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Soil To Slice

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Soil To Slice is a participation project that runs alongside the crop research and the locally-controlled production of a grain and flour supply.

In 2015, with support from the A Team Foundation, the Funding Enlightened Agriculture group and more than a hundred people who pledged more than £6,000 to a crowdfunding campaign, Bread Matters started the Soil To Slice citizen science project with the purpose of helping local communities to grow and bake their own healthy bread, from the soil to the slice.

Granton Community Gardeners

Scotland The Bread provides each group with:

  • Seed from three of the Scottish heritage wheat varieties in Scotland The Bread’s research project — and support each community group through a year of growing, milling and baking.
  • Small-scale equipment to sow and then to thresh, clean and mill the home-grown grains.
  • Training and support for groups to host their own breadmaking session using their home-grown wheat.
  • Advice at each stage, from sowing to baking, and collates the findings from each of the groups.

In April 2016, the new Bread For Good Community Benefit Society (trading as Scotland The Bread) took over Soil To Slice. In May, the first Soil To Slice community growers gathered to share their experiences of growing heritage wheat, hear an update on Scotland The Bread’s nutrient research and get a little hands-on experience baking with some of the heritage flour. Read our blog post about the event.

Who is involved?

Granton Community Gardeners is a grassroots group of local residents in Edinburgh. They grow food on street corners, encourage gardening and host meals. The urban garden is spread across nine small patches of land. In autumn 2015, Granton sowed Scotland The Bread’s trial wheats (Rouge d’Ecosse, Golden Drop and Hunters) on 35 square metre plots, from which they harvested 42 kg of grain. Community groups in Glasgow (Locavore and the Concrete Garden) grew the same wheats. In 2016 Granton sowed 100 square metres of wheat; both years this was threshed at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Harvest Festival (see below). Read our case study on Granton Community Gardeners’ Soil To Slice experience here. During Spring 2016, the Edible Gardening Project in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Inverleith Allotments joined the Soil To Slice project. Cyrenians Community Garden at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, the 2000m2 project at Whitmuir Farm and Pilton Community Gardens with North Edinburgh Arts sowed their first crop in autumn 2016.

Harvest and Threshing 2016

All of the community-grown grain was harvested during September 2016 and 2017. Some groups had very small samples, which could be threshed by hand. Three groups threshed at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Harvest Festival event.

Threshing #soiltoslice 2016 from Andrew Whitley on Vimeo.

The threshing machine was commissioned from a UK company that usually exports machinery of this scale to Africa. Technology of the appropriate scale is an essential part of developing a fair-trade, locally-controlled short supply chain.

Everyone who contributed to the crowdfunding in 2015, including all the bakers who joined in the ‘dough-sharing’, has played a part in providing the equipment and making this happen.


Fermenting Good Ideas

Growing grain on this small scale in urban plots isn’t going to create a viable supply of flour for any community – although it’s worth remembering that a plot of just eight by ten metres can produce enough wheat to make bread for one person for a full year.

However, even a tiny patch of wheat can change the way we think of our growing spaces and their connection with our food.

Abundant possibilities spring up when we are invited to re-imagine the way we ‘do’ bread and to formulate ideas to suit our unique, local circumstance. Possibilities such as: a community-scale micro-bakery to serve a school, a clinic or a care home; a peri-urban farm to supply freshly-milled flour to a local food network; a community to share its breadmaking skills and varied cultural traditions, creating real jobs in meaningful work as it does so; a local authority or NHS Trust to give nourishing bread a central place in its public procurement…