The Abbey’s bakery has not experienced drastic change since the monks first opened it in 1953. It still uses some original machinery and while most of the processes are automated, much of these processes were existing when the bakery first opened. Paul, a recent graduate from SUNY Geneseo and non-member of the abbey, took us on a tour of the bakery where we shown the full process of the industrial bread-making. Paul used to visit the abbey as a student at Geneseo for religious observance but after graduating with a History major from the college, Paul heard about an open position as assistant manager at the abbey’s bakery and began working.
While on the tour, Paul stressed how old some of the bakery’s machines are, noting that they were probably in use before the three of us were born. While standing in front of the bakery’s Hercules Mixer, Paul told us excitedly about his plans to replace it with a new one in the upcoming months. The machine’s American manufacturer, the J.H. Day Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, is no longer in business, making it difficult to find parts for the machines when they break down. Although Paul mentioned that there is someone in the Piffard area who can make some of the parts to the old machines, he mentioned the ease of simply updating the machinery to reduce future costs.
It’s hard not to view the Hercules Mixer as a reminder of the decline of the American manufacturing industry, turning Factory Belt cities into the Rust Belt. The individual consequences of manufacturing outsourcing in this country has increased American dependence on outside forces, thus likely encouraging some of the small-scale subsistence initiatives our class has focused on in the course’s text, Erik Reece’s Utopia Drive: A Road Trip Through America’s Most Radical Idea. Still, the bakery’s new assistant manager seems to feel pressured to adapt to the times and produce Monks’ Bread as efficiently as possible.