Mary Beth Bowers is a self-proclaimed teacher at heart; she loves to get people excited about where their bread comes from and the benefits of eating whole wheat products.
That’s probably why the Kansas Wheat Commission recruited her as a spokeswoman for the wheat industry.
Bowers has been involved in wheat harvests her whole life. To prove that fact, she has a picture of herself as a 2-year-old with her father, Charlie Kjellin, in a wheat field at harvest time.
She rode the combine and wheat truck while growing up and noticed that farmers raised and sold wheat but didn’t use it themselves.
Apparently her mother, JoAnn, did too. She began making her own flour. Mary Beth continued the practice after she married Greg Bowers 36 years ago.
In recent years, she has become a spokes woman for Kansas Wheat Commission, giving presentations demonstrating how wheat is produced and processed into flour, then turned into bread and marketed. Her programs also provide information about the wheat kernel itself.
The grain Bowers uses is produced on the couple’s farm northeast of Marion.
“I am not a health nut, but this is one thing we raise, and we might as well use it,” she said.
She is not averse to buying a loaf of whole wheat bread now and then, but she has always liked to bake her own bread.
At first, she used a hand wheat grinder given to her by her mother. Later, she inherited her mother’s electric grinder.
She stores wheat berries in 2-liter pop bottles in a freezer to kill any insects that may be present. She takes it out, removes foreign particles, and grinds it as needed. Three cups of clean wheat produce approximately four cups of flour.
Her first public presentation was in a social studies classroom in a junior high school in Newton. It came at the request of the instructor, Gary Ewert of Marion.
After another year of that, she decided she needed to know more about wheat. She contacted the Kansas Wheat Commission for information. They asked her to become a spokeswoman for the industry and provided her with information to present.
Most of her presentations have been in classrooms, usually in Marion County. She has given several presentations for Earth Day celebrations and will give another one this year in Hillsboro.
Parts of wheat
A wheat kernel has three main parts: the bran, or outer covering, which is fiber; the germ, or embryo inside the kernel; and the endosperm, the main part of the kernel that makes white flour.
The wheat kernel contains B-vitamins, calcium, folacin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and other trace elements.
In the commercial milling process, the bran and germ are separated from the endosperm, which is the white flour.
Commercial whole wheat is made by recombining the three main parts.
Whole grain vs. wheat bread
Bowers said it is important for consumers to understand the difference between whole wheat bread and wheat bread. She said wheat bread is made from white flour that is caramelized to give a brown color. It is not whole wheat.
Whole wheat bread, on the other hand, contains some whole wheat. Products labeled 100 percent whole wheat are made from all whole wheat.
Whole wheat flour needs to be refrigerated because the germ has oil in it which will become rancid at room temperature.