About Bread Matters

Who –  Bread Matters is the creation of Andrew Whitley and Veronica Burke.

Andrew Whitley teaching a Bread Matters course studentAndrew Whitley and Veronica Burke at Macbiehill FarmhouseVeronica Burke slicing bread at Bread Matters

Andrew Whitley is the author of Bread Matters (Fourth Estate, 2006/2009) and co-founder of the UK’s Real Bread Campaign.  Andrew campaigns with thoughtfulness and commitment for better quality in our daily bread and an end to the adulteration of the staff of life. 

He created one of the UK’s first organic, artisan bakeries (the Village Bakery Melmerby in Cumbria) and ran it for more than 25 years. For more than two decades\ he was the only commercial baker in the UK using renewable energy by baking in wood-fired brick ovens.   A visit in the early 1990s to post-communist Russia enabled him to study sourdough and he then launched a range of naturally-fermented breads that met a growing demand from people in the UK who found they could no longer tolerate factory loaves. He left the Village Bakery in 2002 and started Bread Matters.

Increasingly concerned with the state of British bread, he did a Masters in Food Policy at City University, London, researching the changes in grains, agriculture and baking methods that seemed to be making our basic food less nutritious and less digestible. The resulting revelations in Bread Matters (the book) led to calls for a national campaign, which Andrew co-founded in 2008.

As well as teaching people to bake real bread on the authoritative Bread Matters courses, Andrew is developing an organic agro-forestry project among whose objectives is to help build a local grain economy. Andrew is a trustee of the Soil Association.

Veronica is a cook, facilitator and host who brings people together around a table of vital and nutritious food, where great things can begin to happen. She enjoyed a successful career in family court social work as an independent advocate for children, family mediatior, trainer and editor of childcare law journals. She has now turned her attention to the significance of food beyond its function as fuel for the body.  

Veronica was the founding chair of the board of directors at Breadshare Community-supported Bakery and creates collaborations between Bread Matters and young volunteering groups, food networks, local businesses, renewable energy providers and others. She understands the complexity of issues involved in social inclusion and the barriers that can stand in the way of food justice, health equality and meaningful community involvement. Veronica is developing Bread Matters' not-for-profit work in a way that makes these values explicit.

Emma Sinclair joined Bread Matters early in 2015 as our part-time organic grower and administrator. 
When you buy everyday breadmaking equipment such as proving baskets, tins, gloves, books and sourdough starters, it will usually be Emma who deals with your order. (Larger and more specialised equipment such as ovens and mills are Andrew's department.) 
Emma is usually here on Mondays and Thursdays, so those are good mornings to collect your order in person if you live locally. However, please be sure to telephone first to check there is someone here to help you. 

Emma Sinclair at Bread MattersEmma Sinclair at Bread Matters

Emma volunteered with us on the farm during 2014 before going on to complete a full season of learning and growing food in the New Farmer programme run by Nourish Scotland. She brings knowledge of herbs, acupuncture and Chinese medicine to her growing proficiency as a plantswoman and is already a vital member of the Bread Matters team, both in the office and on the farm. Having joined the three-day advanced course in May 2015, Emma can also turn out a very respectable Arkatena or Borodinsky. 
 

What we do

We promote the social, economic, cultural and health benefits of making bread with grain grown and milled in the region, using slow fermentation and human-scale production. Our considered approach to teaching, living, working and growing creates the right conditions for the fermentation of real bread and good ideas. We work collaboratively with local, sustainable businesses and with agencies, educators, policy makers and campaigns in pursuit of a fairer, healthier food system.

Specifically,

 

‘Can I say how much I enjoyed the course in August. It has been the absolute highlight of my year...
the knowledge gained is so marvellous, and my family and friends are all benefitting, as I am,
from the pleasure of baking more varied and better bread...

I think your teaching is excellent, and your knowledge and feeling for the whole subject is inspirational.

The location is a triumph as well. Everywhere you look - the kitchen, the oven
and the whole space - is a 'thing of beauty', including the view

Where and how it happens

Macbiehill Farmhouse entrance

Macbiehill Farmhouse, Lamancha, West Linton, Scotland (17 miles from Edinburgh)

We run the Bread Matters courses and hold meetings in our well-equipped baking studio with a wood-fired oven. The space is also our domestic kitchen and, whilst it provides comfortably for 12 people baking and a couple more joining us for meals, it retains the character of a hearth – a warm place at the heart of the house where people gather to cook, eat and tell stories. It’s powered by renewable energy and the lovely view from the window over to the Broughton Hills takes in some of the 5-acre organic agroforestry project that supplies Bread Matters with food, fuel and a diverse landscape.

 

 

bread making and baking studio

baking students during a Bread Matters breadmaking course
 

Macbiehill Farmhouse is powered entirely by renewable energy. We’re proud to be in partnership with our supplier Good Energy, whose electricity comes entirely from certified renewables like sunshine, wind and rain. They are developing new wind and solar farms across the UK and supporting a growing community of over 52,000 independent renewable generators, who are making the most of the natural elements around them. Good Energy is usually cheaper than the Big Six’s standard tariffs. Switch to Good Energy quoting GE2169 and they’ll give you £25 off your first bill.

 

Macbiehill Farmhouse wind generatorthe wood pile for firing the bread oventhe willow bedshelves inside Macbiehillthe organic garden in the grounds of Macbiehill Farmhouse

Since moving to Macbiehill Farmhouse in December 2009 we have installed; a 3.84kW photvoltaic array (grid linked), a 20 m2 passive solar hot water system, a 5kW Evance R9000 wind turbine (grid linked), a ground source heat pump supplying central heating and topping up the domestic hot water and a 6,500 litre rain water harvester, which flushes the house toilets and supplies the (clothes) washing machine. 

We generate around 12,000 kW hours of electricity out of a total of about 18,000 kW hours consumed per annum. Our electricity consumption is relatively high because we use no other fuel except some wood for the oven and for two small stoves.

the barnthe pond in autumnthe farmhouse

Transport and Accommodation - reducing the environmental impact of Bread Matters courses            

To reduce the number of car movements and the carbon emissions associated with our courses, and to enhance our guests’ experience of their visit to the Scottish Borders, we include transport in our thoughtful approach to use of resources. We have developed a green travel plan. 

Accommodation  The majority of course participants travel to the Borders to attend a course.  We provide a list of suitable local bed and breakfast, hotel and self-catering accommodation on the Bread Matters website and (only where it is requested) by post. The list specifies a number of places to stay that we provide transport to and from. Some proprietors give a discount to course participants who book directly with them.  

Travel  We use two local private hire (taxi) firms, Green Lyne and For 4 Taxi.  Once a year we provide the owners with a schedule of the courses and we usually meet with them to agree a plan for the journeys. 

by rail  We encourage this and provide an incentive to use public transport where possible.  Bread Matters provides transport from Waverley station in Edinburgh (and/or a pick-up from Straiton Park-and-Ride) at a specified time on the evening before a course, to all/any of the specified accommodation in the Lamancha, West Linton and Penicuik area.  The timing depends on the arrival of the last rail passenger in the group. 

by car  The number of cars involved is already significantly less than the number of participants on a course. Bread Matters provides a minibus or taxi (depending on the numbers using it) to bring course participants from any of the specified accommodation to Macbiehill on each morning of the course and to take them back to their accommodation at the end of each day. 

by air  We receive visitors from all over the world and tailor the arrangements for each person. This ranges from simply collecting them from Waverley station with other course members to organising taxis to and from the airport, liaising with the B&B proprietor, and occasionally to arranging other local services, planning visits to our collaborators etc. 

Food Sharing and enjoying meals are at the centre of our daily life. The food we give to all our guests, be they course participants, WWOOFers, exchangers or our friends and family members, is the best that we can provide. We are learning all the time about the nutritional value of foods, how to grow, store and prepare them to get the very best from their natural vitality. 

squash growing in the Bread Matters greenhouseroast squashhome grown cauliflower

Organic:  This is a matter of principle. The only ingredients we use that are not certified organic are wild e.g. game, or sustainably-fished e.g. sea trout, mackerel, herring and haddock.

Seasonal:  Veronica cooks from what is available here on the farm, with the addition of pulses, grains etc. and smaller amounts of eggs, meat and dairy bought from Whitmuir Farm. She is skilled at using ‘the whole’ of the supply. See her Fried Green Tomatoes website and blog for further information. 

Local:  The main sources are our own organic smallholding and Whitmuir organic farm. Dried goods and cleaning/household supplies are bought from Green City in Glasgow and from Vegware in Edinburgh.   

Nourishing: We have some of the best ingeriednts in the world on our doorstep and we try never to take that for granted. 

Frugal:  Baking to cater for Bread Matters guests (and for domestic use) is planned so that it utilises all the heat from the stone-lined electric oven, the wood-fired oven or the traditional electric oven. We always cover saucepans and use the minimum amount of water needed, which saves energy whilst conserving nutrients. A steam oven contributes to efficiency, as does the induction hob. Staff, guests and volunteers are encouraged to minimise food waste and to help us to reduce our energy consumption. In the studio kitchen we make our own marmalade, jam, mincemeat, chutney, granola (in the cooling wood fired oven), muesli, pickled home-grown gherkins etc.

For animals  After a course Andrew collects up all of the leftover dough and flour and bakes huge slabs of sourdough bread. This is soaked and drained before being fed sparingly to the geese (or given to ducks, pigs or chickens when we have them).  We purchase animal feed from Hi Peak, which is exclusively organic and sourced primarily in the UK. 

Maintenance and Cleaning  We use no chemicals and choose the lowest-impact cleaning products. For example:  e cloths, e mops, Ecover washing up liquid, Orange Mate de-grease cleaner, Bio-D eucalyptus disinfectant, Method products such as hand soap, shower and ceramic cleaner, personal cosmetics from Faith in Nature, Caurnie natural soaps, etc. We use no chlorine and have no problems with blocked drains. 

Decoration, furnishing, textiles We use Ecos paints inside and out. We buy exclusively organic cotton tea towels, aprons, hats, linen and hemp for baking couches, etc. These are all fairly traded, certified by the Soil Association and Ecocert. 

Stationery This is all sourced from the Green Stationery Company. All paper and envelopes are recycled. The Bread Matters brochure is always printed on recycled paper, as is all of the packaging for the Bread Matters Original Sourdough Starter.  We do no unnecessary photocopying or printing.  Course joining instructions etc. are usually sent out to participants electronically. 

Waste and Recycling Smallholding waste, garden waste and food waste are composted. Outgrades and trimmings are fed to animals. Egg shells are dried in the cooling wood-fired oven to remove possible contaminants and then used as slug control in the garden and smallholding. 

 
‘Health, whether of soil, plant, animal or man is one and indivisible’ – Lady Eve Balfour 
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