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Thu 19 Jul 2018

2018/9 crop updates

GH Grahame Hunter Public Seen by 50

This is the place to post pictures or comments about what is happening on the farmed field now .

TA

Tony Allan Tue 13 Oct 2020

Dear Darren

Very many thanks for drawing attention to the comments by James Rebank on the BBC Food Programme. Thank you for circulating them. He has become a very significant figure on the UK farming scene. His first very readable book was on sheep farming in Cumbria. It is a real page turner. Over the last three years he has earned a place amongst the food and farming voices on sustainable farming in the UK. He speaks as well as he writes and his contribution last week was exceptional. He has just published another book which I look forward to reading. Best Tony (Allan)

D

Darren Mon 12 Oct 2020

Hope everyone is keeping well in these unusual times.

Nice to hear all the updates and comments. Thanks for everyone whos been involved.

Good to hear seeds are in the ground and we are all set for our second year of no input grains.

Agroforestry is certainly an exciting development, nice theres potential for a local producer to take fruit we could produce. I'd also be interested in being involved in tree planting. From a covid perspective I think as its work and outside theres greater chances we could organise things safely and legally, but guess we'll have to see how things are come the time.

Just listened to a farmer on the Food Program chatting about the state of agriculture in the UK & how we got here. Think he stated things well - would recommend a listen https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000ndb8

TA

Tony Allan Tue 6 Oct 2020

DearJohn

Very many thanks for letting us know that you had the time to make good use of a planting opportunity. It is very good to hear that you successfully sowed the heritage wheat. Tony (Allan)

JC

John Cherry Mon 5 Oct 2020

Thanks for your kind comments.

Quick update: we grazed the top half of the field last week, the cattle munched the clover and some of the weeds down nicely, we were going to repeat the process on the bottom half, then I saw the forecast for horrible weather coming, so we moved the fences off and brought the seed drill in and have now planted 200kg/ha of John Letts's heritage landrace wheat. It all went in a treat. Both halves look well flattened by the drill.

To answer your question, @Rosy Benson , about how clever it is to grow continuous cereal crops...time will tell. There will be weeds, but I'm hoping that by drilling in good time, that the wheat will grow away from the other vegetation and stay there (if it grows to five or six feet). The biodiversity of the under-story is the equivalent of growing break-crops, so a rotation of actual crops is not so important, if you see what I mean.

We are waiting to hear back from the Woodland Trust on which trees would be available, will let you all know when to turn up with your spades!

John

RB

Rosy Benson Fri 25 Sep 2020

Thank you @John Cherry for the updates. So sorry to hear e5 pulled out of getting the last half of the YQ harvest and the mice getting in. I'm having problems with weevils, turns out grain doesn't store well forever! I actually asked Laurent (e5s miller) on Tuesday what happened because interestingly he came to Gothelney to look at what Fred is doing here in terms of grain diversity (on a non organic certified farm) and he said it had come from the Directors at e5 not to use non-organic grains anymore, I think partly because their packaging for e5 retail flour has Organic written on it, and they did also have a big drop in sales over the last few months as the their wholesale bread market went through the floor. It is a massive shame after all that hard work at the beginning to persuade them to take it and you getting it cleaned and saved for them. Not sure how we could have negotiated that better, maybe more of a contract of sale, someone on the ground to keep the grain flowing! As to planting trees, yes! here to to help. Maybe we don't need to vote on the specifics? If @John Cherry you decide what species? Also quick question (perhaps big question..) we've had at least 3 years of cereal harvests, albeit which have been undersown with other species but do we need to do more of a swap to something else in the rotation as surely the annual weed seed level is creeping up and the soil be lacking because of this? or did we decide to try continuous cropping of the John Letts Heritage populations? What is the long term plan? On a side note; if anyone wants to book on a day learning about sourdough baking using regional grain I'm running workshops down at Gothelney Farm in Somerset www.fieldbakery.com Your all welcome, but just 6 at a time! All the best to everyone.

TA

Tony Allan Fri 25 Sep 2020

Thank your Abby for your comment. I agree we should attempt an on line session.

Best Tony (Allan)

AR

Abby Rose Thu 24 Sep 2020

Even though I’m slow to respond, every time an OurField update comes through from you @John Cherry and any responses, it puts a big smile on my face - good or bad news! So thank you for always keeping us in the loop and keeping the momentum going.

Planting trees in OurField is super exciting! How can we best help in making that happen? Do we need to raise funds to support this?

And sounds like we need to make a decision about what to do with last years harvest. Maybe it’s time for an online collective meeting somepoint soon, or if not definitely a vote...

TA

Tony Allan Tue 15 Sep 2020

Dear John and Stephen

Very many thanks for the report, comments and discussion. 2020 has been an extraordinary year with perverse weather in every season.. Thank you John for making 2020 an innovative one on OurField. We appreciate your giving attention to the project. Thank you Stephen for the comparative information on agronomy and marketing. Please share more if you have time.

I am totally supportive of what you are doing on OurField. Have you worked our the costs of any investment?

Best Tony (Allan)

SJ

Steven Jacobs Tue 15 Sep 2020

Thanks for the update, John.

I know from farmers I work with that this season has been particularly difficult, with floods during the autumn and winter then a spring drought making it ideal for nobody, except maybe for some fruit growers.

I wonder how things have been across the rest of Weston Farm?

A tonne an acre isn't bad, considering. I don't recall what was done for fertility in the end, did they get any N?

Wakelyn's is beautiful, isn't it? When Martin put the trees in rows it was all about biodiversity and his alley cropping design was novel, in the this country it was unique. But yes, wider rows is sensible. Stephen Briggs at Whitehall farm, near Peterborugh, has his at 24 metres, I think. Whatever suits the equipment you have for managing the arable crops.

Stephen was talking about root pruning too, that his trees are managed above and below the ground enables him to gain crop advanatages almost right up to the treeline, otherwise the pay off is that the trees take away from the crop more than woul dbe ideal. And of course the ideal is the shelter and nurture of the trees but still leaving room for the cereals.

He was reporting on twitter that while he too has suffered with the extreme weather he saw benefits from the buffering the trees gave to the crop.

Exciting times ahead. How many trees and will we be able to come and see things, maybe even put some in the ground? I appreciate with the pandemic that might not be possible with this number six law now in place but if that gets lifted maybe we could think about it.

Seed will be limited this year for certain crop varieties due to poor harevsting. If you've not yet done so maybe get seed orders in now if you can.

And thanks again, John. Looks like progress at Our Field.

Steven

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Fri 25 Sep 2020

For me sustainable farming systems are all about balance. However, as we all know, discussion about all too frequently turns into simple binary arguments about what the land should be used for, often ignoring the food production element.

I think that agroforestry is an incredibly exciting way of solving many of these problems, by allowing multiple ecosystem services and land uses to be combined. It's a fantastic example of how we can balance the need to sequester carbon, whilst also providing mutiple food crops in a resilient system. Agroforestry systems feature in pillar 2 of the NFU's Net Zero by 2040 blueprint as an effective means of increasing on-farm carbon storage and I'm sure interest is only going to increase in the coming years.

The pioneering work done by Martin and others has shown that these systems are viable although it's still early days and as Stephen mentioned, things like optimum row width are vital to get right, if it's going to be viable in an agricultural sense. At the Organic Research Centre (which Wakelyns used to be part of) whilst I was there, they had an agroforestry trial in a field across the road. Unfortunately, they planted the trees in an extremely dry winter and spring, which meant that establishment was really poor.

10 years+ on, last time I saw the trial, it resembled quite a patchy hedgerow, with many of the trees struggling to get going. Whilst there's not much you can do about the weather, it just goes to show that factors out of our control can affect the viability of these systems. In this case, it simply wasn't viable to irrigate the saplings and I'm sure this is the case for most farms too. However, given the experimental nature of this project, I think it's the ideal setting to give it a go and would be incredibly exciting to see how it progresses. I'm sure that the Our Field members would be more than happy to lend a hand with the tree planting (within the limit of restrictions).

Regarding this year's crop (or what's left of it), I'd be in favour of turning into flour. Perhaps we could vote on it? A group call would be good as well.

JC

John Cherry Mon 14 Sep 2020

Sorry for radio silence, but I'll give a quick update:

The heritage wheats yielded a shade under a tonne an acre, the emmer and spelt wheat did rather less as it was swamped with weeds, the rye was an almost complete wipe-out at the bottom of the field; most of it drowned before it got going in that horrible wet early winter we had after we drilled the seed. John Letts has effectively maintained ownership of the crop, but is happy to arrange for it to be milled for flour or turned into gin or beer...what-ever the collective would like. I haven't talked to him lately (we've both been quite busy), but will update when I know more.

Meanwhile...we went to Wakelyn's last week to have a look at Martin Wolfe's fantastic legacy: a 55acre farm with dozens of rows of trees dividing the fields into strips. It was a windy day, but the farm was basking in a lovely calm micro-climate. We were shown round by Martin's son David (Martin himself died last year) and gave us lots of ideas for an agroforestry trial on ourfield. David admitted that a lot of the strips that Martin planted are a bit too close to each other (some of the original rows are barely 12 yards apart), so we thought we'd aim for 24 or even 30 yard wide strips to allow the wheat a bit of sunlight. We have a beer blender who is renting a shed at Lannock who is very keen to get hold of some apples for cider making and other fruits for adding to their beer, so we'll have a basic market for a lot of the fruit that we'll grow.

It seems sensible to start with the top half of the field only as this will be quite a labour intensive project. Tree planting will ideally take place before Christmas (depending on how horrible the weather is this year). We'll drill the wheat before then, probably after grazing the clover and weeds down as far as possible. Early drilled wheat will have much better chance of getting away and yielding more strongly. We could graze it again in the New Year to help the wheat tiller and further suppress the clover and weeds.

Any thoughts or comments?

John

SJ

Steven Jacobs Wed 19 Aug 2020

Yes, agreed. The issues with handling food grade as opposed to animal feed as well as marketing, gaining committments etc. are all aspects that we do need to all be much more aware of.

WA

Wendy Alcock Fri 7 Aug 2020

Agreed, thanks for the update John. It's a shame the YQ did not get a good price but I'm sure it was the best choice. Good luck with the harvest in this heat, if it goes ahead!

TA

Tony Allan Fri 7 Aug 2020

Dear John

Very many thanks for letting us know that you hope to be harvesting today. I hope the weeds don't cause too much trouble/

Your comments on marketing confirm that understand the market is very important indeed.

Thanks for finding time to send the message.

Best Tony (Allan)

JC

John Cherry Thu 6 Aug 2020

Quick update:

We are hoping to combine ourfield plots tomorrow...sounds like it'll be nice and hot which will make dealing with the weeds a bit easier. I'll let you know how it goes, if it goes...

On last years YQ that was earmarked for e5 Bakehouse, we had a change of plan as e5 stopped taking it with the lame excuse (inter alia) that flour sales were down during lockdown. My impression was that if you had flour for sale you could name your price, but then I'm only a farmer. As I said before, whilst they waited for sales to pick up, the mice moved into the bags of clean grain and made merry, so we've emptied the bags onto the heap of YQ we grew ourselves and sold it for a disappointing £155/tonne, which was the best price we could get.

John

TA

Tony Allan Fri 10 Jul 2020

Trees ... Thank you John for the updates on tree planting research and on marketing and milling grain. Your message is much appreciated. There is much to consider.

Local markets ... Re-establishing local marketing systems is not easy and not made easier by disruptions such as the Covid crisis. The crisis has rung alarm bells - which is good. But getting the local marketing infrastructures in place is demanding. Do members - in addition to Rosy - have evidence of local innovation.

Farming Today (Friday 10 July) .... was depressing. The excellent representative from the tenant farmers organisation revealed that Tesco was back with contracts that can only reduce farm gate prices. Best Tony (Allan)

JC

John Cherry Thu 9 Jul 2020

Trees are still a happy idea. Not sure what grant situation etc is, but would be very happy to have help with planting and looking after. Need to decide all sorts of things before then, like what's it for? Nuts, fruit or timber? Who's going to kill the squirrels? Any input gratefully received. Autumn is the ideal time to plant...but a lot of decisions need moving before then.

Meanwhile the 2020 crop is a bit of a curates egg. There are patches of nothing bar sterile brome (an evil grass weed whose seeds bore through your clothing and then into your flesh) and there are patches of wheat that look like you could walk across the top of the crop. And a lot of stuff which is halfway between those extremes. John Letts called in the other day and seemed quite pleased with how it all looked, I've got the odd photo but they stubbornly remain locked down in my mobile telephone. Harvest won't be until mid August.

e5 Bakehouse have gone a bit quiet on the lovely YQ that we bagged up for them. They've had half of it, but lost interest in the rest. I sold a tonne to a friend who mills a bit down in Kent (available from Pure Kent on internet I think, he also grinds rapeseed oil and sell it as Pure Kent). The mice have now got into the bags that remain here. It's all very wearing. Think we'll have to buy a small mill and grind the mouse free bags ourselves. We've got a few little bags of wholemeal which we've ground with a Mockmill. Really nice stuff to bake with, if anyone wants some. £2 for a 1.25kg bag.

Hope you're all keeping well

John

AR

Abby Rose Thu 9 Jul 2020

I'm just catching up - tree planting scheme does sound brilliant idea and could be a great way for us all to get involved helping planting - when in Autumn do you think the trees might go in? Is this still the plan?
How is everything looking in the run up to harvest? And are e5 taking any more of the Ourfield YQ @John Cherry ?

OH

Olly H-S Fri 15 May 2020

Better late than never! Just a quick note after catching up with the various threads here; a. the loaves look spectacular! b.fully support the tree planting scheme - what scope is there for getting involved and assisting with this / notwithstanding the lock-down issues? c. Really interesting moment for uk / global food supply chains and initiatives such as this - looking forward to paying closer attention from now on!

TA

Tony Allan Wed 6 May 2020

Dear Steven

I know Tim well. My international reputation is the result of my work on water embedded in international food commodity trade. It has become known as a 'virtual water trade'. We enjoy a version of food security nationally and globally as a consequence of food commodity trade. Farmers manage the 92% of water embedded in food on society's behalf. The 92% figure is the total of the freshwater consumption and the consumption of effective rainfall - soil water. The latter accounts for about 70% of the consumption. Unfortunately the global food system is dysfunctional and unsustainable.

The way water is managed and mismanaged is the consequence of what happens in the food system. Mainly in mode 1 where food is produced by farmers. On realizing this condition I have involved myself in food and farming. I found Tim Lang's seminars at City University a very useful way to engage. Tim is a very generous professional.

Thank you again for finding the time to send your email. Stay safe. Best TonyA

SJ

Steven Jacobs Wed 6 May 2020

By the way, @Tony Allan - I was on a Zoom conference/workshop yesterday and one of the key speakers was Tim Lang. Tim mentioned water as a measure of environmental footprint and said he got that from his old friend Tony Allan who he said is 'the Godfather of Water'.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Wed 6 May 2020

Gosh @Rosy Benson - they look beautiful. And OurField YQ too. And with collaboration with Gothelney and Cann Mill. Brilliant. 👏

TA

Tony Allan Wed 6 May 2020

Dear Rosy

Very many thanks for letting us see the loaves baked with OurField YQ and other grain. Well done. It is very good to see what happens further along the supply chain. How are the loaves distributed and sold? TonyA

RB

Rosy Benson Tue 5 May 2020

Many thanks to those that donated! For those that aren't on instagram! (@bread_and_roses_bristol for those that are) Here are some pictures of this weeks loaves the OurField YQ went into (along with some April Bearded wholewheat from Gothelney Farm in Somerset and some stoneground from Cann Mill in Dorset, so a mix of heritage and modern variety grains). Rx

TA

Tony Allan Wed 22 Apr 2020

Dear Rosy

Thank you for all the news and many congratulations on your baking contributions. Also for promoting the use of OurField grain. If you have time we'd be very pleased to hear more. Good luck with the donations. Tony (Allan)

RB

Rosy Benson Tue 21 Apr 2020

Hi everyone, thanks for the update John, I'm very much in support of planting trees, be great to hear what grants/help is available from the Woodland Trust. Great news on the payment too from e5, they are back open (albeit in a limited way) from the 25th so hopefully more OurField grains going into good bread. Update from baking over down in Bristol is that most of the smaller bakeries are closed (as turning to an online general store wasn't practical). I'm hiring a friends small bakery and baking solo, under the name of Bread and Roses, the loaves of which are going out to women who access One25 charity alongside hot meals, we fundraised through the Coexist Community kitchen (which I teach bread baking at), so local grains continue to nourish my community! and brilliantly to those that probably wouldn't ordinarily have access to this kind of bread. I'm also using a lot heritage grains from Fred at Gothelney (also part of the South west Grains Network). There's only ONE day left on the crowdfunder, if you'd like to help some of the OurField grains to get milled and made into some tasty bread for those in need, https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/covid-19emergencycoexistcommunitykitchen just post that you'd like it to go into bread and I can make it happen! Hope you are all managing in this tumultuous and unsettling time. All the best x

KF

Kirsten Foster Sat 18 Apr 2020

And can I echo Wendy's echo please!Thanks all - hope you're all safe and well
kirsten

Kirsten Foster
kirstensarafoster@gmail.com
+44 (0)7935992773

WA

Wendy Alcock Sat 18 Apr 2020

Just to echo other comments, thanks for the updates all and I agree with the agroforestry idea - we seem like the ideal project to give this a try.

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 17 Apr 2020

Thanks for the update Grahame and John. I remember we discussed including trees way back in 2018 but didn't have the resources available then. I think times have changed and this sounds a good opportunity for us to push forward and I support the proposal, noting when we have the full financial picture we may need a quick vote to proceed, it all sounds encouraging. Thanks to everyone for keeping this moving, I find myself very distracted right now. Keep safe.

TA

Tony Allan Thu 16 Apr 2020

Dear Grahame

Thank you for the news that E5 has paid. In the current commercial hiatus it is amazing that they can settle invoices. E5 is in that part of the food system that is hardest hit by closures. It is very good to hear that we can cope with the expenses of the tree planting. We look forward to hearing about the budget. Meanwhile enjoy the sunshine. Are he bluebells out yet? If you walk that way perhaps you could send us some photos.

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 15 Apr 2020

We have now received payment (thank you E5!) for 8.5 tonnes of the 2019 grains shipped. This gives me an opportunity to produce a new set of accounts bringing everyone up to date. There is even some spare cash in the account to pay for those putative trees.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Sun 12 Apr 2020

Thanks @John Cherry

Trees on OurField would be wonderful. I’d be very supportive. As to which, depends on the land to a great extent but a mix with some nut trees would be good. Walnuts and hazelnuts I believe will do well in an English climate. I know hazel grows well alongside ash. And ash is a lovely tree and is lovely wood, good for turning. Maybe some fruit trees too, if there’s some local apple varieties you’d like to try or even some you want to try from elsewhere. I love Egremont Russet, but I don’t know how that would fare at Weston.

But, yes. I like the thought of maybe in a few years having a stroll by some cereals and between the arbours on OurField.

Happy Easter.

Much love to all of you, especially now.

Cheers,

Steven

TA

Tony Allan Sat 11 Apr 2020

Thank you John for the up-dates on the status of the crops on OurField and for advising the agro-forestry initiative, I am in favour. It has been an amazing spring. How is the soil moisture? I hope we don't have another 2018 spring and summer with no rainfall. It would be good to hear from Rosy Benson on what is happening in the world of milling and baking? Good wishes to all.

JC

John Cherry Fri 10 Apr 2020

You'll need good eyesight...as usual I'm failing at picture posting...

JC

John Cherry Fri 10 Apr 2020

If you look closely you can see the rows amidst the clover/trefoil understory

JC

John Cherry Fri 10 Apr 2020

Just a quick update this beautiful sunny Good Friday afternoon. I took a look at the field this morning, on the whole it's looking pretty good...if the heritage grains perform as they advertise themselves, then we should get a crop off the vast majority of the field. There's a bare patch at the bottom where the remorseless wet drowned everything, weeds included.

We've been talking to the Woodland Trust who are keen to set up some agro-forestry. The ourfield field is perfect for this as it is close to the Groundswell site and is orientated North/South which not many of our fields are. I thought I'd put this idea to the collective now, to give everyone time to think about it before we plant (seeds as well as, possibly, trees) next autumn...if we were to go down this route we'd want to drill up and down the hill rather than across it. We'd also need to decide on what trees to plant...

The YQ going to e5 was going nicely, but they've shut down now for a bit, so it's all ground to a halt.

Happy Easter everyone, hope you're all keeping well

John

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 20 Mar 2020

@John Cherry Hi John and everyone. Just a query if our 2019 grain can support the current shortage of grain and flour - realise it may just be logistics relating to the supply chain. Stay safe everyone.

WA

Wendy Alcock Sat 8 Feb 2020

Agree with other replies. Thanks for doing this and reporting back to us Rosy :)

TA

Tony Allan Fri 7 Feb 2020

Dear Rosie

Very many thanks for sharing your comments and photos of your big contributions on Wednesday. You helped us learn a lot about the details of marketing and the significance of appearance, cleanliness of samples and delivered grain for example.

If Grahame has problems remunerating your petrol costs and the London ULEZ expenses of driving in London please let us know.

Thank you again for making a difference. And thank you John for the cleaning and the bagging and the networking on our behalf.

Best TonyA

SJ

Steven Jacobs Fri 7 Feb 2020

This is as cool as a cool thing, well done @John Cherry and @Rosy Benson - utterly brilliant.

Rosy, also having you go with the delivery on this one is extra cool, and so getting the chance to speak with E5 folk, especially as you know them so well, and getting a handle on stuff the way you have is very useful, not least because it gives good clarity for those of us sit to one side.

We have social media accounts under the name Ourfield, though I can see they've been rather inactive of late -

Twitter - @OurFieldProject https://twitter.com/OurFieldProject

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/ourfieldproject/?igshid=16j3tzcz0ancu

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/OurFieldProject/

These can be good places to promote the project. Who has access to post on any/all of these, I wonder?

RB

Rosy Benson Thu 6 Feb 2020


Delivery all went very smoothly! about 10 hours of driving in all but the van coped with the load! It was lovely to see the process through and get chance to speak to everyone at e5 about where the grain came from. An OurField success!


Sounds like they do definitely want the rest (19 tonnes) but they just had an issue with the gilchesters flour that its usually mixed (in smaller quantities) with the freshly milled flour (which is what the OurField YQ would go in) in the Hackney Wild loaf, just trying to limit the amount of variables at one time else it gets really difficult, so they've brought in some organic Paragon wheat from Organic Arable (a modern) not terribly exciting but is a familiar grain to mill and bake with. 


They are test mixing and baking with the OurField YQ today which will be baked off tomorrow morning, fingers crossed, my friend Carmen the Baker will send some pictures for everyone to see. I think they didn't get a good sense of it before as the test grains brought in (end of last year?) were too unclean and maybe the grain was a bit fresher, it mills better when the moisture content has come down a bit. Thankfully the rest is now much cleaner thanks to John Cherry for getting the cleaners in. Maybe its because the modern varieties (which YQ is also) sit closer to the ground so there tends to be more grit in with the grain. Stones going into the fancy french stonemill a definite no no, grit going into the bread as you imagine very very bad! They are quite overworked so don't really have time to pick out bits. I think we shouldn't underestimate what a bad sample can do to the reputation of the grain to the bakers and millers when trying to go for this direct route to market, if theres a way we can clean a small amount before committing to cleaning the rest that would be ideal. Maybe that old gravity separator you showed me John?! 


Ed gave me two hauliers to pass on to you Cheetah Couriers https://www.cheetahcouriers.co.uk (apparently they used to deliver to e5 it cost £60 a pallet which you can fit 2 half bags on) and another company Bartrums (though they are in Suffolk; https://www.bartrums.com).


Anyone feel free to use any of these pictures, sorry they aren't brilliant! or go visit and eat your bread! Second Abby it would be really great to get some press about the project if anyone knows of anyone?

AR

Abby Rose Wed 5 Feb 2020

This all very exciting! @Rosy Benson would love to see some photos of the grain pick up today if you have any :) and thanks so much for doing that! And @John Cherry thanks for sharing it with E5. This is really exciting! Wonder if we could even ask them to call it an OurField-Hackney Wild for a limited time only whilst using the OurField YQ!? Maybe a long shot but we could all then share about it, and since it’s real bread week end of Feb could make a good timely story? Anyone have good contacts with. Journalist who might want to write about this?

JC

John Cherry Wed 5 Feb 2020

@Oliver Rubinstein I wouldn't bother with Craggs, personally. They are miles away and were only interested in spelt (and they didn't give us a particularly good deal on that). There's no immediate panic for the YQ, the e5 bakehouse are just struggling with a batch of challenging flour (from someone else) and need to find the right blend to bake with, before taking ours in. I hope.

John

TA

Tony Allan Wed 5 Feb 2020

Dear Grahame

Well spotted. It is good to see you online. TonyA

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 5 Feb 2020

I see that almost exactly one year ago Oliver Rubinstein @Oliver Rubinstein posted about Craggs, who helped us then by buying all the Spelt ..he wrote "They're also very interested in the wheat we're growing this year too, so I'll keep them updated on its progress.".

So, Oliver, perhaps you may have a moment to call John @John Cherry and find out what we actually do have to sell after the E5 volte-face, and ask Craggs? John of course already knows them..

TA

Tony Allan Tue 4 Feb 2020

Thank you Rosy for being able to move the grain. We appreciate your being willing to respond to the opportunity.

Best. TonyA

RB

Rosy Benson Mon 3 Feb 2020

Oh sorry they are so disorganised! even though I don’t work there anymore I know it can tricky sometimes. More reason to have other buyers too! Charlotte the Miller got back to me, she doesn’t take non organic certified grain but she will post on the Traditional Corn Millers Guild what we have. And I’ve given her some info on the project.

Great thanks for the YQ, could you email me at rosy.benson@gmail.com an address of where to come to on Wednesday morning?

see you then!

JC

John Cherry Mon 3 Feb 2020

Hi Rosy

e5 have just been on and said they've had a big delivery and can't fit ours in. They also say they'd rather have 1 tonne and see how it goes to start with, which is annoying as we've just spent all morning cleaning and (half-tonne) bagging the whole lot.

So...if you could swing by this way on Wednesday and pick a half tonne bag up, that might work out really well (and 50kg bag for you towards delivery costs). Thanks also for the other ideas. Looking forward to picking your brains about mills!

John

JC

John Cherry Tue 4 Feb 2020

Dear Tony

Thanks for your message and offer. It looks like we won't need the subsidy this time as Rosy will be delivering!

Best wishes

John

CL

Christine Lewis Tue 4 Feb 2020

John, it seems very sensible to add the Crusoe to your heap as you suggest. Our efforts should focus on the more valuable grain to market. I remember how difficult it was for us last time to find a buyer, if you have a route to market already lined up for the Crusoe that would be great.

RB

Rosy Benson Mon 3 Feb 2020


Hi John. Just let me know today if you’d need me to deliver on Wednesday, sounds like maybe it’s already set up though. 


I’ve messaged a friend who mills at Worsbrough Mill to see if they might want any Millers Choice, see if she gets back to me, how much do we have to sell? Do you know if any still functioning water or wind mills in the area that might take it as local grain? Other than e5 I don’t know that many working mills...maybe Tuxford? 


I’d love to buy 50kg of the YQ grain if possible too like Annie. I’m helping run a small bread subscription bakery down in Somerset at the moment. We change grains every week and email out info so people can understand a bit more about what they’re tasting and the systems their grown in. I could pick it up on Wednesday if I was delivering the other stuff to e5? 


Hoping to set up a small urban mill (one of the New American Stone Mills) in Bristol in the coming year and bakery/teaching space with a friend, still very early stages of getting funding and space, but we will need more grains than are currently up for getting than Fred (the farmer who’s part of our South West Grains Network) can produce so hopefully if there’s any of John Letts to sell next harvest and it’s good quality, we’d be interested in some. Whatever the group collectively wants though.


All the best.

TA

Tony Allan Mon 3 Feb 2020

Dear John

Very many thanks for the update on getting the grain to E5. I thought I had sent a message last week with a suggestion. But I cannot see it in the string. I said that I would be willing to pay for half the cost of transporting the 4 tonne consignment to Hackney. I agree we should reinforce the connection with E5 with a timely delivery. Please confirm that you have seen this message. Tony (Allan)

JC

John Cherry Sun 2 Feb 2020

Thanks @Rosy Benson for your offer. The wheat will be in half tonne bags. I have provisionally booked a lorry to take 4 tonnes in on Wednesday as e5 are running very low apparently. If we thought we could arrange some alternative for the rest of the tonnage, I'd happily go along with cancelling that and let you take in half a tonne to keep them going. Otherwise it might be best to get 4 tonnes to them to give us some breathing space.

@Annie Landless has reminded me that we still have the MC and Crusoe to sell. I suspect no-one will pay a premium for the Crusoe and was going to propose that we add it to our heap which is currently leaving the farm at £150/tonne. The Millers Choice should be worth some more if anyone knows anyone who wants a couple of tonnes of heritage wheat to mill. I've no idea what it is worth, but even if it was £300/tonne, that is only 30p/kg for Annie, or anyone else, to home mill. Very good value! I'll keep a bit of the YQ back too in case anyone else want a go.

John

AL

Annie Landless Sun 2 Feb 2020

Thanks for the update @John Cherry! If the collective is happy with it, I wondered if I could buy a very small quantity of the YQ / Millers / Crusoe to try home milling them into flour, as I got a table top grain mill for my birthday. Would be amazing to have a go at making something with them! :)

RB

Rosy Benson Sat 1 Feb 2020


Thanks for the great update and all your hard work. I have a small van and and am free this Wednesday If that could help, for the first load (Christines idea of joining an already existing route would be great too for further deliveries) I could take up to 600-700kg. Is it just in 25kg bags already or tonne bags? Happy to just recuperate for petrol and congestion charge as I’m due a pop in at e5 anyway and it would be quite a nice thing to do as I know all about the grain and the project! if their milling straight away that means it’ll be in the bread really soon so everyone in London get over there and taste that bread!

all the best to everyone!

CL

Christine Lewis Sat 1 Feb 2020

John,

Many thanks for the update and great news that the YQ is of good quality and a buyer and that the Letts mix hopefully will have survived the wet weather. Transporting the grain seems a problem - it would be great if we could find an existing transport link - say one that already delivers in your area from London who could take bags of grain on the way back - thinking of something like organic fruit and veg box deliveries etc. Just a thought.

JC

John Cherry Fri 31 Jan 2020

A quick update on marketing the YQ (Wakelyn's Population) we grew last year.

Having cleaned it up a bit and moved it into a grain bin at the other end of the village, we discovered that we had much more YQ than Crusoe (approx 24 tonnes to 12). This is encouraging, but not surprising really as the YQ was grown on the 'better' half of the field and it had a light coating of compost. It also is 'designed' to do better in a low-input regime.

I took samples from all three plots (YQ, Crusoe and Miller's Choice) to e5 Bakehouse so they could test grind and bake and see if it would work for them. The YQ passed with flying colours and they've agreed to buy it, all we need to do is clean it thoroughly, put it in half-tonne bags and deliver it to Hackney. The first two are easily sorted...we have the mobile seed cleaner coming here on Monday, they will clean it up and bag it. The delivery is proving more problematic. Anyone got a van?

With the new clean air regs that Londoners now enjoy, comes a massive headache for hauliers. No wonder everything is so expensive in London, the best price I've had so far is well over £100/tonne to get it there, not helped that e5 are tucked up for space and can only take 4 tonnes at a time. Need to get the first batch there earlyish next week, as they are running out of grain to mill. We'll sort something out, I daresay.

Meanwhile, most of this years Letts mix has got away ok. The continual wet has rotted some seed in the ground; we won't be able to tell what we've got till things dry out a bit and the plants start moving (not like triffids, but upwards). Fingers crossed. Have got a photo somewhere that I'll post soon

John

TA

Tony Allan Wed 30 Oct 2019

Dear John
Thank you for the update. We shall be thinking of you today as you drill OurField. Soil drainage seems to be in good order. We hope you can catch the fine weather which is forecast for today. Best TonyA

JC

John Cherry Tue 29 Oct 2019

Thanks for the agreement, everybody.
We picked up (most of) the seed from John Letts today and will be planting it tomorrow directly into last years stubble/clover/weed cover. It looks like the last dry day for a while. The ground is in good order, considering how much rain we've had, a testament to non-disturbance and minimal inputs. We've been doing quite a bit of drilling these last few days...anyone who's moved their soil (with cultivations) is struggling.
John

OR

Oliver Rubinstein
Agree
Fri 18 Oct 2019

I guess that's what this group is about - it's a great opportunity to try it.

CL

Christine Lewis
Agree
Thu 17 Oct 2019

Good to have a clearer and longer term plan. Sounds a great idea.

NR

Niki Reynolds
Agree
Thu 17 Oct 2019

No till organic growing is an excellent decision.. excited to see how it will perform!

LB

Lucy Bradley
Agree
Wed 16 Oct 2019

Thi sounds great! Thank you John

AR

Abby Rose
Agree
Wed 16 Oct 2019

I am really excited to be part of this experiment as one of the potential no-till organic food production systems based on in field diversity! It could all go wrong but I think there is some merit in this group trialing it! Plus we can still do intercrop and grazing experiments along the way within the field :)

GH

Poll Created Wed 16 Oct 2019

We support John Cherry's proposal to move OurField onto a continuous cereal regime. Closed Sat 19 Oct 2019

Outcome
by Grahame Hunter Sun 20 Oct 2019

The recent proposal was accepted by 100% of those voting.This has never happened in OurField before, so it is now a very bright green light for John Cherry to move to a no-till organic system, with a low fertility, low yield but continuous cereal experiment.
Grahame

The idea is to move to a no-till organic system, with a low fertility, low yield but continuous cereal experiment. In the first year, John would plant mostly heritage wheat and some Rye in collaboration with John Letts who will assist with the marketing of the product.
A "No" vote indicates a desire to continue making decisions on crop and methods and marketing. A "Yes" vote partly removes that opportunity for involvement because method and crop are pre-determined, whilst giving members a participation in an experimental method of grain production which he believes has economic and environmental merit.
The time scale of the vote is very short because John wishes to acquire the grain and plan a drilling regime within days.

Results

Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 100.0% 23 D HG AR TF SF NR TA WA LB SJ DK CL A K AW KF HW CG NH B RB OR J
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 0.0% 0  
Block 0.0% 0  
Undecided 0% 35 A AL DU GH JC JT AS TT RM MDV SW TS SG KS EC MS CA AG VLD S&D HB AL NG EM E SD CB W A JB SC M H KD OH

23 of 58 people have voted (39%)

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 16 Oct 2019

@johncherry that sounds a great idea, suddenly energising us as well as a group and moving us in a direction that makes sense. I am all in favour of your suggestion to proceed without another vote (and sorry for being one of the quiet ones recently).

D

Darren Thu 17 Oct 2019

This sounds like a great way forward for Our Field.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Thu 17 Oct 2019

Thanks, John, and yes, a get-together and a chance for John Letts to meet the group would be great.

JC

John Cherry Wed 16 Oct 2019

The varieties I can't help you with, but John would love to come and talk to you all about it. We perhaps should organise an autumn get-together, a late harvest celebration.
The plan is that no weed-killers or fertilisers be used. Too much fertility and the wheat falls over. Whilst standing, they out-compete the weeds. Likewise they shouldn't need fungicides. I can't wait...

SJ

Steven Jacobs Wed 16 Oct 2019

That’s sounds like it could be a very good plan, @johncherry so yes I’m in favour.
Can we have the detail in what the varieties are that are included in the seed from John Letts?
And can I ask will you use any fertiliser and/weed killer on the field?

B

Ben Tue 15 Oct 2019

Sounds amazing! Thanks so much for your efforts in seeking a way forward (I have definitely been one of the quiet ones). It’s a yes from me and I’m happy to formalise that affirmation in vote form if set up. Thanks again, Ben

TA

Tony Allan Wed 16 Oct 2019

Dear John
Thank you for all you have done to make the options possible. I am strongly in favour of all you suggest and that you go ahead without a vote. We still have to have the permission of Nature. The weather. Nothing is ever easy.

It is very good indeed that marketing is part of the package. Thank you for making sure there is a good destination for what will be produced.
Best TonyA

KF

Kirsten Foster Wed 16 Oct 2019

I think this sounds great. I love the idea of ourfield beer and gin (though obviously that's going to be extra work/decisions to be made). I'd be happy for you to go ahead with the heritage landrace mix - I approve of this going ahead without a vote, given all the circumstances, though I think a vote would be best, if possible, and if it goes ahead I'd vote yes!

AW

Andy Walker Tue 15 Oct 2019

It’s a yes from me. I can’t join in the conversation about the use of glyphosate but start talking about beer and gin and I’m all over it! 😊

Andy Walker

\s

WEB: www.gingerbreadbakery.co.uk ( http://www.gingerbreadbakery.co.uk )

NR

Niki Reynolds Tue 15 Oct 2019

Sounds great!
Go ahead!

Niki

JC

John Cherry Tue 15 Oct 2019

OK..a plan:

I've just had a long chat with John Letts, who has some seed that he is prepared to lend us. This would be suitable for a no-till organic system, a low fertility, low yield continuous cereal experiment that I alluded to above. He is proposing we have mainly his heritage wheat landrace and also some rye and barley (he doesn't have enough wheat seed for the whole field).

He would want to be involved with the marketing of whatever we grow, as he is protective about his seed and would like a say in where it goes. He has good markets; the miller he is proposing to use would be able to bag ourfield flour in 1.5kg bags for the collective to use, sell or give as Christmas presents. There would also be cash to pay you guys back.

The rye could be turned into ourfield gin (he has a market lined up for this too) and the barley into ourfield beer. Or you flog the lot and trouser the cash...we can decide all that later. I'm merely saying this project could rejuvenate ourfield. You've all been a bit quiet lately!

Unfortunately, there isn't much time. We should be drilling (sowing) the wheat now. The ground is a bit wet atm, but will soon dry if we get a few days without downpours. John can get us the seed later this week, we can plant next week (weather permitting). The barley maybe better in the spring, we'll see how late it gets. There is enough money in the kitty to cover this whole operation and we shouldn't need to spend anything until next harvest. We also have wheat to sell from this harvest.

Do you want @grahamehunter to set up a poll or do we just go ahead unless you all scream 'no'? This is potentially a really exciting project with important lessons for low impact farming and we are in a fabulous position to promote it , through ourfield and Groundswell.

We need to know by the weekend...we will grow this on another field if you don't want to, so the seed won't be wasted. And you'll need another plan if the answer is no...

John

JC

John Cherry Wed 9 Oct 2019

Computer print out from combine.
Wakelyns at top. Miller's choice in middle in red. Crusoe at bottom

TA

Tony Allan Fri 4 Oct 2019

Dear Kirsten
Your comments are useful.
Best TonyA

KF

Kirsten Foster Thu 3 Oct 2019

I like the idea of a longer term experiment which means fewer decisions from the group (if I understood the continuous heritage wheat suggestion correctly). This isn't because I want to abdicate decision making (well, maybe a little), but sometimes it feels our decisions are rushed and having a multi-year plan might allow us to make more considered decisions?

TA

Tony Allan Wed 2 Oct 2019

Dear John
Your comments are much appreciated. As far as I am concerned I would be happy if you make the decision on what to do next. I say this because you are close to all the uncertainties and unexpected options - for example whether we can purchase landrace seed and what can be marketed. These are be just some of such uncertainties. Comments form members would be appreciated.
We had exceptionally heavy rain in London yesterday - Tuesday.1 October 2019. Were the Lannock Manor fields also affected?
Best TonyA

JC

John Cherry Tue 1 Oct 2019

Not sure we should have a vote until there's a definite option. I'm open to suggestions...

SJ

Steven Jacobs Thu 3 Oct 2019

Thanks John.
There are some very good varieties available, good sources include from Ed Dickin at Harper Adams and from Andy Forbes at Brockwell Bake for modern crosses and older varieties. And by older I mean landrace, heritage or indeed anything pre intensification. So, that would mean varieties prior to the accelerated breeding programs of the seventies onwards.
Supplementary question, John, will you be no longer using ammonium nitrate, or glyphosate if you go down the ‘continuous wheat’ route?

JC

John Cherry Tue 1 Oct 2019

Thanks for all the prompts...
Diversity is the key (in answer to Steven and others queries) to continuous heritage wheat growing. You need an under-storey of clover and weeds (tick) as well as a landrace mix of wheats (missing). This way you don't get the fungal attacks allegedly, in much the same way as the mixed population of plants in a meadow all grow together healthily.
The ground is now quite wet, nicely so, but more rain forecast. Drilling would be several days off, if we wanted to get on with it. I think there's plenty of cash to do this if we want...will see if I can get hold of some landrace seed. Might need a lawyer: you aren't allowed to buy it, there's a strange rental agreement you have to get involved in...
I haven't managed to test the harvested grain yet, will report back when I do.
John

TA

Tony Allan Fri 27 Sep 2019

Dear Christine
John has been visiting Australia. He will reply I am sure.
Best TonyA

CL

Christine Lewis Thu 26 Sep 2019

Hi @johncherry. Sorry for the late response. I am happy to experiment as you suggest but we probably need a vote on this which also will show levels of commitment from our membership. I realise you need to make planting decisions quickly and we also need to know if current funding allows for this. Also keen to know if you are going to test the grain - hoping for a better Hagberg number level than the Spelt last year.

TA

Tony Allan Fri 20 Sep 2019

This comment is in response to the information and questions of Abby Rose on the benefits of diverse seeds. I hope John has time to respond. Best TonyA

TA

Tony Allan Wed 18 Sep 2019

Tony Allan replying to the very interesting comments of Keesje on agro-forestry. I cannot get Loomio to let me respond on the thread on which the comments were made. It would be useful to hear about the experience of other members. It would also be useful to hear where John Cherry is on the appraoch. Best TonyA

TA

Tony Allan Thu 12 Sep 2019

Dear John
I agree with your proposal to sow the seed you have or acquire.

Best TonyA

TA

Tony Allan Thu 12 Sep 2019

Dear John
We are very interested in your report on the harvest.
We would be very pleased to hear your suggestions on what to sow next season.
We are very sorry about your problems with Loomio.
Best TonyA

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 1 Oct 2019

john that sounds interesting..shall I put up a vote?

x Grahame

AR

Abby Rose Thu 19 Sep 2019

Thanks for the update @johncherry ! Brill - I too am intrigued by John Letts continuous wheat and think it could be a brilliant experiment for OurField. But I think at the core of that idea is diversity, my understanding of why it works and you don’t get increased disease pressures etc is because of the inherent diversity in the crop and therefore the field which means you don’t have to rotate to get diversity...what do you think? Is millers choice a single varietal or a mix of varietals? Could we add in some of johns heritage population ( or another heritage population) and sow them together?

K

Keesje Tue 17 Sep 2019

This may be too late to contribute but I've been reading with interest work being done by Doug Christie on his farm in Fife with his multi cropping. I see that he has spoken at Groundswell so perhaps some of you know his work better than my stalking on google. I don't understand the practical side of harvest I have to admit (when multi cropping) but it seems to assist with the weed burden as well as available nitrogen if using peas/beans as well as improving soil carbon levels.

Very interested to hear about the lodging issue potentially due to too much fertility - I have had that issue on a much smaller scale with some of my perennial plants (particularly sedums) in a no-dig system. However the difference is that they aren't a hungry plant, nor will be harvested so won't be removing the nutrients from the soil. This may sound very naive but if looking after the soil is of utmost importance, wouldn't continuous cropping of one plant reduce the health of the soil beyond just its fertility?

Agroforestry sounds like a great idea and I understand the hesitation. We have planted a number of trees not fully understanding how much damage our sheep would do before and perhaps even when they are fully established due to the breed of sheep. This is even more pronounced with cattle as the neighbours cows have managed to annihilate quite a few saplings over the fence.

We are experimenting with planting quite densely in fenced off blocks without any plastic tubing or other protection. This summer they have done well as the grass has 'hidden' the saplings from the deer without seeming to prove a problem from competition and we managed to plant the trees far enough away from the fence to stop the domestic animals having a taste. However the winter will tell whether the rabbits, voles and deer stay away or not. If anyone else is in Scotland the Soil Association are running two agroforestry days next week on an arable farm in Fie and then on a livestock farm in Perthshire. They have also recently published a booklet on agroforestry. I am yet to open it.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Thu 12 Sep 2019

Hi John,
John Letts’ work is interesting though I know some people have reservations about continual cropping. The crop rotation has multiple benefits beyond fertility build. Reducing disease burden and the ability to graze being among them. And indeed though taller wheats can help outcompete weeds they need to emerge early and keep vigour early on.
Good to discuss these things. How do you approach rotation at Weston? It might be that the ‘Letts’ approach would potentially suit a single field that is outside of a rotation?

JC

John Cherry Wed 11 Sep 2019

My computer hates loomio..that took about an hour to write, now on laptop which seems a lot quicker.

What I wanted to suggest was a plan for next year. I've been chatting with John Letts a bit as I'm intrigued by his continuous no input heritage wheat trial. He has, so far successfully, grown his heritage landrace mix on the same field for six years, with no inputs. He likes minimal fertility so the wheat doesn't fall over, or 'lodge'. The wheat is taller than any weeds which are thus swamped and, because fertility is low, the weeds aren't a problem, in fact they probably help keep disease etc at bay, in a biodiverse sort of way. He says it has yielded an average of 3 tonnes a hectare every year. This doesn't sound much, but effectively outyields conventional organic, which can only grow wheat once every three or four years in each field.

This sounded like a brilliant experiment that the #ourfield collective might like to try. There would be no decisions to be made, you could just rejoice it being at the cutting edge of the most benign vision of the future of farming.

What does everyone think? We ought to plant it as soon as possible if we're going to go ahead. We've got a heap of Miller's Choice which we could use as seed...it may not be ideal as it's not exactly a landrace, but it should be ok if we drill early enough and thick enough (both things we didn't do last year).

JC

John Cherry Wed 11 Sep 2019

Again, many apologies for the radio silence. We harvested the field in the lovely dry weather a week or two ago and we now have three little heaps of grain in the 'conference' barn at Lannock. It is hard to judge how much we have, but I'd say the YQ and Crusoe wheats both did approx 3tonnes/ha, giving us 16 tonnes of each to sell. The Millers Choice heap is a lot smaller, partly because we grew a smaller area and we destroyed a chunk of it pre-harvest. It also looked a bit thin all year

CL

Christine Lewis Sun 25 Aug 2019

Another update: Tony Allan met John Cherry on Thursday 22 August 2019. John said that the rain in the middle of August has interrupted harvesting and it has also caused some drying costs. The combine has been working on the fields close to OurField and the heritage wheats and other wheat on the field should be harvested soon. The last days of the month should be fine. He is giving thought to marketing the grain.

CL

Christine Lewis Mon 19 Aug 2019

Update from Tony Allan following his exchange with John.
Harvest is creeping along ok, in fact it's dried up nicely this pm and we've just got going again. It'll need a little bit of drying, but the forecast, which was bright, is now a bit rubbish for the week ahead, so we wanted to get some in whilst we can. The Ourfield wheat is waiting for a bit more sun before it'll go.

Saturday 17 August

WA

Wendy Alcock Sat 3 Aug 2019

Thanks for the update, John. That all sounds really great, apart from the area that failed (but it's good to understand why that happened). I really like the idea of agroforestry. We may need to consider the costs of set up and if we can afford it as a collective at the moment (may depend on what we can sell this year's crop for) but I agree it would a great example so show what can be done.

CL

Christine Lewis Sat 3 Aug 2019

Thanks John. Like Wendy I am very encouraged and it is great news about a potential buyer - from last year's difficult selling process I know I am not the right person to make any decisions about how to sell and what the market price should be. So happy for those that know to steer that part.

JC

John Cherry Fri 2 Aug 2019

Hi Christine
Thanks for the nudge. Weather is never good for farmers, but it hasn't been too bad at all this year. The wheats on ourfield look pretty good and will be ready to harvest soon (in the next two weeks). The weeds shouldn't make too many problems for us and all in all it has been a bit of a revelation in terms of how good things can be with no inputs. The one failure was the strip which had no glyphosate pre-drilling...the weed burden was too high for the wheat to get away. We've had to flail the crop off.

The rest of the heritage wheat looks fine, even the Crusoe at the bottom of the hill which was a bit yellow and sad looking in the spring, now looks like a semi-proper crop. The clover under-storey is doing it's work of smothering weeds and providing nitrogen and emotional support to the wheats towering above.

Many a slip twixt cup and lip, but so far so good. We even have a buyer who's showing interest in buying the lot, depending on post harvest testing. How much do you want for it?

As for next year, I'll come back soon with suggestions. I am happy to consider a bit of agro-forestry (which there was some talk of last year) despite all the hassles involved, not least because it's one of the few fields which is nicely aligned N/South and is close to Groundswell for delegates to look at, and this is something which UK agriculture needs to be thinking about if not actually doing. I had a snoop around Stephen Briggs's farm in the fens earlier this year (he's got rows of apple trees every 26m with 24m of cropping in between) and it was very inspiring.

John

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 2 Aug 2019

Hello @johncherry - any chance of a very quick update on the 2019 harvest - i.e. has the weather been good this year, when is harvest time and what are the timings for when we need to decide what happens next? Realise this is a very busy time of year.

AR

Abby Rose Sat 6 Jul 2019

thanks @johncherry very interesting to see! The wheat that did get a weed-free start looks like it's doing very well! How much wheat do coverage do you think there is on the non-weed free area?

JC

John Cherry Fri 5 Jul 2019

Here's a photo of the heritage wheat that had glyphosate pre-drilling (on left) and the severely stunted heritage wheat on right that didn't get a weed free start. Took this last week, am currently away from home

D

Darren Wed 12 Jun 2019

Yes, thanks for the update @johncherry - I find it a bit amusing, that throughout the Our Field project, the weather often seems to have helped to enable and/or enforce what appears to be the groups preference of minimizing chemical inputs

TA

Tony Allan Sat 8 Jun 2019

Thank you John

WA

Wendy Alcock Sun 9 Jun 2019

thanks for the update, John

JC

John Cherry Fri 7 Jun 2019

I'm sorry for the sustained radio silence from this end. Many thanks for giving us the freedom to do as we saw fit. As it turned out, we've done nothing. It was too dry and a bit late to put fertiliser on, so we didn't. Ditto, it was bit late to weed kill and the weeds seemed very small with the dry weather, so we skipped that. There's not much disease pressure, so no fungicides. The wheats are all growing away nicely, except the patch that had no Roundup, which is struggling frankly. Otherwise, all is well

John

SJ

Steven Jacobs
Agree
Wed 24 Apr 2019

A strategy, a system approach to food production that is also keyed into trusted networks is vital to successful sustainable farming.
But, with OurField there’s also a need for understanding of farming among members & of members’ likes and dislikes. And there is tension between all of these factors.
Can we also discuss the future & what we feel is possible, what the strengths & weaknesses of any approach and any integrated system, and what is doable at Weston & what we want to have done there?

AR

Abby Rose
Agree
Tue 23 Apr 2019

My only concern is that John won't want to be as experimental if he is making the decisions because suddenly there is more pressure on him. When we make whacky decisions and we get very little crop it's ok...but will John feel the same freedom when deciding himself? or are we saying here John please help us get a good crop at the end?
So I agree, with the caveat that I have NO expectations of any crop at the end of this and no pressure on John...

HG

Harry Greenfield
Agree
Tue 23 Apr 2019

I broadly agree with this but it should only be a temporary measure and hopefully we can still hear updates on what decisions were made by John

WA

Wendy Alcock
Agree
Mon 22 Apr 2019

Happy for John and team to guide us

CL

Christine Lewis
Agree
Sun 21 Apr 2019

Seems a sensible approach. It is very hard to make decisions remotely so happy to go with what John and his advisers think best.

TA

Tony Allan
Agree
Sat 20 Apr 2019

Thank you Grahame for circulating the information and the invitation to vote. It would be good to have comments from members.

OR

Oliver Rubinstein
Agree
Sat 20 Apr 2019

I think this would be a good bridging measure whilst we work out what to do next.

GH

Poll Created Sat 20 Apr 2019

To allow John to make farming decisions without votes Closed Wed 24 Apr 2019

The purpose of this vote now is whether to permit or not permit that until the 2019 harvest John could use sprays and other methods to control weeds and /or boost soil fertility without having a vote on each occasion.

The presumption is that John Cherry could then take an on-the-spot view with advisement from members and our Agronomist Richard Harding and his new farm manager who has come from an organic farming background.

This vote would be a temporary remedy while the OurField cooperative thrashes out a longer term strategy for the field to describe annual policies or agreement on certain systems to be in place.

I do not see a "yes" vote as necessarily precluding experiments such as the Einbock harrow, merely that the actions John takes in the field could precede or be in parallel with giving the information to the OurField members.

There is plenty written elsewhere in this topic to give members the background and an understanding of different farming approaches which presently confront OurField. Before voting I would encourage members to browse in the history.

Results

Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 100.0% 18 HG AR TF SF TA WA SJ AG DK CL A K AW KF CG JB B OR
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 0.0% 0  
Block 0.0% 0  
Undecided 0% 40 A D AL DU GH JC JT NR AS TT RM LB MDV SW TS SG KS EC MS CA VLD S&D HB AL NG EM E SD CB W HW A NH SC M RB H J KD OH

18 of 58 people have voted (31%)

TA

Tony Allan Mon 8 Apr 2019

Dear John and Steven
Thank you both for providing information on some options available to deal with the weeds. The outcome as usual seems to be in the hands of Nature and whether it rains - but not too much.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Mon 8 Apr 2019

That's interesting @johncherry
Einbocks are popular with organic farmers. They have been criticised for being a bit rudimentary though that is also part of their appeal, but I understand they’ve evolved somewhat in the last few decades.
Yes, timing is everything, as always with farming. I know there is a desire to get on with it from farmers but they also tell me it is better to wait and find the best time to strike. If you can hold your nerve!
Cheers,
Steven

JC

John Cherry Sun 7 Apr 2019

Thanks Steven

I quite forgot to say, Ollie our new manager, suggested going over the whole field with our 'einbock' type harrow to grub up a lot of the weeds and hopefully not pull up the wheat. He used to be on an organic farm and knows a bit about how to do these things. However the ground is a bit solid now, so harrow won't make much impression. If we get some wet and catch it as it dries we could give it a go

John

SJ

Steven Jacobs Sun 7 Apr 2019

Thanks, @johncherry
While I, for one, am happy for the project to experiment with or without this or that input or method I would reiterate that this is something I’d feel best done under a strategic approach.
Where farmers regularly farm without using artificial inputs or using only very low levels of inputs then they do, in my experience, succeed more when they’ve other ways to help the crop to thrive, rather than abandoning the plants to whatever the fates may throw at them.
They might use animal manure, for instance, in place of artificial nitrogen and use of cultural methods such as hoes and harrows in place of chemical products for weed control.
Not sure how you all feel about this and how @johncherry would feel?
I think it would be helpful if people can think what is possible, now and longer term.
Cheers,
Steven

JC

John Cherry Sat 6 Apr 2019

I had a chat with Richard yesterday. The wheats are looking ok, we've missed the early chance to give it much nitrogen, but it's still worth adding perhaps 70 to 90 kgs of urea which would double the output at harvest...ie spend £70/acre to get at least an extra £140 extra back from more wheat. We really ought to give it a broad-leaved weed spray at £12/acre as a forest of little weeds are appearing now.
The alternative is to do nothing (no fert no sprays) which will mean the weeds won't be so vigorous, but we won't get so much wheat, but we may be able to sell it to a miller/baker as chemical free, if not strictly speaking 'organic', which may well be worth more than the extra fertilised wheat. If that makes sense.
I have no strong feelings either way, I'm happy to do nothing, but I'm just nervous that it may go wrong and it's your money which you won't get a return on...
Time for a vote? I'm off on holiday on Wednesday till Easter, but if you want to do stuff, the team here can get on with it...

TA

Tony Allan Fri 22 Mar 2019

Dear Grahame
Thank you for asking for our comments. I accept the judgment of John and Richard on the way to deal with the weeds in the circumstances of this season. If they have a moment to explain the reasons it would be very much appreciated. Conservation farming is not risk free!!! Best Tony (Allan)

AR

Abby Rose Tue 26 Mar 2019

Yes also agree @grahamehunter @christinelewis1 we could take a vote on a long term approach for the rest of the year...and then quick fire decisions can be taken based on that direction.

KF

Kirsten Foster Mon 25 Mar 2019

Hi Grahame. I like your suggestion - at the very least I think it would be good to consider some way of making longer term strategic decisions. At the moment it does feel like we're just reacting to things as they crop up (no pun intended!). Could we consider issues that may arise over the year and vote on possible solutions. Of course there will still be a need to review and reconsider, or act on unforeseen circumstances, but at the moment it feels (to me) that decision making leans too far to the reactive, short-term end of things.

TA

Tony Allan Mon 25 Mar 2019

Dear Christine
I agree with your comment that taking a vote may not be an appropriate approach if the decision needs to be made quickly.
My position is that we learn with John and his team how to deal with this season's weeds. If he has time to explain their rationale it would be good. Best Tony Allan

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 24 Mar 2019

Well, @abbyrose I was not suggesting we avoid those decisions: I really meant, and I see it is not what I wrote, that perhaps we could agree by vote in principal what our strategy is, and then if it is to use glyphosate or whatever, that we rely on John / Richard to determine the timing and quantities within the agree parameters whatever those are, and so not have a vote each time spray is used..it could becomes ideosyncratic and illogical if we sometimes vote "yes" to spray, and next time around "no", based on arbitrary things such as who turns up to vote on that occasion. So my suggestin is a vote on sprays etc, with an extra clause such as "- this decision is binding until the harvest of 2019." or "until the summer meeting".

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 22 Mar 2019

I agree with Abby about the spirit of OurField being for collaborative decision making but note that holding a vote takes time which we may not have - so a very simple vote with a few days to respond that covers the decisions needed now may be the best approach. Is it simply - do we add selective weedkiller (non-glyphosate), do we add fertiliser, do we add selective weedkiller and fertiliser or do we leave the crop as it is with no addition.

AR

Abby Rose Fri 22 Mar 2019

I am not sure defaulting to the farmer's opinion is in the spirit of OurField! Can we have a vote and of course have John and Richard's advice as one of the options?

GH

Grahame Hunter Thu 21 Mar 2019

John's crop update

I know there is some background discussions regarding strategy. One aspect to consider, and looking at the accounts everyone has received, is that everyone pays a little for John as the farmer, and for Richard the agronomist; these are flat costs per member per month.
If both John and the Richard are of the opinion that within the Weston no-till-but-not-organic system the field should be sprayed, could it be proposed that an accepted strategy is to default to their advice?

TA

Tony Allan Tue 19 Mar 2019

Dear John
Very many thanks for the additional information. Farming is exquisitely complicated with too numerous risks to weigh.

The arrival of the assistant manager is big news. It would be good if you could introduce him. It must have been a big decision to add staff and I presume a reversal of the trend of decades with respect to on-farm employment.
.
Thank you also for highlighting the weed problem and for asking for comments. We look forward to information on costs. If we get a crop will it sell easily. We don't want a repeat of the first spelt crop? Best TonyA

JC

John Cherry Mon 18 Mar 2019

Thanks for asking Tony. It is relatively simple to spray on the bacteria I think. Measuring and monitoring the results less so. Having rashly offered this, I'm now slightly dreading the work, but we've just taken on a brilliant assistant manager who will take a lot of work off me so I'll be getting fat and lazy quite soon.

However both he and Richard are of the opinion that if we don't spray the field with some selective weed-killer soon (not glyphosate, which would kill the wheat), then we likely won't have any crop to harvest except as a forage crop (ie turn the mess of plants into silage or graze it all off). There are a lot of broad-leaved and grass weeds there. We could take a punt and not fertilise it and hope that the wheats dominate the weeds, but it's quite a risk. It all depends on what the collective want. I'll get some prices for what this would cost and likely returns to give you all a better idea of what's at stake. Sorry not to be more bullish about this
John

TA

Tony Allan Wed 6 Mar 2019

Many thanks John
I like the idea that the OurField project will figure in Groundswell 2019.
On the use of fertilser I would need to know what experiments would be feasible. Do you have time to do anything complicated. Also if you could do the complicated things needed for the application would you have the capacity to do any monitoring and weighing of separate outputs. Best TonyA

CL

Christine Lewis Tue 5 Mar 2019

Thanks for the update John - what is the timescale on this so that we can plan a vote from members and have time for debate and sharing views.

JC

John Cherry Mon 4 Mar 2019

With apologies for lack of updates, but it has been quiet on the farm, except that we've just had a beautiful dry and warm February and have used the opportunity to spread a bit of Urea fertiliser on most of our crops. But not #ourfield.

Which leads to the next question we need to ask the collective: what fertiliser (if any) do you want to use on these wheats that we have growing. There are a few companies selling magic potions containing free-living nitrogen fixing bacteria etc which allegedly fix a decent amount of N. These tend to be ok to use in organic systems, but the problem is that the jury is out as to whether they work or not.

Or we can put a bit of urea on. Or do nothing.

We have moved the Groundswell demo site this year to the field between ourfield and Lannock farmyard, so we could probably persuade one or other of the snake-oil guys to give us some potion to trial...as long as the collective are happy to have delegates padding about the field. We'd keep it contained and I don't think that many people will move that far, but it may be an idea worth exploring.

What do people think?

RB

Rosy Benson Tue 22 Jan 2019

Thanks John and Oliver. I am very happy to see the green covering of "weeds" on the unsprayed patch, cover over winter means healthier soil and less run off and a step in the right direction. Its going to take time for any type of natural balance, so I expect the weeds won't be as diverse as they could be but happy to see how it goes. Remember the heritage varieties should grow taller, and won't suit too much nitrogen in the soil. The experiment area is the most interesting part of the field!

JC

John Cherry Mon 28 Jan 2019

Thanks Oliver for annotating the map, a skill that I've yet to pick up.
Strictly speaking, the Wakelyns Population (coloured green on map) comes down to just below the bridleway line that divides the field. Approx 6.2 hectares.
The next section (coloured red) is the Miller's Choice and weed crop (approx. 0.6 hectare) the next (grey) section is clean Miller's Choice, about 1hectare and the rest in blue is Crusoe

TA

Tony Allan Mon 28 Jan 2019

Dear Oliver

Thank you very much indeed for taking time to provide estimates of the areas devoted to the different varieties.

And to the part of the field not treated with glyphosate.

The information helps us a lot.

Best. TonyA

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Sun 27 Jan 2019

I've annotated an aerial image of the field with where the different wheats are. I'm not quite sure about the areas of each, but as I understand it the Millers choice is a smaller area than the others - remember part of it has also been left unsprayed with glyphosate.

TA

Tony Allan Tue 22 Jan 2019

Dear Oliver,
Thank you warmly for taking the initiative to visit the Field. It was very important that John found the time to provide the essential detail, the spade and of course the humour. Your successful visit gives us confidence that we can be updated on progress and especially on who wins the war with the weeds!! I hope you can make other visits. The method looks as if it could be done with a drone, But I prefer the John and Oliver show.
Best TonyA

K

Keesje Mon 21 Jan 2019

Thanks for sharing this

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Mon 21 Jan 2019

Update on the crop

I went to see the field today and John kindly spent some time talking me through what's been happening.
Have a watch of this video, to get an idea of what the field looks like currently.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Wed 22 Aug 2018

Yes the seed idea is a sound one I reckon. Seed royalties are due to breeders of varieties so with John Letts’ heritage population it’s he who would be due any recompense.
The idea of a feed mix for @johnch

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Tue 21 Aug 2018

Update from Hodmedod's

I spoke to Josiah today about potentially purchasing the 2018 crop. He'd be interested in having us produce a crop of lentils and also if we were to grow heritage wheat, he'd happily stock it . There are a few things that need sorting out, but potentially if we wanted to grow lentils this year, we'd have a buyer in Hodmedod's. See message below:

"Yes, we'd very much be interested in a guest producer flour - I can't promise huge sales (we only sell a few tonnes of Wakelyns flour a year - including some slightly larger baker orders).

We haven't yet harvested all our lentils and I need to talk to all the producers this year to see how much they want to grow next year, but if you're keen I'd want to visit and have a fairly detailed conversation about their production and harvest to to be sure you really did want to go for it (they're not without risk...). As an aside we need to do all we can to maintain a good return to farm for the lentils and in order to do that we're managing scarcity in order to ensure demand always slightly exceeds supply. With that in mind I need to map areas quite carefully and ensure that we initially expand production with our existing farmers - that should all be sorted out by early/mid September.

Best wishes,

Josiah"

TA

Tony Allan Thu 23 Aug 2018

In reply to Grahame I agree that it is the excessive use of glysophate that is the problem.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Wed 22 Aug 2018

Soil not soul. Typing on a mobile.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Wed 22 Aug 2018

Yes I think you’re right that much of the heated conversation around glyphosate is human health so where is sprayed on a food crop and it’s effects on us thereafter.
I have concerns though where glyphosate is proven, and there is such research, to be negative in some biotic relationships.
Glyphosate herbicide affects belowground interactions between earthworms and symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi in a model ecosystem
https://www.academia.edu/16539209/Glyphosate_herbicide_affects_belowground_interactions_between_earthworms_and_symbiotic_mycorrhizal_fungi_in_a_model_ecosystem

That is not to say it’s completely malign but not is it entirely benign.

Another element I have concern over is the use of artificial fertiliser. It too is not benign in its effects on the soul and soul borne organisms and the manufacture of it is hugely intensive.
This must be balanced with use of cultivation’s but a system approach mindful of all impacts is sensible and I believe organic is a very good example of such.
But I also think the Weston farms approach is mindful. And I know that moving to organic, even in practice rather than full certification, is a very big change and a steep learning curve.

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 21 Aug 2018

glyphosate

There is of course a difference between using a chemical to terminate a cover crop (which I think would be the de facto method on ourField) and spraying a weed killing chemical onto the crop itself (sometimes even as late as harvest, to terminate co resident weeds, and to make harvesting easier,) which is never done at Weston.
I think a lot of the steam about glyphosates in the food chain comes from the crop itself being sprayed; or do people have other information?

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Tue 21 Aug 2018

Currently waiting to hear back from Hodmedod's guys.

RB

Rosy Benson Mon 20 Aug 2018

very true, we talk allot at the bakery about how if we knew and trusted the farmer had grown in an organic way then organic certification could be glossed over. It's the farm practices over several years and the direct relationship with the farmer that's important. This links in with the general need to reconnect with how our food is produced and know the person producing it. For example one grain we mill is a mix of varieties called Lys Brun from Duchess Farms grown by Oscar, not certified organic but we trust he hasn't sprayed it at any point because Ben is friends with him and trusts how he's grown that crop. Would John Cherry be interested in trying OurField crops without non-organic inputs and find another way to terminate the cover crop?

AR

Abby Rose Mon 20 Aug 2018

I am very keen to grow heritage wheats but as Rosy and Grahame point out having a buyer beforehand or a plan for selling it is super important. It will be good to chat to Hodmedod's as they process and sell both organic and non-organic grains as far as I know...they could be a potential partner/buyer. I also know that certain smaller bakeries who want to use heritage grains are working with farmers on conventional farms to grow the heritage grains using organic methods, but of course it is not certified organic. So potentially there is demand for this as well.

GH

Grahame Hunter Mon 27 Aug 2018

Rosy thank you for that..the best would be to send one box with 6 x 1.5Kg bags, so a total of 9Kg.. We have white and wholemeal. Do you think 3 of each or some different ratio? I am not at Weston now, but I think I can arrange this remotely!

Ideally we would wan to learn more about the potential of the flour we have (Spelt) , and then to sound out any ideas you can contribute on what we might do with 4 more tonnes of the stuff, still safe in an atmosphere controlled environment.

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Wed 22 Aug 2018

@grahamehunter having talked about this with the coordinating team, some interesting ideas were raised about using the collective's combined marketing skills to come up with an engaging story and branding for any flour, as well as using the combined selling power of the members to 'crowd sell' the flour. We may not have the farming skills and knowledge within the collective, but I'm sure that we have plenty of communications, marketing and graphic design experts amongst us.

RB

Rosy Benson Wed 22 Aug 2018

Yeah I'm happy to bake a deck of say 12 spelt loaves, just send over the flour. About 8 kg would be enough for a test or two then a bake. I'm pretty sure head baker Luke did do a tinned spelt with Abby Glencross at some point... Maybe I could bake it for the upcoming meeting? (date unconfirmed) then those that come could take home some bread. If its got a low hagberg it may behave weirdly...e5 has a good organic spelt flour provider at the moment so we are fine. Whats the price? I can pass on the details to the miller Ed, but no promises. Is it clean and dehulled? Where was the plan to get it milled?

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 21 Aug 2018

Rosy - any chance of a test bake at E5?
There are many bags of beautifully milled Spelt from Weston's "OurField" 2017 harvest.
So far 7 of the 2017 members have elected to take their "free" samples, and 2 of the 2018 members have bought flour. However what we have not had is a chance to get the flours tested by a professional baker in a commercial oven. With all your travels around the bakerhood of UK, do you know of any who might like to try this product? (after all, we do have 4 tonnes more ready to be milled!)
And so, perhaps, you may have contact with bakers who could be interested in a 2018 crop which will be harvested in Autumn 2019?

One of the options which has slightly gone into limbo because of the difficulties of moving last year's harvest, is to grow Spelt AGAIN, since John has Spelt on hand that could be used as seed. It is true the crop had a poor technical rating for bakers - unsubstantiated in practice - but it is also likely something was learned about handling and growing Spelt which was in that year a new crop at Weston.

I have a slight inclination to stay with a product and get better at it rather than cycling on to a new exciting crop-of-the-moment (which this year seems to be a heritage population) . At least we know the problems of selling Spelt; they might be surmountable.

RB

Rosy Benson Mon 20 Aug 2018

There are lots of advantages of heritage wheat not just the possibility of outcompeting weeds (this is usually to do with longer straw lengths). Big one is Flavour. Nutrient scavenging ability. Digestibility (if long fermented). I've seen first hand this year some of the heritage population crops coping much better in the long hot summer than the modern monocultures as diversity in the field has meant whatever the weather some varieties have thrived and held more moisture in the ground. Maybe the yield won't be high but we could be potentially be helping to produce actually good food!

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 19 Aug 2018

where does the premium for specialised wheat lie?

As Rosy Benson has pointed out above . .my reservations are that we would have difficulty selling it for flour to small bakeries as its not going to be grown organically, especially with the recent media around herbicide use. There are other farmers growing the Waklyns YQ around the country in an organic system (lots of cultivations though) that bakers would be able to get hold of easier.'

I fear this may be the case - if the premium attached to heritage wheat is intricately co-resident with a desire for organic product then there seems scant reason to grow such a crop within the Weston "Conservation Agriculture" system in hope of a higher price; so that leaves the possible advantage of an older variety just one of being more weed resistant?

Unless of course the OurField group can work out how to develop a different story to help the sale for a specialised product that is not organically grown..

RB

Rosy Benson Sun 19 Aug 2018

This is the Heritage Population grown this year down on the Dartington estate, we could probably get the grain from Holly at Grown in Totnes as the project is winding up, they've harvested this a few weeks ago.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Wed 22 Aug 2018

Yes the seed idea is a sound one I reckon. Seed royalties are due to breeders of varieties so with John Letts’ heritage population it’s he who would be due any recompense.
The idea of a feed mix for @johncherry also a sound one. The Wakelyns makes a good feed I’m told, what do you think John and what price would you give?

RB

Rosy Benson Sun 19 Aug 2018

Hello OurField!

Thanks for the update John C, nice to hear the cover crop is pleasing the walkers and the bees!

Apologies for being a bit quiet on the airwaves, I’ve been busy working my way around the UKs best bakeries! Its been a very delicious journey so far! The Angel Bakery, Small Food Bakery, Wild Hearth Bakery, The Almond Thief Bakery as well as my actual job at e5, and visiting farms (Stuart Roberts at Hammonds End, John Letts farm, Fred Price at Goltheney Farm, the Grown in Totnes project, Mark Leas Farm) to see this years grain growing. Lots to report on that maybe in a separate post.

My thoughts are that I would like us to plant very soon a Population of Heritage grain, possibly the one developed by John Letts. Its ideal as a grain after a previous grain harvest as it doesn’t require a high nutrient soil. I’ve emailed him today to scope out whether he’d be interested in this idea. Not necessarily for us to process into flour or sell to a distillery but for this year but to help bulk up his seed to then be sown elsewhere around the country. (This could be potentially less processing work for us to deal with, clearly we are not that quick on that side of things, sorry to say). But maybe we are good at using our network to shout out about what we are trying to do to the public?! We would need to understand a bit more about seed law and legacy payments, Steven do you have any thoughts on this? We could then have a much bigger impact and use our project to help launch the environmental and political principles behind this grain. This crop ticks lots of boxes its; diversity in the field, requires low-input methods, produces high value nutritious grain with real flavour over cheap food etc. I can see the heritage grain market growing by speaking to bakers, and by using Johns Population we can keep its label from being misused as he has developed this population over several years and really has the knowledge and ethics behind its development. We have allot to learn from him.

I like the YQ, having baked with it, understood its development and worked with Kim at Small Food on it but my reservations are that we would have difficulty selling it for flour to small bakeries as its not going to be grown organically, especially with the recent media around herbicide use. There are other farmers growing the Waklyns YQ around the country in an organic system (lots of cultivations though) that bakers would be able to get hold of easier. The customer doesn’t tend to ask past the organic label, so far anyway.

My second option would be to plant a diverse forage mix for the herd and tie the field into the farm system John Cherry is currently practicing. Any option that thinks about improving the soils health by thinking long term and creating a better system gets my vote.

x

JC

John Cherry Wed 15 Aug 2018

Thanks for all the kind comments and suggestions. We are cracking on with harvest, which has been ridiculously easy this year, as everything is so dry and there are hardly any weeds (like we had in the spelt last year) to slow things down. It is also very early, but perhaps not as bountiful as we hoped a month or two ago, especially the spring crops which basically didn't see any rain from the day they emerged till the day they were harvested. The cover crop on the field is growing a bit and drawing appreciative comments from people using the footpath through the middle. Two people have stopped me in the shop and admitted to stealing sunflowers...obviously just the tip of the iceberg!

As to next year, I'm all for a heritage wheat. The fertility won't be too high that it'll fall over. We've got a year to find a market and I'm sure something will crop up...there's a choice between the whackier Einkorn types or something like Wakelyn's population wheat which is easily saleable into the normal wheat market if a specific #ourfield market doesn't open up.
John

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Tue 21 Aug 2018

Any luck with this Andy?

AW

Andy Walker Tue 14 Aug 2018

I certainly can. It's worth a shot. Any

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 14 Aug 2018

I like this idea a lot Andy. Can YOU contact someone and report back?

AW

Andy Walker Tue 14 Aug 2018

Has anybody contacted any of the UK flour suppliers (Marriages, Doves, Shipton-Mill) to tell them about the OurField project and ask whether they would be interested in us sewing a crop exclusively for them? Something that they might see a future market for, or something that they are having trouble sourcing in the UK?

What were the reasons for growing Spelt last year? Was there something in particular you were hoping to achieve?

I'm aware that the quality of the Spelt for bread making isn't great so can we presume that other grains would be of a similar quality? Does this rule out grains for breadmaking completely?

Andy

SJ

Steven Jacobs Tue 14 Aug 2018

Thanks Tony.

TA

Tony Allan Tue 14 Aug 2018

Hello StevenThank you for the very useful comments.
Best Tony

SJ

Steven Jacobs Tue 14 Aug 2018

Thanks all for the comments on this thread, very interesting.
I’d like to make a point about heritage wheats —
Heritage in terms of grains is a loose term.
As to which older varieties are to considered ‘heritage’ can depend on a range of factors not all of which are clear.

I think the chap @johnanthonyallan mentioned hearing on the radio is Stuart Roberts, certainly Stuart was on Farming Today on Radio 4, yesterday or the day before. Stuart, and his father, have a lot of experience with older and more modern varieties, the one he was talking about on the farming programme was einkorn, but they are also experienced in farming organically and the set of challenges that comes with that approach to food production.

And with older varieties they can tend to lodge (fall over) if fertility in the field is particularly high. So, that must be taken into account. Sowing rates can be different, older varieties may not need high sowing rates as they can be weed competitive. But not always. Depends on the soils, the pH as much as the NPK, and it depends on the weed profile in a given field. And then there’s the weather.

I am and have been for some time a firm believer in the value of older cereal varieties but there is a gap between the knowledge in the farming community now and the knowledge in that community when such varieties were prevalent.

I suppose that begs the question, what would you want to/be happy growing, @johncherry ?

Cheers,
Steven

TA

Tony Allan Tue 14 Aug 2018

Hello Christine, Wendy, Oliver, Andy and Grahame
Vey many thanks for all the information. The link to the guide on heritage wheat was very useful indeed Wendy.

I like the very much the idea of heritage wheat but marketing is again going to be a serious challenge. On the basis of our experience so far - and our non-organic product - I would vote against going down the heritage wheat road unless John is very keen. Despite the fact that a farmer on Farming Today in the past few days reported that he had much better yields with his heritage harvest than his modern wheat.

I would like to suggest that until we know how to sell non-organic heritage grain we should regard the OurField activity as an association with the innovative Cherry managed farm where their big project is the adoption of conservation agriculture - abbreviated as CA

The adoption of CA is going very slowly in the UK. It is still not much beyond 10% of arable farming. The Weston Farm is nationally significant in this adoption and promotion of the approach nationally and internationally. The annual Groundswell event at Weston is a phenomenon. We have privileged access to the CA experiment at Weston.

Mob grazing by cattle is also being adopted.

We could align the OurField activity with the Weston Farm strategy by seeing the OurField link as a way of contributing to the adoption of CA and mob grazing. When we have useful expertise on marketing other grains and on other activities beyond the farm gate we could share them with the Cherry family and Richard the agronomist.

It will be very interesting to have from John and Richard the options for the 2018/2019 year. I would very much like to hear about the options for rotations FOR THE NEXT TWO OR MORE YEARS

Comments welcome from the membership and from John. How was the harvest John?

Best Tony

WA

Wendy Alcock Mon 13 Aug 2018

Thanks for the prompt Grahame and for laying out some options Darren and Christine.
Until we get any further guidance from John and Richard my preference would be for an autumn sown heritage wheat for the following reasons:
- it seems to me that autumn sowings have a better chance of getting established in order to deal with the unpredictable (too wet, dry, hot, cold) weather that we seem to be getting most summers now. Both this year’s cover crop and last year’s spelt (and fava bean companion plant) did not do that well after being planted in spring.
- as we are not able to grow organically at the moment, heritage wheat would give us a slight differentiation in the market, which I think we should aim for. Selling into the commodity market feels like the last option we should aim for, but useful to have as a backup if all else fails.
- we have tried companion and cover planting for the last two years and although they didn’t do as well as hoped, hopefully they have passed on some benefit to the soil to allow for a full field of grain this year.

If I remember rightly there are also not many heritage spring sown wheats (or they are hard to find) so if we want to try heritage variety/ies we will need to sow this year.

I don’t think it is realistic that we will find a buyer for a crop before the end of the month. One of the reasons last year’s spelt remains unsold is due to its low hagberg falling number which we didn’t know until harvest but put buyers off (even though it seems to be fine to bake with). I think we can only go with best chance to sell for now.

I’m sure we will be able to source some heritage seed. John Letts, his new Heritage Grain Alliance (I think you’re a member @abbyrose?) or Chris at the Real Bread Campaign could be a good places to start for suppliers. Unless our John knows of a source already or @rosybenson the grower we heard about at the Harvest celebration event at E5 in November can help us?

And Andy, you asked “I'd like to be more involved but I'm not sure how to!” I am just a home grower with an interest in where my food comes from and no farming or grain knowledge but the internet and phone have been my friend over the past year and half of this project. I have found people who I have emailed (mostly mills to try and find a way to dehull the 2017 spelt) to be very helpful if I have asked for advice, as they are all quite keen to hear about our project. The more of us that carry out a little bit of research or contact people to ask for help the wider the market we can cover between us, so please just jump in and see what you can find out :)

p.s. I found this article interesting when having a general google about hertitage wheat https://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/grain_and_mills/#heritage_varieties

AW

Andy Walker Mon 13 Aug 2018

Hi Christine,

Thanks for the link.

Heritage Grains is just something I wanted to throw into the pot for discussion.

Andy

CL

Christine Lewis Mon 13 Aug 2018

Hi Andy - not sure if we can consider heritage grains, John can advise but re: interest in heritage grains do keep an eye on Scotland The Bread who have 3 types of heritage grains in production and many community outreach activities - link below

AW

Andy Walker Mon 13 Aug 2018

Hi, I agree that ideally I need some guidance on what sort of crop we should be considering. Are there any crops that we shouldn't consider?

I joined this in the hope of gaining access to some heritage grains so from my perspective I would like look at those options - but I have no suggestions on what! Like others have said, it needs to be commercially viable and we need to line up potential buyers before we plant so that we don't end up with an other crop without a buyer.

I'd like to be more involved but I'm not sure how to!

Andy

CL

Christine Lewis Mon 13 Aug 2018

Graham - in summary re discussions on planting: we are very keen to get John, Richard and your views on what would work well for a crop and taking into consideration the state of the field and impact of the dry weather. We were keen to try and find someone to buy lined up - at least to consider the 'beyond the farm gate' aspects in more detail before we planted which is a reflection that we are still struggling to find a solution to 2017 Spelt. We had talked about beans, wheat, barley and oil seed rape - good to get your views on these and if they can offer a suitable choice. Personally I think an Autumn planting would be good unless there are better reasons to wait until next Spring.

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 12 Aug 2018

oh good!

CL

Christine Lewis Sun 12 Aug 2018

thanks for the prompt Graham - we have been discussing this and I will add in some detail very soon.

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 12 Aug 2018

crop decision required

We re close to the time when seed needs to be ordered, and time planned for drilling.

To avoid running out of options, I will put up a choice in a few days - but I need some guidance /input from Cooperative members what you would like to see in the range of choices offered to the Cooperative to choose from. otherwise it will just be John Cherry and Richard Harding and me sitting down for a coffee and coming up with a few options.

so please chip in here any ideas which you would like discussed, ready for me to put up a vote around 18 August 2018 for the crop you would like to have planted later this year, (or optionally as a Spring crop in 2019)

GH

Grahame Hunter Fri 10 Aug 2018

agro-forestry

I think it is a really interesting idea; but it is outside the remit or funding of OurField which was described to investors with a fairly specific set of parameters. I would suggest that if there is a lot of interest in Agro forestry, with ancillary costs of fencing and tree purchase, and much longer term commitment to seeing any returns from cropping trees, that this would be a separate group (which might or might not include some OurField members) , perhaps funded in a different way - fewer investors putting in more money on a different time scale. For which reason I would like to limit extensive discussion of Agro-Forestry here, please and to really emphasise the need to decide a crop to plant this year on the existng OurField site..
x

TA

Tony Allan Wed 8 Aug 2018

Dear Darren
Very many thanks for all the information and suggestions. I agree we need to consider options. The agroforestry idea is interesting but the deer precautions need to be researched and costed. And it would be good to know if we have the option of farming another field which is better suited to the approach.
John Cherry is very hard pressed managing the harvest and will not be able to give the idea much consideration.
Do we know anyone who has experience of agroforestry. If John is keen on an agroforestry experiment the option is worth considering. But is he is not then we do not have the financial and other resources to under-write it.
Many thanks Tony (Allan)

D

Darren Tue 7 Aug 2018

Its getting to the time where we need to decide what we are going to plant this autumn and how we are going to grow it.

Theres been some comments over the course of the year about what we may now want to grow.

There was the suggestion of growing some autumn sown wheat. If we are going to do so we need to weigh up the benefits of growing a modern wheat, for which there is a huge commodity market into which we can easily sell, against a more robust heritage wheat, which could crop well without requiring fungicides, but for which there may not be a ready market. The majority of our spelt from last year is still sat in the barn, and we've yet to discover where we can sell it.

The limited demand for heritage grains and other less widely grown crops appears to be largely for organic certified crops, which leaves us in an interesting situation. Its been suggested we shouldn't plant anything without having a buyer lined up. Can we find a buyer now who would be prepared to buy the heritage wheat we could be sowing next month?

Some other things we could put in as an autumn planting are field beans, or we could try another cover crop, with an eye to improved soil health and weed control.

Maybe we could do some kind of companion/combined crop again?

Has anyone got any suggestions?

The other thing thats been recently mentioned, is the possibility of setting up an agroforestry system on OurField. This would be planting rows of trees across the field, wide enough apart to still allow growing a field crop with a tractor between the rows. We could grow trees that would provide a marketable crop (hazelnuts, eldersflower/berries, apples, wood or ???), but there would be a new set of logistics to consider in taking and marketing the crop, and possibly tree care.

Having trees on the field offer great soil health benefits, their roots encourage a healthy soil ecosystem, by being permanently present, feeding soil micro organisms. We could select trees to maximize soil health benefits rather than with a focus on a marketable crop.

I had a chat with John Cherry and he is happy for us to explore this idea on the farm. There are significant costs involved in obtaining and planting the trees, the field would need fencing against deer and if we had another summer as dry as this one, there's the possibility that we could loose a significant number of trees. There are however grants readily available that could cover, at least, some of these costs. The novelty of OurField may well improve our chances of attracting other funding to help cover some costs. John pointed out that OurField has a bridleway running through it. This would increase the costs of deer fencing, and make laying out the field more complex. We could move onto another field where there wouldn't be these issues.

AR

Abby Rose Tue 31 Jul 2018

Yes thanks so much for the photo @grahamehunter - looks like there is lots of diversity!

TA

Tony Allan Fri 20 Jul 2018

Dear Grahame

Very many thanks for sending John Cherry's 16 July 2018 photo and your comments. Tony Allan

GH

Grahame Hunter Thu 19 Jul 2018

John Cherry took this in the field 19 July 2018

photo

This is at the low end of the field where the soil is poorer, but has more moisture. At the top of the field, the clover has come through more strongly, and there are fewer flowers.

I understand he is considering grazing this field later; this requires fencing and arranging water, but adds fertility to the soil for next year.

As can be seen I think I am correct to say that there is no harvestable crop, so a fallow year.