CANNON BEACH - A small bakery and a family farm connect the east and west sides of Oregon one baked item at a time.
The Waves of Grain Bakery at the southern end of Cannon Beach has stores of wheat berries in the second story of the building. Those kernels of wheat are delivered every few months in 300-pound batches from Fritz Hill of Pendleton, second cousin to Hillary Kasson Fargo, part owner of the bakery.
"The original intent was to supply the bakery directly from the family farm," Hill said. "We just took them the raw wheat."
While he may not be able to guarantee future deliveries directly from Pendleton, Hill said he'll see that the Fargos get the same dark northern spring variety from Northwest Grain Growers at Walla Walla, where the Hills take their harvest.
"That seems to have the milling qualities they desire," Hill said. "It lends itself to breads and pastries."
Hillary and her husband, Jason Fargo, opened the bakery with one goal in mind - to live a good life and bake their way through it.
They also wanted to carry on a tradition of family.
Hillary grew up on the North Coast, then moved east, going to school in Vermont and North Carolina. She met Jason in Ashville, N.C., where they both worked in bakeries. When Hillary's grandfather, James Hill Jr., died, she and Jason returned for the funeral and decided it was time to move to the North Coast. The elder Hill was the first and longtime manager of Pendleton Grain Growers.
The couple planned to open the bakery in Astoria, but chose instead to fill a need that they saw in the Tolovana Park area of Cannon Beach.
"This is the only place for coffee between downtown Cannon Beach and Arch Cape," said Hillary. From the beginning of the venture, Hillary and Jason chose to serve Sleepy Monk Coffee and pair it with their own baked goods.
They also knew they wanted to keep the baked goods as local as possible and use natural ingredients.
That's where Fritz Hill and the family farm came in. The Hill place north of Pendleton is a fourth-generation wheat farm and is in the process of becoming an organic operation. After the wheat berries are dropped off at the bakery, the Fargos mill the flour in-house in small batches.
"We're really trying to learn about the process," said Hillary. "Right now our blend is 50-50; we mix our flour in with Shepherd's Grain. They are a family-oriented natural wheat producer from Washington."
The bakery opened in August 2006 and closed in February 2007 for remodeling. Waves of Grain reopened in June with a new oven, more room and higher ceilings.
"Jason used to have to duck over in the work space because the ceilings were only seven feet high," said Hillary.
The family connection does not end with the wheat, Hillary's cousin Emily Hill of Astoria works at the bakery's front counter. Hillary's mother is a part-time North Coast resident who helps out with the bakery as well.
"My mom, Sue, goes on supply runs and runs errands for us," said Hillary.
The bakery itself also breathes with a sense of family. There is a black-and-white photograph on one wall of Hillary's great-grandfather harvesting wheat with a mule-drawn thresher. An antique pie case belonging to Jason's grandmother sits on an old-fashioned display case left behind from when the bakery was an antique store. A scarred, round table that Jason grew up sitting around is one of the places to sit that dot the small bakery's eating area. Photos of the bakery's products pepper the walls and were taken by a friend of the Fargos.
Most intriguing of all are small quilted hangings of Haystack Rock made by Jason's mother.
"We have one in every room of the bakery," said Hillary. "Even the bathroom."
The breads, desserts, granola and wraps made in the bakery thus far are enough to keep its small staff busy morning, noon and night, but Hillary says as the business becomes more established, the menu will grow.
"Jason says I have an 'and then' tick because I say we could do this, and then we could do this, and then, and then, and then," said Hillary. "But we're trying to stick to our vision and not get carried away."
For now, that vision includes continuing to get wheat berries from the family farm, mill their own flour and slowly introduce more foods to the menu.
"We're not looking to get rich and retire," said Hillary. "We're looking to have a good life."
Pamela Robel is the Seaside-based reporter for The Daily Astorian; Dean Brickey is on the staff of its sister paper, the East Oregonian in Pendleton.