Balancing babies and bread: Melanie Eddy makes baking a family affair

Posted January 19, 2015

2009 National Festival of Breads winner Dianna Wara with Melanie Eddy.
For Melanie Eddy of Syracuse, wheat is more than a crop. She and her wheat farmer husband Kent have turned service to the wheat industry into a family adventure. When she first started demonstrating breads in 1986, she remembered setting her baby on end of the table and the bread on the other. At the State Fair one year, she recalled putting her four children to nap under a desk in an air-conditioned office so she could butter bread samples to hand out in the Kansas Wheat booth.

In the years following, Melanie has demonstrated making, shaping and baking bread in grade school classrooms, 4-H foods classes, the State Fair and many more as a Speak for Wheat spokesperson.

“I think we raise a wonderful product and we should promote it,” Melanie said. “I teach almost every day in one manner or another.”

Becky Wallace, a family and consumer science agent in Hamilton County, wrote this description of one of Melanie’s demonstrations in 2000:

“A couple of weeks ago, she worked with nine youth (9 to 11 year olds) in their 4-H foods class. The kids had a ball. There was flour all over and lots of noisy excitement and terrific breads when they were done. Many had never worked with bread dough before and they loved it. Melanie explained all the steps so thoroughly, yet simply so the kids would understand. The noise and chaos didn’t phase her one bit!”

Some of Melanie Eddy’s favorite memories include baking with her own four children, although children across the state have learned from her demonstrations.
Melanie, who did not bake bread until after she was married, said she particularly loves teaching how to make “fancy” breads – shaped breads, tea rings and others. She is especially proud that her own children – a ag geneticist, a food scientist, a farmer and a podiatrist – all have taken these agricultural lessons with them into adulthood.  

“My children have learned the wheat story and are helping promote it,” she proudly said, sharing that some of her favorite family photos are of her children covered in flour.

Sadly, Melanie said that with fewer home economists, increasing educational requirements and more extracurricular activities, the request for bread baking demonstrations has declined. To reach those audiences, she called for more folks to join as spokespeople, particularly those that are young, enthusiastic and have connections to their local 4-H programs and school districts.

But, when asked about using an assistant for her own demonstrations, she cheerfully replied, “That’s my husband. He is really good help.”

Kent served as a Kansas Wheat Commissioner for six years. The couple is also the only individual members of the Wheat Foods Council, an industry organization dedicated to education consumers about the healthfulness of wheat in the diet.

“There are so many fad diets, we need a national organizations to respond to the strange claims and bad press,” she said. “They do a really good job.”

Melanie continues to demonstrate baking, cooking and sewing, sometimes now with a second generation of students. On the farm, her youngest son is now working with her husband on their dryland operation on the border of Colorado.

An optimal summarization of Melanie’s contributions to the Kansas wheat industry was included in the speech naming her Wheat Woman of the Year in 1995: “The person whom we have chosen this year exemplifies a woman who markets what her family produces. She is not only a wheat producer, but a mother and a volunteer who educates consumers of all ages about wheat and the nutrition of foods.”

Thank you to Melanie and Kent for your years of service!

By Julia Debes