Asunción Coyo, who will participate in the InterSICOP 2022 Women Bakers Forum, is the owner of the family bakery Farré de l'Aigua, located in her birthplace, Noales, a small town in the province of Huesca (Aragon).
She grew up among flour, bread, cocas... Her parents had the only water mill in the area, "at that time they used to grind the cereals that the neighbours brought to make bread. The resulting flour was exchanged for kilos of bread. People came directly to the oven to get the bread, there was no bread delivery. There was also home delivery throughout the area, each day to a different area," he explains. In 1991, after the death of his father, he decided to continue with the family tradition by installing a new wood-fired rotary oven with a refractory hearth at the roadside, although he kept the kneading machine and the way of making bread.
1.- What are the advantages and disadvantages for a baker working in a rural environment?
The advantages; calm and relaxed life, enviable and privileged environment, sales, and direct relationship with the client. The disadvantages; a vehicle is necessary for delivery because the areas are extensive, the communications are not the most adequate, the transport of raw materials is far from the flour mills and the salesmen, the distances do not allow travel for training, the technicians who have to repair machinery or do maintenance are far away and their trips are excessively expensive, they do not come when you need them either, so you have to be prepared to fix on site what breaks down.
2.- What are the keys to be popular and attract people from other nearby towns?
The main key is to make a good product with good raw materials, with which the customer is satisfied. From there, word of mouth does the rest. It is also important to offer a good service with responsibility and efficiency.
3.- Does having a bakery establishment in a town force you to adjust expenses and adapt to the tastes of a very specific clientele? Or, on the contrary, does it allow you to be creative and experiment?
As I said before, the expenses are much higher because you have to have the means to carry out all the activity located in a rural area and, in addition, be prepared in case problems arise that you have to solve yourself, such as having a good collection of tools and small machinery to repair a breakdown. The product you make must be perfectly adapted to rural life. Bread that can be preserved for a longer period, since bread is not consumed during the day, for example, shepherds are supplied once a week. In a rural area you can be creative, and you have to be, but you have to take into account that there are few sales and you work by order. This way you dedicate and concentrate special elaborations on specific days. You can't make a production without considering the type of customer that will come and the quantity. The basis of a rural baker like me is the daily delivery to areas where there are more customers, if it were not for the delivery there would be no need to bake every day. It should be added that I can experiment and create new products, in fact, three years ago I started making customized breads and it is a great success.
4.- Does the fact that you are not in a big city cause you any problems when it comes to getting all the products you need? Do you have to place larger orders or place them in advance?
The orders have to be very controlled so as not to run out of raw material, since the salesmen and flour mills organize trips to fill their trucks and thus serve all the customers in the area. Although if I have ever run out of raw material, I have been served without any problem. The orders have to be bigger in order to have good supplies in case the transport could not arrive, both because of the weather and the communications.
5.- Do factors such as the weather influence the normal operation of the bakery?
Of course, living in the Pyrenees all the climatic changes affect both the elaboration of the bread and the means used for the delivery. In the elaboration of bread, it is necessary to take into account the abrupt temperature changes that occur in winter, I have from October to May an electric stove on day and night to achieve a good environment so that the dough does not suffer. The temperature of the water coming out of the tap is too cold and needs to be adjusted accordingly. The flour storehouse reaches very low temperatures, and it is necessary to move it so that it is at the ideal temperature for its manipulation. As for the means of transport, it is necessary to be prepared with a good vehicle, very well equipped for low temperatures and to have a good maintenance, with the expenses that this entails, and the time invested in it.
6.- What message would you give to all those colleagues who want to set up in a village but have not yet taken the plunge?
I can only say that they should think about it very well, that they should consider what I express in these lines and analyze many other factors, such as the existing population, because if there are no mouths there is no need for product. It is also necessary to know that the life in the rural environment is not easy, although with a lot of enthusiasm and motivation the objectives are achieved. I advise to analyze the situation in depth before undertaking the project to avoid disappointments. If you decide to go ahead, a good piece of advice: patience.