SKOWHEGAN — The Skowhegan Fairgrounds will be transformed this week into an international village of grain growers, bakers, millers and bread lovers for the sixth annual Kneading Conference.

The conference runs all day Thursday and Friday with lectures, farming and baking presentations, guest speakers, demonstrations and ideas for restoring and supporting local and regional grain production, according to promotional material.

The Artisan Bread Fair follows from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, also at the fairgrounds.

“The Bread Fair is a celebration of earth, fire, stone and that most mystical of all our foods,” conference organizers with the Maine Grain Alliance said on the conference website.

The bread fair is free and open to the public, but there is a $2 parking fee. Pre-registration is required for the Kneading Conference, which costs $300. The conference is sponsored by King Arthur Flour.

The 2012 conference includes tips on how to grow a small plot of grain in your backyard, bake breads and desserts in a wood-fired oven, handcraf the best pizza, use a scythe to harvest grains and grasses, design and build a successful small bakery, build a wood-fired oven and make croissants and other traditional pastries using whole grain flour.

The conference is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday with a keynote address by Ben Hewitt, Vermont farmer and author of “The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food.”

Hewitt will reconstruct the journey that transformed a struggling Vermont town into a thriving food hub.

At 11:45 a.m. Thursday, Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, based in Montrose, Colo., will provide background and the latest developments on a lawsuit filed by organic food growers and consumers against Monsanto, a U.S.-based company that sells seeds with traits developed though biotechnology and crop-protection chemicals.

A beer and wine social is set for 5 p.m. Thursday.

Friday’s keynote address is scheduled to be delivered at 9 a.m. by William Alexander, author of “The $64 Tomato and 52 Loaves: a Half-Baked Adventure.” Alexander will talk about his yearlong quest to make the perfect loaf of peasant bread, a mission that begins in a backyard wheat field and ends in a medieval French monastery.

Now in its sixth year, the Kneading Conference began with a group of Skowhegan-area residents, oven builders, millers and bakers who were motivated by the need to address wheat production in light of a growing local food movement. The first Kneading Conference took place in July 2007 in Skowhegan, where wheat production fed more than 100,000 people annually in the mid-1800s.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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