Baking in the (Covid) Community. Part Two: Building a Customer Base in Unusual Times

In mid-April, Baking in the Community participants gathered virtually to find out how the organisations involved were coping with the restrictions placed on us all during lockdown. At a time when one might fear independent bakeries and sociable baking groups to be struggling to continue, we found instead that resourceful steps have been taken across the board to keep ovens glowing.

For more about the Baking in the Community project, which we are running in partnership with Nourish Scotland, see parts one (baking for neighbours) and three (responding to demand for local bread) 

Today, we’re sharing updates from two bakeries that had only recently started up when the pandemic hit.

Heritage Bakehouse

The Heritage Bakehouse is running as part of The Deveron Projects – a community arts organisation based in Huntly (Aberdeenshire). Artist-baker Kate Taylor Beale joined the bakery/project in January, taking over from the previous baker who had begun half a year before. Since then she’s been baking for another Deveron Projects group, the Neep and Okra cafe, supplying them with bread for their lunches and selling it from the cafe. There has been a slow but increasing interest in the loaves – a mostly wholemeal sourdough – which are rather different from the bread otherwise available locally.

The bakery is partially funded by LEADER until August and the aim is to establish a bakery which is self-sufficient, provides employment and training opportunities to the community and also adds another string to the bow of Huntly’s baking culture.  Kate’s aim is also to bake bread which is delicious, nutritious, affordable (selling on a pay-what-you-feel basis, with a suggested price of £3) and uses ingredients that best support local and environmentally-friendly farming practices. She has also been including a ‘poem with your piece’ and some history or stories about particular grains as a bit of soul/slice nourishment!

Kate’s response to the route-to-market challenges thrown up by the pandemic has been to link up with other local businesses. Flour has always been sourced from Coldwells Organic Farm in Insch, and the close distance from ‘field to fork’ has proved invaluable since flour supplies have dried up in other places due to Covid-19 demand. Kate has connected with Forbes Raeburn butcher in Huntly who is now selling her bread on site, and she offers local home-delivery. One of the positive outcomes of this time has been an increased incentive to link up with others for mutual support, and find new ways of highlighting her project and loaves.

Heritage Bakehouse web page

Reviving Food

Reviving Food is a mobile micro-bakery that operates from a converted horsebox, providing organic sourdough bread to Kincraig and the nearby area (Kingussie, Highlands). The idea is to serve different villages in this area on specific days of the week, but baker Rosie Gray is allowing this plan to evolve based on demand. The bakery focuses on supporting and developing the local grain economy through the sourcing of ingredients, with the aim of increasing diversity, resilience and encouraging agroecological farming.

Rosie started selling bread from the local pub on Friday nights in February of this year. She quickly developed this to providing bread to a local cheese shop to sell alongside their selection and was just starting with a cafe when lockdown began. She now runs an online order and twice-weekly delivery service and has seen an increase in demand with people needing to stay at home. She has developed a no-contact system using bright yellow tote bags, which customers re-use by hanging them on their front doors to allow Rosie to pop loaves into.

Future aims include an education project, working with local children and individuals in villages to get more home bakers interested and understanding how their food is produced. The core of the project and her main intention is to reconnect individuals, community and land through sharing skills, nourishing neighbours and the soil. Longer term hopes are for a collective set-up which gets other bakers and artisans involved to create a space to develop access to good food in the area and share skills.

Rosie says: “I love learning, especially about bread, community and sustainable agriculture. It’s totally brilliant to get the chance to learn from [Scotland The Bread Chairman] Andrew [Whitley] and everyone else participating. I feel it is at a critical time and it’s great to connect back to the deeper reasons of how and why we make bread. This course is also accelerating action in the community, for me to get organised and do workshops.”

@revivingfood on Facebook

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