Co-operative & Community Finance gave a loan to Scotland the Bread, via the Just Growth Fund, which focuses on supporting businesses connected with community food and farming work. Scotland The Bread, a Community Benefit Society, ensures that their work to improve the country’s staple food is focussed on people not profit.
Scotland produces far more wheat than is needed to make all the bread eaten in the country, but little, if any, is used by local bread makers. What isn’t fed to animals, distilleries or cars (as ‘biofuels’) is bought by large milling conglomerates for industrial bread production to supplement imported wheat.
A government statistics report says that Scottish wheat is mainly soft wheats that are used mostly for malting and it imports hard wheats for milling, generally used for bread-making, because the country’s climate does not suit hard wheat varieties.
Scotland The Bread is supporting six groups to grow their own healthy bread, from the soil to the slice. The plan is to provide seed from three Scottish heritage wheat varieties that look promising and help each group through a year of growing, milling and baking. Small-scale portable equipment to sow, thresh, clean and mill the home-grown grains will be provided.
In order to produce more nutritious wheats, suitable for low-impact farming, a group of interested people from all parts of the food system, from plant breeders to public health nutritionists has been convened.
A joined-up carbon reduction strategy
Agriculture and food processing account for 18-20% of UK annual greenhouse gas emissions, so it makes sense to reduce the distance wheat travels – across the seas or just between field and plate – to limit the use of fossil fuel-dependent inputs and to reduce the energy intensity of processing.
Local bakeries, rooted in their communities, can supply fresh, properly fermented bread to nearby customers, conserving nutritional value without recourse to the synthetic additives that are deemed essential for long-distance loaves.
Better grain and better bread could help to solve Scotland’s growing health problems
The soaring cost – both personal and financial – of diet-related ill health in Scotland makes creative action urgent.
To build health and food sovereignty requires better grains, less intensive processing and more connection between producers and bread eaters. Research to find more nutritious wheats, suitable for low-impact farming, is under way.
‘Fair trade’ arrangements are needed between farmers, millers and bakers to ensure equitable rewards and honest prices that also allow for the variability of the weather which affects grain quality.
Growing more bread wheat in Scotland would contribute to food sovereignty in an unpredictable global marketplace and, depending on how it is done, could bring meaningful jobs back to the country.