The monks are baking fruitcakes again! A couple of intended and unintended developments led the monks to an opportunity for change last year.
Recommendations from the University of Michigan’s sustainability study (2010) included improvement in the efficiency of equipment and energy throughout the community. At the same time, the commercial bread oven in the monastery bakery performed inconsistently and unreliably. However, replacing it came unexpectedly while tending to other priorities.
When the Michigan graduate students looked at energy consumption by the community and ways to reduce it, one problem was the behemoth bread oven. In earlier days, when the community was a lot larger in numbers, monks baked bread for a regional grocery store chain. Eventually, in a cost-cutting move, the bread contract was stopped by the store. The monks decided to start baking fruitcakes. Needless to say baking fruitcakes in a commercial bread oven is a very inefficient endeavor.
The monks chose to mercifully retire the bread oven, and they installed a new natural gas powered, convection oven in its place. The physical footprint and energy use of the new unit is a fraction of its predecessor. During the transition to the new oven, which included a year’s hiatus from baking fruitcake, the monks deliberated how to proceed with fruitcake sales and distribution. Now, with fewer monks involved in baking, marketing, and distributing many patrons’ favorite treat, the business model is changing. The fruitcakes are sold now in the monastery gift shop and in a few area retail stores. They are no longer being sold online or by phone.
We filmed the new process with the Holy Cross Abbey fruitcake team. Here’s a short video with Fr. Robert as narrator!