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A slice of Warm bread: Dickinson woman becomes known for her homemade breads

Bonnie Warm, of Dickinson, who has become known as “The Bread Lady,” uses the two grain mills on the counter to grind organic grain into flour she uses for the 90-plus loaves of bread she makes weekly. 1 / 2
Bonnie Warm, of Dickinson, when not making bread, is often out in her garden, which has grown through the years to about .75 acre on the family property near Highway 10. After awhile, in addition to bread, she started bringing garden produce to the twice-weekly farmers market in Dickinson. 2 / 2

DICKINSON -- Bonnie Warm, who years ago left a health-club career to stay home and raise children, often needs bread.

Really often.

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So often does the Dickinson woman need it, that a frequent item on her supply list is the 2,500 pounds of grain she buys directly from a farmer.

That's because Warm not only makes her bread, she also grinds the grain to make the flour to make the bread.

That's what she uses to make her 90-plus loaves per week.

She said her honey wheat bread contains just a few things: the ground-up kernels of organic hard red spring wheat, as well as water, local honey, olive oil, salt and yeast -- plus she adds wheat germ and bran. She said that currently she is buying organic grain from a Fort Benton, Mont., farm. She had been buying from a North Dakota farmer, but he stopped growing it and she couldn't find a similar product here.

"It's a powerhouse of nutrition. ... I feel really good about feeding it to my family," she said about her bread.

And to others, now. Most of those loaves aren't for her family of four -- her husband, herself and two sons, one of whom is gone most of the time because he's an engineering student at University of North Dakota. Warm started bringing loaves to the farmers market in Dickinson several years ago, and between that and special orders, has built a following of regular customers. And she started getting a new name: "The Bread Lady."

She sold out of her 36 loaves in 20 minutes at a recent Roughrider Home Growers Farmer Market.

Warm said when she first started selling at the farmers market -- held Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to sellout at 67 21st St. E in the Dickinson Charities Bingo parking lot -- a few people complained. She was selling just bread while they were hoping for garden produce, too. Warm then began bringing a few things from her garden.

It was a small garden then -- according to her calculations, about 800 square feet. But that has grown, too. She now brings produce in from a garden that takes up about three-quarters of an acre of the family's property near Highway 10 east of Dickinson.

Warm said she likes bread making better, in part because that's a special niche. A lot of people garden and it's back-breaking work, but she's thankful, she said.

"The Lord is good to me. ... It all comes from God's hand," she said. "Anything I get out (the garden) is from the Lord's hand and I'm thankful."

Bread making was hard for her, too, at one time.

Warm, who grew up near Minneapolis in a family of six children, said her mother taught her to make bread by hand -- a batch of 12 loaves at a time. It involved getting down on her knees to have enough leverage and pressure to knead that amount of dough, which was in a large tub on the floor.

She said it has been so many years, she doesn't know if she could do it that way any longer. These days, Warm has two motorized grain mills to make flour -- and two bread-making machines to mix the dough.

Even so, sometimes the dough doesn't rise correctly, or something else doesn't quite work. And with the number of loaves she's dealing with now, there can be late nights baking 12 loaves at once in two ovens -- and then early morning is labeling loaves. But she still manages to bring to customers their favorites, which include 1.75-pound cinnamon-swirl loaves. One customer, Warm said, worried she wouldn't get to the farmers market when it opened, called her to set a cinnamon loaf aside.

Warm also brings to market her favorite, the honey wheat, as well as sprouted wheat loaves, hamburger buns, poppy seed bread sticks, and multi-grain loaves. And there is a Warm experiment that worked -- her venetian loaf that has garlic, basil, oregano and goes well with pasta, she said.

Warm said she sometimes will buy a store-bought loaf of French bread, but most of the time, no.

"I like the healthfulness of it," she said about homemade bread.

Warm thinks there are indeed people sensitive to gluten. But for others, she wonders if it isn't store-bought bread with additional gluten added to it, as well as other additives, that are causing the problems, she said.

"I eat my whole-wheat bread and feel great," she said.

In between gardening and baking, she makes time for her favorite past time -- drinking coffee with friends on her deck.

She uses coffee beans not roasted by her. At least not yet.

Warm said their second son recently graduated from high school. Now as an empty nester, she's not sure what the next chapter will be.

Warm, who has a bachelor's degree in business and a master's in exercise science/human performance, once helped people develop fitness plans at a health club. But she left that job to stay home after becoming a mother. She and her husband, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, have lived in several places including Alaska and South Dakota, and came to Dickinson for his job in 1998.

She said the plan is to gradually make the garden smaller. As far as the bread making, she'll always want homemade bread in her life.

She said if for some reason she couldn't make her own bread any longer, she would hire a friend to do it. But also, her kids will know how to make that real Warm bread.