Just over a year ago, on the fourth day of spring, Joan van der Linde had an epiphany: she sensed a whisper in her heart telling her to bake bread for people.

Moments later, the Morris resident attached a bread basket to the lamp post at the end of her driveway. The bread would always be given away at no cost to anyone. 

A friend of van der Linde's was the first to benefit from the free bread and picked up her first loaf the very next day. The creator of the Bread Basket then posted her initiative on social media and now, 12 months later, Joan van der Linde has reached a milestone, she has baked 1,000 loaves of bread in one year.

“I would never in a million years have guessed that it went the way it did,” said van der Linde. “When I started this I thought maybe 100 loaves and then it kind of picked up momentum. When I made this bold proclamation in December that I would reach 1,000 - I didn't actually know what I was getting myself in for at that point.”

The goal of 1,000 loaves was just barely within van der Linde's reach and she needed a renovation to her kitchen in order to cross the finish line.

“I planned my schedule around the Bread Basket in the last three weeks. I did the math and I realized I was not going to make it to a 1,000 by March 23rd so I got another machine going and I just hammered down," she shares. "I knew that I wanted to get to this goal and so, I have to say, it was kind of all-consuming in the past month or so.”

Van der Linde noted that it was a totally overwhelming feeling to attain her goal of 1,000 loaves.

“When I woke up that morning I knew that I had accomplished what I felt was set in my heart to do by serving the community and beyond with this fact of love and kindness. I knew the joy that it had brought into people's lives. Honestly, it was like I had finished running a marathon. Even still to this day, I'm kind of in recovery from running this marathon.”

Van der Linde baked 500 loaves of bread for the Bread Basket from March to December and then equalled that output in January, February and March of this year.

“I had my machines scheduled to the minute,” explained van der Linde when asked how she managed to bake 500 loaves of bread in three months. “I didn't do any night baking because I treasure my sleep too much to do that. I got five machines and for about three weeks I was doing 10 loaves a day."

She says each new loaf was given to an administrator who ensured they ended up in good crumb-craving homes. 

"This was hugely helpful and helped spread the love as well,” she comments.

To keep track of every single baked good, van der Linde kept a bread journal. She says most of her baking throughout the year went to Rosenort, Lowe Farm, St. Jean and Morris, though the bread was enjoyed in places as far as Winkler and Winnipeg on a handful of occasions.

As for loaf 1,000 ... “I kept it for myself,” van der Linde grins.

“This sounds totally crazy but I varnished it. It's become a trophy. I have the sign that I made for loaf 1,000. I googled it to see how I could preserve a loaf of bread, so I dried it out, bought a clear varnish type spray, and then I sprayed it about five times. It sits on my counter right now. Who knows if it's going to be there forever, but it is a keepsake.

"It's a milestone trophy.”

For van der Linde both the Bread Basket and the new trophy symbolize 12 months of joy that she helped spread across the region, like butter over bread. Van der Linde says a primary inspiration for her throughout this endeavour was the biblical story of Jesus feeding 5,000 hungry followers with five loaves and two fish.

"I think I kind of did that," she comments "If I do the math I kind of fed 5,000." 

Like Jesus gave thanks for the bread before breaking it into pieces and distributing it, van der Linde hopes her efforts have elicited similar levels of thankfulness.

"We can look at the things that are not normal anymore from a year ago but if we focus on things to be grateful for then I think that's a win-win for us as we continue on in this unusual time.”

Meanwhile, Chapter Two of her Bread Basket Project will start this coming Monday, April 5th.

“I don't know for sure but it could be another 1,000 in the next year," remarks van der Linde. "I did the math and it's very doable and I'm not about to stop baking bread. There's too many people that are loving this project and are loving to eat the bread and so we will carry on."

Van der Linde says this time around she will approach the situation with less intensity, dialling it back to only four fresh loaves every morning "so that I don't have to schedule my life around bread".

he adds the list of those interested in taking advantage of her next year-long baking spree has already begun to grow.