Story and photo by Donna Iverson
Hilde Muller had just graduated from a Midwestern Quaker College with a degree in English literature, when a voice in her head said “bake bread.” Did she listen? Yes, she did. And today she is co-owner of Laughing Tree Brick Oven Bakery.
You can find her every Saturday at the Muskegon Farmers Market selling the bread that she and her husband, Charlie, bake daily at their organic solar-powered farm in Hart, Michigan.
But she hasn’t left her love of English literature behind. Her bakery website motto is “small good things matter.” Asked to elaborate, she says the quote comes from a Richard Carver short story, that her small good things are the baked goods she sells and cultivating respectful caring relationships with her customers and her employees.
Hilde was also influenced by E. F. Schumacher who wrote Small is Beautiful. Among other things, Schumacher advocated for cottage industries and small farms as well as frugality and low-impact development.
Born in Ann Arbor, her family moved to Ypsilanti when she was eight years old. It was there, after college, that she sought her first job at an Ypsilanti bakery. Charlie, the baker, turned her down as she was planning a trip to Kenya and he didn’t sent to train someone who would be leaving for Africa. When she got back from Kenya, she crossed paths with Charlie again and this time he wasn’t saying “no.” They ended up marrying, having three children, and opening the Hart bakery together.
In 2021, they are celebrating the bakery’s tenth anniversary with a solid and loyal customer base, especially in Muskegon. In addition to bread, they sell muffins, rolls, scones, and granola. Their bread has names like Homesteaders Wheat, Finn’s Pecan Raisin, Pilgrim Rye, and Cheddar Peppercorn.
During the pandemic, Laughing Tree Brick Oven Bakery offers its customers a “pay what you can” price for its bread. And under their Pay It Forward plan, it donates dozens of its bread loaves weekly to area food banks, including the Mission For Area People and Harbor Grace Church, both in Muskegon.
The loaves are paid for my bakery customers who can donate bread at their online website or at the Saturday market stand, Hilde said. The website is http://www.laughingtreebakery.com/
And does Hilde still hear the call to bake bread? Yes, it now says “go out and make some dough.”
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