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© Allison Usavage

Finger Lakes Wine Flour

Wine Flour is a new product that should be hitting the shelves this spring, created from the leftover grape seeds and skins from the wine makers in our region. The process takes a product that otherwise would be shipped out as waste (or composted) and recycles it into something delicious!

I was first introduced to her products at the Firelight Camps grand opening, where I couldn’t stop eating these delicous cupcakes (sorry everyone, I was probably the reason they went fast) and was blown away when I was told that they were gluten free! I tracked Hilary down and knew that the Wine Flour was going to be a great What’s Good story.

Hilary Niver Johnson is the proprietor of Sustainable Viticulture Systems, the company that produces the flours. She’s also hoping to expand the company to sustainable energy in the future. We did a photo shoot, tasting, and Q&A with Hilary back in September but just photographed the facility last week, so enjoy the glimpses of sunshine in these photos as she shows us her products, her favorite spots to think, and the Wine Flour production facility.

 

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What is the Wine Flour?

I have 8 different varieties, mostly reds. It’s from seeds and skins that I grind and blend and make into flour for baking and cooking. It is a supplement… you don’t want to bake with 100% wine flour. It’s very nutritional, very good for you.

 

© Allison Usavage
Who is it good for?

I like to think it’s good for everyone, but definitely great for people with specific food allergies like Celiac or gluten intolerance. It’s high protein and fiber and low carb, which is really good for helping people with type II diabetes reverse their diabetes. Also, anyone who’s really looking to add nutrition to bread recipes or any recipe that might not receive it otherwise. It can turn a traditional flour recipe into something that’s more healthy… you can get more nutrients from a loaf of bread that you wouldn’t normally get with traditional recipes.

 

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What change are you trying to make?

I want to show people that there’s so much here that we can do with the resources that we have. By recycling and creating food and energy and using it and producing it where you’re going to be consuming it, that’s the most sustainable thing. Use it and produce it in the same place.

 

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How did it start?

There are 4 other companies in the United States that produce wine flour, but I’m the first on the East Coast. I’m sure we all have different stories… mine started at college though.

I graduated with an environmental science degree from SUNY ESF. I started doing this research there measuring energy in vineyards and wineries, determining the energy intensity per bottle in KwH. I went out to Nebraska and did the same thing in the small industry that is out there and I realized how much waste was being produced out there. Thinking about home, there’s so much more being produced here than out there. I developed the process out there for grape seed oil. But grape seed oil is only 3% of the pomace, so it’s really hard to justify that as a model in my opinion. That’s why I’m producing the flour, because it’s the other 97%.

 

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What impact does this have on the community?

As I continue to grow I hope to bring agrotourism. Educating children is something I really want to do as I expand. I want to start making renewable energy out of these products too. So education, economy, and providing another opportunity to teach the community that there is more that we can do with something than just compost it. There’s more to it.

 

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How has the community supported you?

You’re not going to gain any support unless you’re willing to put yourself out there and meet people. Once you start doing that it’s awesome what people are willing to do for you. My insurance brokers got me in touch with the business support group, I’m part of a women in business round table in Corning, the coffee talks and all of the programs at Alternatives Federal Credit Union are amazing. A lot of great feedback on my recipes and the flour that we’ve given away. It feels warm here. There’s strength in numbers.

 

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What struggles have you encountered?

Funding. Learning how to fix things. More space. I had to go up instead of out. Always get a second opinion!

 

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What should we be celebrating?

Community. Strength in numbers is such a powerful thing. I’m so lucky to be part of this Finger Lakes family. People have stereotypes about New Yorkers… well come to the Finger Lakes and you might change your mind!

Also, we really should be celebrating life and this is how I’m choosing to do it. My life is so curious and keeps me engaged and in this and I’m passionate about this.

 

© Allison Usavage
How can we participate?

Obviously purchasing it! But when you purchase it, document what you do. Send me pictures, send me a taste. Every recipe is different, every variety is different. There’s different tasting notes and the amount that you might want to use is different from someone else depending on flavor profiles. Feedback is huge.

 

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Anything else?

Know your neighbor, know where you’re from. Know who you are. It will all fall into place. Reusing, recycling, sustainability, community, energy. They all make that work.

The products wil be hitting retail shelves soon! A list of Wine Flour retailers throughout the region will be available on flxgrapeflour.com at the end of February.

 

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