At the Oxford Real Farming Conference on 7th January 2016, Anne Parry of the Welsh Grain Forum, Andrew Forbes of Brockwell Bake and Andrew Whitley of Scotland The Bread presented their agro-ecological perspectives on the need for a new grain revolution in the UK, a movement whose time has surely come. Each of the speakers is bringing together cereal scientists, farmers, millers and bakers to create a thriving, regional grain economy with the common purposes of health, sustainability and food sovereignty.
Why a New Grain Revolution?
Gluten-intolerance and poor digestibility are two of the many reasons why growing numbers of people spurn the bread on offer. It fails to meet citizens’ nutritional needs and is one of the most distorted parts of a broken food system.
In England, Wales and Scotland there are farmers and cereal scientists who reject the mantra of production for yield and uniformity and are discovering, or re-discovering, the valuable properties of grains for human nutrition using rigorous and participatory research. Millers are contributing their deep knowledge of grains, how to get the best from them and, crucially, how to keep the best in them. Rejecting the common myth that it is not possible to grow bread making wheat in most of the British Isles, enlightened farmers and millers are growing and processing grain for its ability to nourish and to make tasty, digestible bread. Artisan bakers are making slowly fermented bread in and for their local communities, paying attention to the provenance or the flour they use, the way it is produced and the true cost of that production.
The distinctions between the farmer, the miller and the baker become less distinct and less divisive as the supply chain shortens and co-production of food to nourish people develops.
The idea for the session at ORFC came, in part, from the successful Farm to Loaf Symposium at E5 Bakehouse in October 2015. Kate Hayter, artisan baker at E5, spoke of the ‘integrity of the flour - respect for the grain’ and food anthropologist Bee Farrell took this as the title for her succinct reflections on the symposium for the Sustainable Food Trust, here.
The Workshop was chaired by Veronica Burke, co-founder of Scotland The Bread. It was followed by an opportunity to Taste The Revolution; a shared lunch of breads from four bakeries, Scottish and Welsh cheeses and companionship.
Taste The Revolution
For the breads we thank:
e5 bakehouse, Hackney, London (Ben Mackinnon and team) for
Wholemeal miche: Gilchesters flour, 2-hr leaven, rye starter [Cann Mills rye] and
Spelt Loaf: Shire Farm biodynamic spelt, stoneground at e5
The Modern Baker, Oxford (Melissa Sharp) for
House sourdough: Stoates (Cann Mills) wheat and rye flour Rude Health sprouted whole wheat
Aston's Bakehouse, Sheepdrove Farm (Syd Aston) for
Red Fife Sourdough: Sheepdrove organic home-milled grain
Felin Ganol Watermill (Anne Parry) for
Bara Brith: April Bearded whole wheat grown at Fronlas Farm, Trelech, milled at Felin Ganol.
Brockwell Bake (Andrew Forbes) for
Brixton Sour, a sourdough bread made entirely from organic and English grain grown near London: using rye, Mulika wheat and Amaretto wheat.
For the cheeses, we thank:
Wilma & David Finlay for organic Laganory made from raw milk at Finlay’s Farm, Galloway, where calves stay with the cows until natural weaning.
Helen Brown at Millairies Farm, Galloway, where the ewes are milked once a day, for Cairnsmore unpasteurised organic sheep's milk cheese.
Loch Arthur Creamery social enterprise in a Camphill Community in SW Scotland for Loch Arthur Farmhouse cheese made from organic cow's milk.
Gwynfor & Thelma Adams at Glyneithinog, in the valley of the river Cych, for Caws Cenarth Caerffili, a creamy, fresh-flavoured cow's milk cheese.
Cothi Valley Goats for Ranscombe semi-hard goats cheese with a distinctly nutty flavour.