For those that read the first part and left your mark I thank you. I hope you find the next few posts, as I unravel my ideas, interesting.
Introduction: The question I must answer
I am hoping to start something rare in the UK: a bakery that grows its own wheat, wheat that is unique and takes NO inputs to grow. In fact the whole process should be restorative, for the soil, the soul and society (a term I have borrowed from Satish Kumar).
Can wheat be grown under a low-input system in Devon, and be of bread making quality?
Can the bread making process be entirely restorative?
This question involves enquiries around; growing grain, harvesting, processing, and marketing, of bread or pasta. The enquiry is entwined in questions of ecology, community, networks and systems.
Ensconced in the bread and sustainability question are several other questions that weave into the overall narrative and make broader sense of it. They are listed below.
- This enquiry is important for my own ecosophy as growing a staple food is a crucial part of being sustainable. If I ask myself why again and again I discover that I am growing wheat as part of my personal sustained system
- Is it possible for a person with no agriculture experience to grow wheat and make bread from that wheat within one year?
- How do you make a business out of making bread? In a world of exploitation, industry and civilisations how can bread making make a difference?
- I see the key battle between craft and big business driving the narrative, but the heart of the thesis is to dissect the meaning of the business in a world driven by economics
- I want to know the answer to this question as its important for me for my family to be as sustainable as possible, with little as few outside inputs as possible. A staple food is integral in this. In a world where traditional agriculture inputs are running out/ low, individuals need to think about how they can tread lightly on the planet
- Is the process of modern bread making a metaphor for modern society?
So as you have already discovered this enquiry is part practical and part philosophical. Part physical, ecological, and part ecospohy and intuitive, but all linked through the systems of community and network.
The physical side expresses itself like this: I am growing ½ acre of wheat mainly, with some perennial rye, bere barley, and some oats, in a lovely slopping field above a small market garden business in south Devon. I also have 11 trail plots of wheat populations and pure line varieties, also in Devon. I have 15 trial plots of wheat populations and pure line varieties in Oxfordshire on John Letts’s farm, along with a strip of mixed grain Emmer wheat and access to Johns Letts 12 acres of population should I need it.
As Joel Salatin says in ‘can you farm’ there is plenty of opportunity to get into farming and it doesn’t have to be full of drudgery. Somewhere in me is the belief that the process of growing wheat can be enjoyable, I’d like to see if, on a small field scale, this is true. Even in the worst case of long hours, dirty heavy work, it would be better than what I used to do; toiling through endless streams of emails, dealing with moody stressed people, traveling for hours through dark tunnels, to spend ten hours a day slumped over a desk, bending my back and neck and straining my eyes to see a screen with information on it that had no connection to me, to the land, or to the health of the planet. This is why it has to be worth, with the right philosophy, at least trying for a couple of years.
Before I start into the project I would like to set out the history of wheat and to underpin this with its social and religious importance and nutritional properties, albeit briefly. Prior to that it is important to set out my philosophy through the understanding of systems thinking, networks, and communities informed by the writings of Frotjof Capra.
The structures that bread making is part of
The systems we have adopted are mechanistic, mathematical, and anthropocentric. They give reward to rational, analytical, reductionist and masculine traits and depress the deep ecological, feminine, intuitive processes and traits some of us posses Capra, F (1996). Is this true of bread making and does bread making (the whole process) in the UK epitomise this disturbing segregation?
As is the case more often than not, as Patricia Shaw points out, conversations away from the formality of ‘the process’ often yield more than those deep inside the process. So it was no surprise to have revelations over dinner whilst chatting to my wife about the meal she had just cooked. We both eulogised about how food is important and that it is the crux of life. “How can people eat to be full” she said and I had to agree with the sentiment; that eating to fill a part of your body and to reduce this act to a very unimaginative, scientific, reductionist, course is missing the point of food; growing, eating, tasting, socialising, rejoicing. I am sure Fritjof Capra would say that we need to see the food system as a complex one, not in isolation but connected intrinsically to the social, economic and ecological ones. In this way we need to treat the growing of wheat and the making of bread as wrapped (no pun intended) in social, religious, political and ecological significance and to understand how these interrelationships have developed and why.
Fritjof also says that there is an inherent discrimination in many of the systems we see around us now. They are sexiest and imbued with male characteristics; linear, analytical, rational and reductionist. When reading this I couldn’t help my mind from wandering onto the subjects of modern agriculture and bread making.
When undertaking projects I think of this: If we do anything in life we should make certain it is not only functional, fit for purpose, but should also have beauty – inspired by William Morris and Charles Eisenstein.