First person 

Sierra Cain

The days are getting longer and temperatures are rising! Here at the extension office, we are excited for spring programs and are very proud of a series being offered throughout the 2024 year called “Extension Homesteading and YOU.”  

Throughout this series, we will cover trending topics that can help improve individual and family self-reliance. Our homesteading series will cover the benefits and possibilities of growing and preserving your own food, creating nutritious meals at home, and learning how to be resourceful with what you have. 

Homesteading is a lifestyle change, but not an all-or-nothing approach. So, join us for these helpful homesteading articles and review our program announcements section for further information and hands on experience through workshops.  

In January, I wrote on how to care for backyard flocks during winter and, in February, Crystal wrote about goal setting. So, what better way to continue our series but through sourdough.  

Sourdough is a lovely bread that many of us enjoy, and this type of bread can be made from home with very simple ingredients. Sourdough has been around for many years and continues to be a staple in our homes. To make sourdough bread, you must have a sourdough starter, which is a mixture of flour and water that, through the fermentation process, possesses a diverse population of wild yeasts and bacteria. These wild yeasts/bacteria and naturally-occurring bacteria have the power to make your breads rise and have that sour taste. But, these wild yeasts certainly rise the old-fashioned way if you will, and take more time to proof/rise than commercial yeast.  

I like to say, if someone baked you a loaf of sourdough, they must really like you! While the process of making the bread is longer and slightly more complex than commercialized yeast breads, the outcome is delicious.   

How do you get a sourdough starter? Well, a simple answer is to find someone who already has one. You can also purchase one, typically online, as starters can be dehydrated and rehydrated/fed for home use. Or you can make your very own at home using a flour to water ratio and time.  

Remember, this is a long-term commitment as you need to keep the yeast and bacteria alive. This is why sourdough starters get “fed” before use and throughout the week if you are not using it. Feeding a sourdough starter is simply adding more nutrients to the starter using a flour and water ratio added to a portion of the sourdough starter. This will cause your starter to become “active” as the yeast and bacteria processes the nutrients making it ready to bake with! Not all your starter is used for a feeding, as you will discard much of the starter.  

Sourdough is not only used to bake bread, but it can also be used to make biscuits, brownies, cookies and many other tasty items. These are usually referred to as discard recipes. So you are not wasting the starter that you did not use for a feeding. But, why sourdough? 

Sourdough has an increased digestibility due to the Lactobacillus bacteria present that lowers the pH in the bread making it gut friendly. The longer fermentation of sourdough also breaks down much of the complex nutrients into smaller units and can allow for more availability of minerals for absorption. Plus, the ingredients are super simple! Basic sourdough bread loaves typically are made up of four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and the sourdough starter (fermented leaven).     

While the above nutritional facts and simple ingredients are helpful, you should know that some store-bought loaves may not be naturally leavening sourdough. Be sure to read the label of your store-bought loaf for some key information.  

Ingredient labels that have more than the ingredients above and have added commercial baking yeast are not naturally leavened but are likely still tasty. As a consumer, you can be equipped with the knowledge to make the best choice for your family with informed decisions, especially if you are wanting a naturally leavened loaf or not.   

If you are interested in receiving recipes and hands on instructions for sourdough, please sign up for our sourdough class in April. We will also give you a sourdough starter.   

(References: Bunning, M., Shackelton, E., Pennington, A., & Clark, C. (2022, March). Understanding and Selecting Sourdough for Health Benefits. Colorado State University Extension. March 1, 2024,   

Program announcements 

To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 505-565-3002. For more information, visit  

  • Ready, Set, GROW! Free gardening classes are being offered virtually. Registration required; visit the link for upcoming classes and more information at  
  • Financial Literacy Virtual Workshop for New Mexico for youth ages 16-26. This is a free series offered on Zoom for youth throughout New Mexico. Registration is required; visit to register today. 
  • Rocket Launch Valencia County Youth, ages 8-18, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Saturday, March 23. This is a free event to learn more about rockets. Youth will participate in building rockets and end the day with a launch. Registration is required; call the extension office at 505-565-3002 to reserve a spot. Contact Crystal Anaya at [email protected] for more information.  
  • Spring Sourdough workshop from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Tuesday, April 16, at the Valencia County Extension Office. Participants will learn the techniques of sourdough through instruction and hands on practice. Each participant will receive a sourdough starter and recipes to go home. The lab cost is $10. Space is limited. Call the extension office to get registered at 505-565-3002. Contact Sierra Cain or Crystal Anaya for more information.  

If you are an individual with a disability who requires auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service Office at 505-565-3002 two weeks in advance of the event. 

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Sierra Cain, guest columnist

Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.