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Abraham Palmer: A Systems Analyst's Half-Baked Idea

Abraham PalmerGraduation Year: 1993

Degree at Duke:
Bachelor of Science

Career Highlights:

  • Owner and operator of Box Turtle Bakery

From systems analyst to bread baker, Abraham Palmer is doing it all on his own.

The former Pi Kappa Phi president and Pep Band trumpet player is marching to a new song, it’s called “Box Turtle Bakery.”

For a number of years Palmer was a systems analyst for the North Carolina courts. Working across the systems development lifecycle - planning, requirements analysis, design, development, testing, and support was his career, but since his graduation in 1993, his enthusiasm for engineering and technology became tempered by the knowledge of the limits of our natural resources, which resulted in a new career search. Now, Palmer is the sole owner and operator of Box Turtle Bakery, which produces local, whole grain hearth breads.

“I enjoyed information systems, but baking is more fun,” said Palmer.

Inspired by his childhood memories of his mother making her homemade bread, Palmer has been baking his family’s bread for about ten years, but cooking is something that he and his siblings have always enjoyed doing. “I’m doing it the same way my mother did, homemade and because of its nutritional value,” said Palmer.

Box Turtle Bakery opened in August 2009 after a group of artisan bread makers took Palmer under their wing.

They informed him of marketing opportunities and challenges and also offered lots of support towards his venture.

“This area is great for this type of support,” said Palmer. “When I started, there really wasn’t anybody else doing it.” Today he bakes about 50 orders a week in his unique hearth oven at his in-house bakery.

It took about a year to design and build the “Alan Scott” styled, double hearth oven, which is known for its low fuel costs and retained heat design. “I didn’t have to use all of those semesters of math to help build the oven, but they did help,” laughed Palmer.

For efficiency and a cleaner burning stove, both hearths are connected together like a Russian masonry stove. This not only allows him to bake more loaves of bread in one firing, but also allows him to cook them at different temperatures. “Rocket stove” concepts were also used significantly to reduce the amount of air emissions and discourage deforestation.

The range of different ideas and concepts used to makeup Palmers’ stove is truly unique to Box Turtle Bakery.

But just using a hearth oven isn’t the only thing that contributes to his tasty breads. He’s committed to doing the most he possibly can with locally grown grains, even though he does import grains from out-of-state sometimes. He also uses well-grown local ingredients as well as certified organic ingredients.

“I bake things that don’t have more than five miles in them,” said Palmer.

Maple View Farm in Hillsboro, NC currently supplies milk, buttermilk and butter. Honey is supplied by Busy Bee Apiaries in Chapel Hill, NC and his local source of wheat is from Hogan’s Magnolia Farm, which is also in Chapel Hill.

Originally published Summer 2010