|Taken in July 2017, the above photo marks an ending and a beginning. The end of a long search for bakers willing to work with the population wheats being developed at Wakelyns Agroforestry by Martin Wolfe and the Organic Research Centre. The start of a new phase that has not only seen YQ Population Wheat widely grown and used, but also a blossoming of alternative – small scale – grain systems in the UK. Systems that re-value cereals and create relational rather than purely transactional connections between field and kitchen. That take anonymous commodities and put the name of the variety, the field, the farmer, the miller and the baker back in the frame.|
For Nick, William and I the journey that led to Hodmedod and that day in July 2017 started in earnest in 2008 with the Norwich Resilient Food Project. We were inspired by people like Andrew Whitley and John Letts who’d been working on grain, flour and bread for many years. But we’d also become convinced that the approach being developed by Martin at Wakelyns – employing diversity everywhere – held the answer to critical questions about climate change, resource depletion, biodiversity loss and our relationship with each other and the world around us.
If baking and eating bread could help prepare for an uncertain future, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?
But as it turned out what we were offering wasn’t all that appealing to most bakers. The idea that they should abandon the high specification flours they were using in favour of something quite technically challenging, to produce a 100% wholemeal loaf they thought their customers wouldn’t want to buy all because of a complex story about resilient food systems just didn’t cut it. Looking back, that was completely understandable!
But we kept dropping off population flour at bakeries. Just in case. If we could find some bakers, we’d convince the millers and if the millers were asking the farmers would grow. The Small Food Bakery had a clear commitment low input wholegrains and a different way of doing business, so I popped in to meet Kimberley Bell (flour in hand) late in 2016. That 20 minute chat changed everything; not only did she immediately get it, she knew how to talk to other bakers about it, and how to tell the story to her customers.
Read Kim's reflections on 4 years of YQ grown for Small Food and the people-centred systems that have emerged and continue to emerge, around it.
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