A Grain Community

A Grain Community

by Kimberley Bell June 04, 2021

Kimberley Bell of Small Food Bakery reflects on four years of YQ Wheat grown for the bakery - since Josiah dropped by with a pack of YQ Flour in 2016 - and the people-centred systems that have emerged and continue to emerge, around it. 
A walk in the Wheat at Little Bytham
A walk in the wheat last Tuesday: amongst the plants that will yield our food for the next (as yet unknown) year ahead. It's year 4 of YQ wheat in the field at John and Guy Turner’s organic farm at Little Bytham, photographed here with some of the people that have made, and some who will continue the story.

Little Bytham <p>YQ Wheat year 3
Year 3 in the field again at Bytham and...
Dressing YQ Wheat at Upper Wick Farm in Worcestershire

...year 2 at Upper Wick Farm in Worcestershire with Meg and Will Edmonds using their old dresser to clean the YQ they’d grown after harvest 

Little Bytham YQ Wheat year 1

Back to Little Bytham for year 1 and...

Greenacres Farm first field-scale YQ Wheat away from Wakelyns

...over to Greenacres Farm in Shropshire for year -1, a trip to see Mark Lea growing YQ on a field scale away from Wakelyns for the first time.

Martin Wolfe with YQ at Wakelyns in Suffolk

An early visits to Wakelyns Agroforestry in Suffolk to learn more from Professor Martin Wolfe at the home of this wheat.

Martin Wolfe with YQ trial plots in Bologna

Martin in trial plots at the first International Conference of Wheat Landraces for Healthy Food Systems in Bologna.

YQ is a true population of wheat, born out of cross breeding 20 wheat varieties every which way possible to create 20 unique parent plants. Grown out for 20 or so years without human / intentional selection. Its a great innovation. But also, its humbling, a story about the importance of diversity for resilience a reminder to step back and stop trying to control everything. Martin Wolfe (who created the YQ population) once said to me to trust that everything will balance in the end if you just create conditions for diversity, then let it be. Including people.

Before he died, Martin co-authored an academic article (with Salvatore Ceccarelli) exploring definitions for words like ‘population’ in the context of cereals. These definitions were contentious amongst those at the Bologna conference and I’m grateful for the insight and clarity offered by the article. For me (like many), this language is new and the boundaries between the categories of grain plants are (purposefully / positively) blurred.

I asked Martin when YQ will become a landrace wheat. He replied that we can’t really say. (It does when it does).

Standing in the new grain silo on the farm this year, the power of what a small, committed group of people can do is illustrated. Not only in changing what is grown in the fields, but small scale mills, grain storage, cleaning and infrastructure have been established, retail business have been built, recipes are being written, the story is being told.

Looking at these photos from the last five years, and being witness to many other farms and bakeries who’ve been nourished by YQ wheat, its only now that I’ve understood that YQ has become a landrace; a wheat of people and place. It may be an annual crop but it is now an immovable part of our history and culture. (It would have been Martin’s birthday this week).

Grain silos at Little Bytham

Kimberley Bell
Kimberley Bell


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