Why Hylsten Bakery are working with local millers and British grown wheat

At Hylsten Bakery we use organic, stoneground flour to bake delicious, nutritious bread with as little waste from field to loaf as possible. The bakery and school is our way of contributing to building a resilient local food system, to support local growers and millers, and to share our knowledge of sourdough baking and love for good food with our community.

We are incredibly lucky to have Andrew Ghilespy from Fresh Flour in the unit right next door to us. Since studying Sustainable Food Systems at Schumacher College and writing his dissertation on the U.K grain economy and the diversity (or lack thereof) of wheat varieties, Andrew has been on a mission to grow and mill grain that is not only delicious, but is also part of a sustainable food system that is nourishing the soil it is grown in, and provides the appropriate income for the farmers who grow it.

Our current global grain economy has become a terrifying commodity market where wheat is traded all over the world, pushing its price down and making it nearly impossible for small scale farmers to make a living. Not only this, but many of these commodity wheats are modern varieties that rely heavily on chemical fertilisers and pesticides in order to produce the desired crop. 

By working closely with millers like Andrew, we hope to contribute to a new type of grain economy, where we shift the value away from profit, and towards flavour, soil health, fairer wages and crop diversity. By diversifying our crop varieties, we can build resilience into our agricultural practices, bringing farmers, bakers and consumers much greater food security. We often work with wheat crops known as ‘landrace varieties’. These are essentially wheat populations that have been grown in a particular region for several generations. Over time, they gradually evolve, adapting to the specifics of their environment. Unlike modern varieties, these plants don’t rely on chemical fertilisers and must work harder for the nourishment that they need. To do this, they develop much longer roots, pulling up nutrients from deep underground. This creates greater biodiversity in the earth below and protects our precious topsoil from being eroded. The result is win win: healthy soil means healthy plants, healthy plants means healthy wheat, and healthy wheat means healthy people. 

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