I have been interviewing and writing to people around the world about grain businesses and this is one of the exchanges…. 

Hi Monica,

Thank you kindly for your email. I find it amazing that 1/2 way across the world that the industrial agricultural problems are, even in the detail, match what we are experiencing in the UK. I spoke to Debbie from Breadshare last night who is a leading light in the push to expand the use and understanding of sourdough in the UK and she has the same issues you speak about with processing, as I do in Devon. The processing is either very small scale of very large scale. Where she is based Scotland, there are only three organic bakers and one organic mill. In Devon there are no organic mills. I’m not 100% sure on the organic bakers numbers yet, but I am sure who ever they are they get their flour from mills in other parts of the UK who in turn get their flour mostly from Kazakstan.

The problems here are multiple, as highlighted by my friend John Letts. 

> Wheat seed is controlled by a handful of seed companies and restricted, initially to protect farmers from rouge traders, to a national list. Every seed on that list has to be distinct, uniform and stable. This process is now firmly part of the industrialised process and is in the hands of Monsanto et el 

> Growing genetically diverse mixes of wheat (populations) is the antithesis of the above, is more natural, more resilient and hopefully tastier

> Harvesting – see brown wheat hanging its head slightly – which I am doing on the 22nd Aug with scythes, as thats what we are trained in is the only way to do it, and is adequate for up to three or four acres. Once it gets beyond that level we have to look at machinary and then buying and fixing old machines is the only route open to us. Unless we can share or swap equipment for bread? 

 

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> Processing is a massive problem. There are NO threshers or winnowing machines anywhere I know of nearby. I am trying to contact people who might have equipment I can borrow, I am also contacting trade bodies like the soil association, but I don’t hold much hope there. Otherwise I have a van that I can store the cut straw and grain and dry it out – not sure I’ll get 1/2 an acre in there though. Then I could use the van to drive around a separated the wheat from the chaff. Anyone have any designs for this hair-brained idea?

> Milling is ok. There is a national trust water mill that is happy to mill for me for free. 

> I am then going to give the flour to bakers and bake myself and have a stall and event celebrating the final chapter of fine sourdough breads.

All this will form the core of my thesis and act as the engagement core to spread the vibe and increase engagement. This practical core is essential as the embryo for all other activity to grow from. I am going to work with people in the UK to follow your lead and open things up at every opportunity. 

Monica is from – www.wholegrainconnection.org