Soil to Slice community growers gathered in May to share their experiences growing heritage wheat, to hear an update on Scotland the Bread’s nutrient research and to practice baking real bread. Throughout the day, participants shared stories of how the simple act of growing wheat in public spaces has sparked conversations and generated interest in how this staple crop is grown, harvested and distributed in our current system.
These discussions, and the questions they pose about establishing a more homegrown solution, are at the heart of Scotland the Bread’s vision for a home-grown, healthy future.
Soil to Slice
Soil to Slice is a project that set out to involve community growers in our research and to create opportunities for more people in Scotland to see what goes into the whole process of producing bread.
Participants are involved at every stage – from sowing and tending the wheat, to threshing and milling the grain, to baking and sharing their own nutritious, slowly-fermented bread. With the help of Funding Enlightened Agriculture, the A Team Challenge and the generosity of 117 people who pledged money last year, we raised £6,880 to provide seed, small-scale equipment and a full season of support to six community growing groups.
In autumn 2015, community groups in Stirling (Riverside Bakery), Glasgow (Locavore and the Concrete Garden) and Edinburgh (Granton Community Gardeners) sowed Scotland the Bread’s trial wheats, and new sites (the Edible Gardening Project at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Inverleith Allotments) joined the project this spring.
By late summer, the groups will be able to harvest, thresh, clean and mill this grain and turn it into healthy, digestible bread. Each group has committed to recording what happens at each stage of the process – from soil to slice – and their findings will form part of our participatory research aimed at supporting a more citizen-centred food system.
Gathering in the Scottish Borders
The workshop in May provided an opportunity for leaders of all of the participating groups to meet each other, discuss progress and share strategies for the upcoming months. Participants considered questions and concerns about the growing process, received an update on the wheat trial research and helped refine the data collection tools for the community groups.
For some hands-on practice, Andrew Whitley had prepared some ciabatta dough for the group, using the sponge-and-dough method and flour from one of the wheat trials. Since many of the growers have a keen interest in – and in some cases personal and professional experience of – baking real bread, those with less experience were invited to the table to shape some loaves to be baked for lunch.
Between sharing stories and strategies, and a hearty organic lunch, participants were invited to conduct a taste comparison of sourdough loaves from the three main trial wheat varieties – Rouge D’Ecosse, Hunters and Golden Drop.
Finally, Andrew led the group on a farm walk to tour the varieties growing at Macbiehill this year. He also introduced the community growers to the thresher purchased as part of the Soil to Slice programme for use with the trial grains.
We left the day feeling encouraged and inspired by the engagement these community growing projects have with Scotland the Bread’s research. By growing grains in public spaces across Scotland, the Soil to Slice growers are helping us to find the most nutritious wheats for baking real bread close to home.
What’s next for Soil to Slice
We’ll keep updating you here about the Soil to Slice community growing projects, or you can hear all about their progress by following us @scotlandbread.