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Soil to Slice Growers Gather

Emmer wheat growing at Macbiehill Agroforestry as part of Scotland The Bread's research into nutritious grains for a sustainable local food system

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.

Soil to Slice community growers discuss nutrient research on trial grains; growing heritage wheat and baking slowly fermented real bread

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.

Soil to Slice community growers learn to make ciabatta loaves through slow fermentation process, real bread making at Macbiehill Farmhouse with Bread Matters Andrew Whitley

Andrew Whitley of Bread Matters teaches Soil to Slice community growers to bake slowly fermented ciabatta with trial grains and wholemeal flour from Hunter's wheat grown at Mungoswells in East Lothian, Scotland

Slowly fermented ciabatta loaves proof before baking at Macbiehill Farmhouse during Soil to Slice community growers workshop on growing, threshing, milling and baking nutritious bread in a sustainable way

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.

Soil to Slice workshop members received a wholesome, organic, vegetarian lunch during the workshop for community growers about the their involvement in citizen research to grow, harvest, thresh, mill and bake heritage wheat in Scotland

Loaf of sourdough bread baked at Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley with Hunter's heritage variety wheat

Wholemeal sourdough loaves baked in Scotland by Bread Matters Andrew Whitley for Scotland the Bread Soil to Slice community growers workshop in the Borders

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.

Andrew Whitley of Bread Matters gives a tour of Macbiehill farm in Scotland for Soil to Slice community growers. Participants are part of a programme of growing heritage grains in public spaces throughout Scotland to raise awareness about and interest in reclaiming the bread making process for communities.

Heritage varieties of wheat sprouting in the Scottish Borders

Soil to Slice community growers see the thresher bought through this programme to enable community scale growing of heritage grain varieties to be threshed, milled and baked close to come.

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.

Please also take a look at how you can get involved with Scotland the Bread and become a member by buying shares before 31 July 2016.