Search

Grainoftruth.org

Ecological food production

Tag

agriculture

Meat or not to meat – is that the question?

What are the environmental impacts of the manufacture and consumption of protein in the UK?

 Introduction.

The livestock sector is the world’s largest user of agricultural land, according to the IPCC (2000). Whilst the sector provides high value food and many other economic and social functions, its resource use implications are large. Although the land area it uses in Western Europe has stabilised in the years 1961 – 2002 at 1,838 (Mha) it has increased in other parts of the world, through grazing and the use of feed crops, by an average of 18% (IPCC, 2000). Total agricultural land has increased in area by 10% from 4,562 (Mha) to 5,023 (IPCC, 2005). 75 per cent of this land and 23 per cent of the arable part of this land is used to raise animals, through growing crops for animal feed and through the use of pastures as grazing land (Chatham House, 2014). Putting it simply, cropland and pasture land account for 50% of the worlds ice free land (Clarke, M & Tillman, D, 2014). Numbers of livestock have also increased in the last 12 years; cattle numbers up 23%, sheep numbers are almost static, pigs up 13% and chicken numbers increased by a staggering 106% (Meat stats 9, 2014)

Million livestock 2012 Global EU UK
Cattle 1,458.2 86.6 9.7
Sheep 1,169 86.2 22
Pigs 966.2 148.6 4.3
Chickens 21,867 1,259 149
Total 25,460.4 1,580.4 185

Fig 1. MeatStats 9, Issued August 2014 | Global Livestock Numbers. UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, US Department of Agriculture, Eurostat, Statistics New Zealand, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Between 1963 and 2014, meat production rose from 78 million tons to more than 300 million tons – a fourfold increase (Purcell, C. 2016). What is going on with our livestock numbers?

Our diets have also developed. According to the IPCC (2007) global calorie intake increased by 31% from 1961-70 (2,032) to 2001-2 (2,657) and animal sourced protein, as part of this diet, from 18% to 30% a 67% increase. UK diets, according to the UK government, currently stand at an average of 3,450 calories a day and protein at 70.6g a day (132% of RDI, of which 23% is from animal sources). The consumption of beef according to the FAO has increased 28% from 1961 – 2008/10.

We are using more land for livestock agriculture, and this increase is not confined to land that is unsuitable for growing food for human consumption (uplands, scrub lands etc) adding to the complexity of deforestation. Simon Fairlie in ‘Meat The Benign Extravagance’ puts this mainly down to land speculation, others put it down to growing soya and then more still to cattle grazing. I would argue also that the political situation in South America – as that’s the area we think of when we talk about deforestation in the main – and global industries’ exploitation of this has a part to play. Namely that there are land grabs by both socialist governments and global mining companies to grab resources from the region in the form of metals and minerals. Soya and cattle are merely a precursor to this process. We are also cultivating too many animals and producing too much meat. Consequently or even concurrently we are eating too much food, in the form of calories, meat and protein from livestock (eggs and dairy).

As a consequence, global livestock production and associated activities, including land-use change, are estimated to account for 7.1 Gt CO2e per annum or 10 – 20% of global anthropogenic emissions (Steinfeld et al., 2006. J. Vermeulen, et al,. Smith et al., Smith P., M et al,.,2014I). Methane emissions account for 2.2 Gt or, 30% of these emissions, similar to the relative contribution of N2O, while land use and land-use change, together with deforestation related to provision of grazing, account for 2.7 Gt (38%) (Bruce, J, P1996 & IPCC, 1996). These emissions have increased by nearly 17% from 1990 to 2005, an average annual emission increase of about 60 MtCO2 -eq/yr (IPCC, 2007). The report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, 2014. puts the numbers like this:

 

Together, field-level practices represent approximately 15 per cent of total human-made greenhouse gas emissions, in the form of nitrous oxide (N2O) from the use of organic and inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, methane (CH4 ) from flooded rice fields and livestock, and carbon dioxide (CO2 ) from the loss of soil organic carbon in croplands and, due to intensified grazing, on pastures. In addition, the production of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, the tillage, irrigation and fertilization, and the transport, packaging and conservation of food require considerable amounts of energy, resulting in an additional 15 to 17 per cent of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions attributable to food systems.

 

 

The chart below illustrates a broad analysis of numbers quoting CO2e figures from various scientific reports of recent years:

Fig 2. CO2e released from agriculture

 

Report Agricultural total – Meat and Dairy Direct (livestock) emissions N2O, CH4 Indirect emissions Agricultural Land use
IPCC 2005 10 -12% 5 – 6% – methane 3.3%. Nitrous Oxide 2.8% 40% – 50% of worlds total land
IPCC 2007 13%
Chatham House 14.5%
J. Vermeulen, et al,. 15 – 25%
Worldwatch 51% 18%

from the report ‘livestocks long shadow’

33% – breathing CO2, Land change, livestock numbers increase over time, cooling, cooking, disposal, production,

marine activity and waste in all parts of the chain

8%
Smith et al,. 10-12% 15% – deforestation 37% of earths terrestrial surface
Barker et al. 14% 14%
Van der Werf et al,. 12% – deforestation
FCRN (UK) 19% 7%
Livestock dialogue.org 14.5%

 

Fig 2: A review of reports relating to GWP (global warming potential) for agriculture, livestock and land use and their contribution to CO2e per year. Researchers own, 2016.

 

The GLEAM 1.0 – Assessment of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation potential gives us some great graphics to illustrate and bring to life the research we are trying to undertake here.

gleam figure 3

Fig 3. Global significance of sector’s emissions. GHG emissions values are computed in GLEAM for 2005, while IPCC estimates are for 2004. GLEAM emissions estimate includes emissions attributed to edible products and to other goods and services.

Emissions by species

Cattle are the main contributor to the sector’s emissions with about 4.6 gigatonnes CO2-eq, which represents about 65 percent of sector’s emissions, see figure 4. Beef and dairy cattle generate similar amounts of greenhouse gases, see figure 4. Pigs, poultry, buffaloes and small ruminants have much lower emissions, representing between 7 and 10 percent of sector’s emissions. (see figure 5).

gleam figure 4

Fig 4. Global estimates of emissions by species. It includes emissions attributed to edible products and to other goods and services, such as draught power and wool. Beef cattle produce meat and non-edible outputs. Dairy cattle produce milk and meat as well as non-edible outputs.

 

gleam figure 5

Fig 5. . Global emission intensities by commodity. All commodities are expressed in a per protein basis. Averages are calculated at global scale and represent an aggregated value across different production systems and agro-ecological zones.

More specifically according to recent peer reviewed journals, protein supply (as this is what we are really trying to analyse in this report) – shown in fig 6. – shows enormous variation, but again, cattle CO2e per KG of protein delivered, according to the majority of reports, is the main contributor. This is backed up by fig 5 (above), which also emphasizes the enormous variations in emissions figures. This I would surmise is down to variations in the system the animal is part of, but we must mindful; there is not a direct relationship between the broad ‘type’ of system and the amount of Kg of CO2e it emits. The relationship is more complex and diverse that this ham fisted attempt at labeling. Further studies would have to undertaken to give credence to this line of thought.

 

CO2e Kg emissions per kg of protein

 

Type * CO2e KG per Kg LCA ** CO2e kg per kg of protein FAO *** CO2e kg from the production of commodities in the UK, the rest of Europe and the rest of the world for direct UK consumption. **** CO2e KG per KG of livestock protein eaten LCA ***** CO2e kg per kg of body weight ****** CO2e kg per kg food UK shipped to Sweden all energy
Cattle 342.00 56.40 24.00 5.45 23.00
Milk 1.19 1.10
Cheese – soft 2.00
Cheese – hard 6.10 12.00 8.80
Lamb 112 – 165 14.61 36.00 9.45 24.00
Pigs <100 10.10 8.00 3.97 9.20
Poultry <100 16.00 13.00 3.25 6.60
Eggs 3.80 5.50
Butter 8.10

Fig 6. CO2e emissions from a range of recent peer reviewed reports compiled by the researcher, 2016.

* Flysjö, Anna (2014)

** http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/

*** http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/how_low_report_1.pdf

**** http://tinyurl.com/cerrtef

***** Zervas, G (2012)

****** Gonzalez, A, et al,. 2011

LCA – Life cycle assessment. This type of assessment seems to be the industry standard for understanding total on farm and post farm gate emissions.

NB. There are large differences in kg CO2e emissions because of the models and methodologies used. For example cattle 6.5kg of CO2e emissions for 1kg of protein – dead weight; cattle 23kg of CO2e emissions per kg of protein including all energy uses post farm.

NB. The results are pulled together from various sources and represent a spectrum of opinion, therefore there is variation.

The next table illustrates how the our diets compare when looking at CO2e kg and how this converts to travel and emissions, as this is something we seem to understand to a greater degree.

Table 3. Six diet variations showing kg of CO2e emitted per day and for a year.
(kgCO2e/day) (kgCO2e/year)
High meat eaters (>= 100g/d) 7.19 2624
Medium meat eaters (50-99g/d) 4.67 1705
Low meat eaters (<50g/d) 3.91 1427
Fish eaters 3.81 1391
Vegetarians 3.81 1391
Vegan 2.89 1055

Fig 7. Scarborough, P, et al,. 2014. Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters and vegans and vegetarians in the UK.

 

  • A flight from London to Melbourne Australia uses 1,300kg CO2e. A change in diet from high meat eater (>= 100g/d) to vegetarian would mitigate this.
  • A flight from London to New York (960kg CO2e) could be mitigated by changing from high meat eater to low meat eater.
  • A family running a 10yr old car for 6k miles has a carbon footprint of 2,440 kgCO2e – roughly the same as moving two adults from high meat eaters to vegetarian diets. www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

 

Animal proteins large scale production by means of factory farming is a major driver of biodiversity loss, according to E. O. Wilson this may be the biggest depravity our generation leaves behind. A diet transition back to less animal protein could make a difference Aiking, H (2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix:

 

Fig 1. MeatStats 9, Issued August 2014 | Global Livestock Numbers. UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, US Department of Agriculture, Eurostat, Statistics New Zealand, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Fig 2: A review of reports relating to GWP for agriculture, livestock and land use and their contribution to CO2e per year. Researchers own, 2016.

 

Fig 3. Global significance of sector’s emissions. GHG emissions values are computed in GLEAM for 2005, while IPCC estimates are for 2004. GLEAM emissions estimate includes emissions attributed to edible products and to other goods and services. Accessed 1st Feb 2016 @ http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/

 

Fig 4. Global estimates of emissions by species. It includes emissions attributed to edible products and to other goods and services, such as draught power and wool. Beef cattle produce meat and non-edible outputs. Dairy cattle produce milk and meat as well as non-edible outputs. Accessed 1st Feb 2016 @ http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/

Fig 5. Global emission intensities by commodity. All commodities are expressed in a per protein basis. Averages are calculated at global scale and represent an aggregated value across different production systems and agro-ecological zones. Accessed 1st Feb 2016 @ http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/

Fig 6. Fig 6. CO2e emissions from a range of recent peer reviewed reports compiled by the researcher, 2016.

Fig 7. Scarborough, P, et al,. 2014. Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters and vegans and vegetarians in the UK.

Aiking, Harry. “Protein production: planet, profit, plus people?.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 100.Supplement 1 (2014): 483S-489S.

 

Baily, Rob, Antony Froggatt, and Laura Wellesley. “Livestock–Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption.” (2014) PDF

 

Bruce, James P., Hoe-sŏng Yi, and Erik F. Haites. Climate change 1995: Economic and social dimensions of climate change: Contribution of Working Group III to the second assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

 

De Schutter, O. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter. Final report: The transformative potential of the right to food.”Human Rights Council of the United Nations. Retrieved from http://www. srfood. org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/20140310_finalreport_en. pdf(2014).

 

Fairlie, Simon. Meat: a benign extravagance. Chelsea green publishing, 2010.

 

Flysjö, Anna, Mikkel Thrane, and John E. Hermansen. “Method to assess the carbon footprint at product level in the dairy industry.” International Dairy Journal 34.1 (2014): 86-92.

 

GLEAM, (2016), GLEAM 1.0 – Assessment of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation potential. Accessed online at: http://www.fao.org/gleam/results/en/ Last viewed 1st Feb 2016.

 

 

González, Alejandro D., Björn Frostell, and Annika Carlsson-Kanyama. “Protein efficiency per unit energy and per unit greenhouse gas emissions: potential contribution of diet choices to climate change mitigation.” Food Policy 36.5 (2011): 562-570.

 

IPCC, 2000: Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry. Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

 

MeatStats 9, Issued August 2014 | Global Livestock Numbers. UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, US Department of Agriculture, Eurostat, Statistics New Zealand, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

 

Scarborough, Peter, et al. “Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK.” Climatic change125.2 (2014): 179-192.

 

Smith, Pete, et al. “Policy and technological constraints to implementation of greenhouse gas mitigation options in agriculture.” Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 118.1 (2007): 6-28.

 

Smith P., M. Bustamante, H. Ahammad, H. Clark, H. Dong, E.A. Elsiddig, H. Haberl, R. Harper, J. House, M. Jafari, O. Masera, C. Mbow, N.H. Ravindranath, C.W. Rice, C. Robledo Abad, A. Romanovskaya, F. Sperling, and F. Tubiello, 2014: Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU). In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

 

Steinfeld, Henning, et al. Livestock’s long shadow: environmental issues and options. Food & Agriculture Org., 2006.

 

Tilman, David, and Michael Clark. “Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health.” Nature 515.7528 (2014): 518-522.

 

Zervas, G., and E. Tsiplakou. “An assessment of GHG emissions from small ruminants in comparison with GHG emissions from large ruminants and monogastric livestock.” Atmospheric Environment 49 (2012): 13-23.

 

Can the bread making process be entirely restorative?

What does bread mean to us in the UK today?

Bread and Wheat are intrinsically linked. Wheat is inedible until its either processed into bread or sprouted, and bread has only three essential ingredients; flour, of which wheat is the most commonly used ingredient, water and salt.

The industry surrounding bread in the UK – which is Europe’s 3rd largest producer – is industrialised and beyond the farm gate very concentrated. Almost all the 28k farmers growing wheat in the UK are intensive.

Baking bread is a £3 billion industry. 80% is produced in bread factories, with a further 17% baked in in-store bakeries. Just 3% is traditional baked. This represents the classic dichotomy of industrial v’s hand made, beauty v’s ugliness. The UK is so far behind the rest of Europe in craft bakeries three compared to 90 in Italy Sharpe et al, (2013) the next worst is Netherlands at 21. I would refute these figures of 2006, as I have contacted at least 30. There is no definition of craft bakery given. I would describe them as any person or persons who make bread by hand, have a slow ferment and distribute locally.

Although sales of organic bread rose 21% between 1998 to 2003 to £75 million, in the UK we still love buy our bread through chain retailers, yet another monoculture industrial system. More than 76% of bread sold in the UK is white (28% of it pre-sliced) Sharpe et al, (2013) This is despite consumers expressing worry over the nutritional content Sharpe et al, (2013) maybe its that classic research bias of saying one thing, more virtuous than the thing you are actually doing, just because someone is asking you.

In Britain today 80% of the bread we consume is made with the Chorleywood process. Back in 1960’s our national loaf was transformed, out went the social, slow, rich in texture bread of our grandparents. Replaced by a quick, economic, cold, and fully mechanised loaf that we buy today. It appeals to all the lowest common denominators of taste – this is a metaphor for the way western capitalism has sucked up our time and delivered us an insipid life. It is white and light and stays soft for days and is cheap. For increasing numbers of people, however, it is also inedible, Whitely, A (2011) UK farmers currently apply 250–300 kg N ha−1 in order to achieve the 13% protein content required for the Chorleywood Bread making Process

Sharpe et al, (2013) raise a point that is a constant resonating thought, can bread have terrior? Just like wine? Why not, they are both fermented products, as long as we don’t use industrial processes or man maid yeasts. In their report they say that people don’t care about where the wheat that made their bread comes from, they see bread as a commodity. They want consistency. I hear this constantly when we talk to farmers and consumers alike. I am not sure where this consistent, commoditized, everything at all times attitude has come from, well at least I find it hard to separate; chemical company, corporate retailer, consumer.  There is hope in the report from one piece of market research:

“However, there was some sense that this might change, in the light of a perceived growth of interest in provenance and local sourcing, presenting an opportunity for farmers to add value to their product: Every farmer in the UK is within 50 miles of consumers and can store almost his total production on farm. This gives UK farmers a great opportunity to differentiate themselves to customers (Merchant)” Sharpe et al, (2013)

There is no doubt that the nutritional value, adaptability and high yields of wheat have contributed to its success, but these alone are not sufficient to account for its current dominance over much of the temperate world. The key characteristic which has given it an advantage over other temperate crops is the unique properties of doughs formed from wheat flours, which allow it to be processed into a range of breads and other baked products (including cakes and biscuits), pasta and noodles, and other processed foods. These properties depend on the structures and interactions of the grain storage proteins, which together form the ‘gluten’ protein fraction.

Bread making; growing wheat, harvesting, processing into flour, adding water to it, fermenting this mixture, leaving it to develop (giving it time), stretching and working the mixture a little, adding salt, giving a little more time to it, working it a little more, heating the oven – to an inadequate temperature if you have a conventional oven – maybe a little more working and then cutting, putting the mix in the oven, spraying a little water (to aid the crust formation) and then letting the yeast or cultures, flour, salt, and water, do its thing. This is bread making to me. This takes time, emotion, and intuition; it flies in the face of quantity, competition, and domination, assertive tendencies that Fritjof Capra assimilates with masculine power in modern society. It kicks flour in the face of the Chorelywood process ‘bread maker’.

Up to now we have looked at the physical a spiritual importance of both bread and flour, I think you’ll agree they both represent, in the current food system, essential elements. The next three sections; breeding of plants and wheat, agriculture in the UK, and food security, deal with the some of the thoughts around why monocultures have been allowed to dominate in the wheat growing industry.

Can bread making be entirely restorative – part III

This, as the title alludes to, is the third part of the bread making story I am on – any advice on structure, content or narrative are more than welcome.

 Image

The history of wheat

 

Worldwide, wheat is one of the most important food crops to mankind and is now grown on more land than any other cereal crop. Wheat is a product of a complicated history whose origins can be traced back to pre-history. There is clear sequence of hybridization events between different wild grasses these events occurred naturally and led to the combining of the AA, BB and DD genomes, culminated in the 42 chromosomes present in hexaploid bread wheat Shewry, P, (2014) Letts, J (2014). There is a range of distinct cultivated forms of wheat that have been developed through selection, from the start of agrarian farming to the examples of heritage wheats grown in the UK from the mid 1800s and the earliest introduction of the semi-dwarf habit into a UK bread wheat.

 

Wheat is counted among the ‘big three’ cereal crops, with over 600 million tonnes being harvested annually. For example, in 2007, the total world harvest was about 607 m tonnes compared with 652 m tonnes of rice and 785 m tonnes of maize (http://faostat.fao.org/). However, wheat is unrivalled in its range of cultivation, from 67º N in Scandinavia and Russia to 45º S in Argentina, including elevated regions in the tropics and sub-tropics (Feldman, 1995referenced in Shewry, P). It is also unrivalled in its range of diversity and its world trade is greater than all other crops combined. It has also been used to control foreign policies (Borlaug, N, viewed April 26th 2014).

 

In all the stats I look at, Defra, the ONS or from the website the vision of Britain through the ages, showed that wheat has always been the 2nd biggest UK crop behind Barley, see figure 1. Regionally wheat has dominated in the east of England and in the last ten years the volume and areas of growing have changed very little – see figures 2 and 3 – I tried to get data of regional growing through the last 100 years, but couldn’t find any. Anecdotally I have been told many times that the wheat growing has predominated in the east, as it is drier. Devon, where the majority of this project is is certainly not dry. Despite the lack of online information on growing patterns of wheat in the Devon over the last 100 years I still had access to some. Holy from Transition Town Tones Totnes surveyed and interviewed local farmers and asked whether they had grown cereal or could remember cereal being grown at any point in their lifetime. The answer was a resounding No, unless it was grown for animal feed. This is still the case, there is not as single farmer growing cereal of any kind, for human consumption, in south Devon and this has been the case for 100 years or more. It is believed by most of farmers interviewed that wheat growing is unsuitable for Devon’s wet climate. So I am attempting something that hasn’t been done for at least 100 years. I wouldn’t be attempting to grow if it seamed impossible, but I know that historically there has been wheat grown in Devon, although I couldn’t find any maps to back this up. What is clear, from researching on devon.gov website and from observing the style of buildings in Devon, is that there is a very strong tradition of thatching in, it’s the county in England with the most thatched roves and accounts for 17% of the total thatched buildings in the UK, devon.gov.  Historically the ‘devon reed’ was local straw from local wheat and barley, but now days it is water reed from Turkey, Hungry, and China that provides the material to renew thatch, devon.gov. Checking the archives on the website Wheat pedigree gives further proof of wheat being an important crop in Devon. They highlight ten old Devon wheat’s, I suppose you could call them landraces. Further research shows Orange Devon blue rough chaff is considered iconic bread wheat by the John Innes center, accessed online 31/5/2014. All three points allude to Devon being a region where wheat, and good wheat at that, good for thatching and good for bread making, was grown. I cannot find any evidence of the scale or of any county comparisons, but it feels right to me, especially as Britain has been warming up over the last 100 years, that Devon will be able to grow wheat of yield and quality to make the experiment economical. 

 

 

 

 

Can bread making be entirely restorative – part II

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. 

     

Can the bread making process be entirely restorative?

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.

If we do anything in life we should make certain it is not only functional – fit for purpose – but should also have beauty. 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑