baker Don Guerra decided to launch a new business, he didn’t look to the latest craze or the newest movement. Instead he sought inspiration from the ancient past and devised his own recipe for success.
With degrees in anthropology and education and a passion for baking, Guerra blended his interests and took his time — eight years to be exact — honing his craft and mapping out a business plan in his mind as he daily kneaded dough and baked loaves from the commercial oven in his garage. He sold 900 loaves a week out of his car, building what he calls his “bread tribe” before opening a brick-and-mortar bakery in midtown last November.
“I try to make a bread memory for everybody. Bread is one of those foundational foods,” he said.
Guerra uses a locally grown soft, white Sonora wheat, one of the oldest varieties in North America. It was introduced to the area in the late 1600s by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit missionary from Italy. Marana-based BKW farm is Guerra’s source for about half the heritage grains he uses to produce 3,500 loaves a week. He hopes, within a year, to buy all of his grains from Arizona growers. The term heritage grain refers to an ancient varietal that is not hybridized.
Using heritage grains is the basis of Guerra’s business. He uses the wheat not just to bake bread, but for “the reinvigoration of the local grain economy” and to educate the public.
“People from all over the world want the wheat that grows here,” Guerra said. “Part of my work is to make a market for farmers here. I want to give people right here a taste of the place.
“With my family history in Sonora, my ancestors making tortillas with wheat grown from these heirloom seeds and making bread with it, it’s not just making bread. It’s the whole education and outreach component. The bread is something I love. It’s really physical, but it’s also the art and science, and lately it’s anthropological. A blend of physicality, science and art.”