Loomio
Mon 20 Feb 2017

What we can plant and what we wish to apply to the crop. Discussions up to Nov 2017

GH Grahame Hunter Public Seen by 50

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There is a reading list here - posted by Abi Glencross.

The background to the first decision has been carefully described by John Cherry in his first post, and which appears directly after the posting guidelines.

GH

Grahame Hunter Mon 20 Feb 2017

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JC

John Cherry Tue 21 Feb 2017

It was lovely to meet all of you who came up here on Sunday and I look forward to getting to know the rest of you over the course of the season, either in person or via loomio.

We talked a bit on Sunday about what to plant on your behalf. I'll try to put some flesh on those suggestions. The three crops on offer are:

1) Spring Wheat, a variety called Mulika (which we happen to have in the shed), which when grown conventionally should yield 2 to 3 tonnes grain/acre (5 to 7.5t /hectare). On the farm last year we spent about £170/ha on fertilisers and sprays and it just about made 5t/ha yield as the spring was dry and cold (and a host of other farmr excuses that I won't bore you with in case you worry you've invested in a dud). It tends to produce high protein (14%) milling grain and consequently is sought after by the millers and sells at a good premium to 'feed' wheat. We're hoping for £150/t for last years crop.

2) Spelt. You probably know more about this than I do; we planted our first field of spelt last autumn and we're very pleased with how it looks. Most spelt is grown organically in the UK, but as more people demand it, one or two mills are now buying non-organic spelt, so we'll be able to sell it. I'll talk about organic a bit later. I really have no idea how spring sown spelt will yield or behave, but it will certainly be interesting. The costs should be lower than Mulika, the yield certainly will be,but the price should be much higher.

3) Spring Oats. Oats are pleasingly robust compared to wheat and more competitive against weeds and diseases (on the whole). They are thus cheaper to grow, but should yield much as spring wheat. If we hit the human consumption standard, which is to an extent weather dependant, they will make porridge for someone and money for us. But a lot of farmers seem to be growing them now, so the market could crash...my oat dealer says this is unlikely. We're moving last years oats now at £134/t.

The next decision is whether you want to plant a companion crop in with your cereal. This is uncharted territory for us, though we have grown peaola before (oil seed rape and peas) with mixed results and we've grown various unintended companions with cereals (weeds). This is an enormous and very exciting subject which I can't begin to summarise here. Really keen people can look up my friend Andy Howard's recent Nuffield Scholarship Report, which goes into it in some depth (96 pages iirr). I think it is the future of farming. Or one of the things anyway...

The last decision that needs to be made now is: how 'organic' do you want to be? As Richard the agronomist pointed out on Sunday, if we were properly organic here, we would have built up the fertility in preparation to the growing of wheat or spelt, ie we've have had a legume or herbal ley in the ground the year before. The field we have chosen had a crop of wheat in last year and now has a cover crop of oats and blackgrass, so there won't be a huge amount of natural fertility available to grow a crop without some additional omph. As we aren't bound by organic rules, we can put a bit of nitrogen fertiliser on and this might well mean we have to add fungicide and straw shortener (especially if we go for spelt, which gets to 6 foot high without artificial fertiliser). Again this is a massive subject, which I'm not going to elaborate on here, but trust to the wisdom of the crowd.

In short we can grow the crop without inputs, but we won't get much back and what little we get won't be sellable as organic as we are not registered. It will be cheap and interesting for all that. The reason we need to know now is: if you think we should use at least some inputs, we'll probably add some fertiliser at seeding time to get the plants off to a flying start.

Abi Aspen has provided a reading list for those who want to delve further into all these options.

A

Abi-Aspen Wed 22 Feb 2017

Hi team!

I'm Abi Aspen, one of the resident scientists who loves to research the bejabbers out of everything :)

Please find below the reading list we've pulled together. I've tried to make it balanced in terms of papers, articles, reputable, maybe not so reputable, organic favoured, conventional favoured. But please be aware we always carry a bit of bias, and encourage you to have a dig around to see what you can find too :)

If anyone can't access any of the documents please just let me know as I believe I have access to some others do not.

Happy reading! And if anyone wants a bit more in depth, or a point in the right direction I'm more than happy to help. Just drop me a line :)

Grainy love

Abi Aspen

MS

Matthew Shribman Fri 24 Feb 2017

Purely on the basis of deliciousness, my vote would be for oats. But that's just to get the discussion going.

When you talk about fertilisers John, is there a choice between industrial NPKs and animal muck? Apart from understanding the chemistry, I'm completely ignorant about this kind of thing.

JC

John Cherry Mon 27 Feb 2017

In answer to your question about 'artificial' fertilisers and farmyard manure, we haven't got a big supply of well-rotted FYM/compost to apply and even if we had, we'd have a job to apply as much N with FYM as we might need to get a decent conventional yield.

MS

Matthew Shribman Mon 27 Feb 2017

Thanks John, great answer.

CL

Christine Lewis Sat 25 Feb 2017

Thinking about the grains - I will want to vote for something I can make bread with so for me it's between Mulika and Spelt. Mulika looks a good grain from what I can see but we need to take advantage of the added value from @ourfield and the shared risk - John would probably grow this anyway. Spelt looks good from the growing interest in it and we could demonstrate growing non-organic Spelt. The shared risk and collaborative decision making down the line may be the part that is important and we have additional innovative marketing from anything that comes out of this project whatever the outcome - so still not there with my voting choice but I am sure whatever we choose will be fine.

AG

Averil Glencross Sat 25 Feb 2017

My apologises for not being at the first meeting but have every intention to be at the next. Look forward to meeting you all I must admit I am leaning towards the Spelt. John's point about not knowing about the yield makes me want to find out. I think it would be interesting.

TA

Tony Allan Sat 25 Feb 2017

Tony Allan
I am finding using multiple sites - Ourfield and Loomio - very frustrating indeed. One can go round and round and then not be able to find one's way back to the page where there is some information needed in order to make a contribution on the decision. I also have not fathomed how

I am not clear whether we are using the field with black grass - and as I say I cannot find my way back to the place where JohnC set out the position. I judge it would be interesting to use the field with black grass as part of the 'experiment'..

My preferences
Approach - experimental and learning to be prioritised over profit(?)
Crop - Spelt, possibly in combination with a legume.

Many thanks John and the team at the farm.

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 26 Feb 2017

You have said you find switching between multiple site time-consuming. I sympathise.

The intention is to use Loomio Group threads, especially this one to the exclusion of any other sites. I am not checking the Our Field web site, and I don't think John Cherry is either.

So, if you want to exchange information with the others, this is the definitely place.

Remember, these are public threads anyone can look at, but only the paid-up members can contribute and vote.

TA

Tony Allan Sun 26 Feb 2017

Many thanks for your sympathetic reply. One does not like revealing one's on-line limitations. I appreciate your leadership on how to communicate if it makes communication easy.

QUESTION FOR JOHN CHERRY
I would also like to ask John Cherry whether there are significant additional transaction costs in 1. SEPARATING the outputs from a combined crop strategy, 2. MARKETING spelt and legumes compared with marketing spring wheat.

JC

John Cherry Mon 27 Feb 2017

There will be a modest extra cost in separating legume seeds from a cereal crop, but I'd hope the extra value of the bonus crop would more than pay for the hassle. We have the technology to do this on farm, we pass a lot of our crops over the sieves to clean them up before selling anyway. I don't know how easily the spelt or legumes will be to market, but I don't think it will be too difficult as long as the quality is there. I suspect by harvest time there will be a disorderly queue of buyers jostling with each other to get their hands on what we've grown!

CA

Catherine Arend Sat 25 Feb 2017

I would like us to grow spelt and lentils but am also interested in mulika. How expensive are the mulika seeds?
You can buy spelt flour easily and it sells at over twice the price of regular bread flour. I couldn't find any 'mulika' wheat for sale for bakers, the name isn't used as it is for spelt. So it might be a market opportunity: 'Mulika, the new spelt!'
I wonder what lentils can be grown on 'our field'? It would be great to offer British lentils.

JC

John Cherry Mon 27 Feb 2017

Sorry, I didn't explain what Mulika is very clearly. It is an ordinary spring sown wheat variety, one of a dozen or so commercial varieties that farmers will sow this spring. It happens to produce good quality grain that the commercial millers like, so is easily sold.

TT

Tessa Tricks Sun 26 Feb 2017

Hi, wonderful to meet so many of you last week. I look forward to meeting the rest of you in due course & via Loomio. 


Before getting on to the crops I wanted to share my thoughts on the trade off between making a profit and experimentation which was highlighted last Sunday. 

For me, a key reason for joining the collective was to learn more about the reality of farming and the challenges faced. Likewise I feel that OurField's model holds a deal of potential to make farming a more appealing career through reduced financial risk for the farmer. I would like the results of Our Field Weston to encourage others to do the same. Therefore I think it's quite important that we don't all end up at a huge loss. I feel that being able to say that we broke even, along with the other benefits of the co-op would be enough to encourage others to see OurField as as viable model with appeal for investors and farmers.

Like many of you, I'm keen to experiment with the crops and see what we can achieve without masses of chemical inputs, but am cautious of us taking on too much and think we should seek a middle ground. As Abby stressed last week, the process of FOW was much more complex than she anticipated. My heart is with companion cropping with a legume but I feel this might be best as an endeavour for a hypothetical year 2. - Should John or another farmer take us back. 

This leads to my vote for oats or spelt. I’ve seen spelt cropping up everywhere over the last few years (forgive the pun) and if there is a miller that we could use, I’m hopeful that we could find a buyer. As Christine says we should have the added value of ‘OurField’ on our side. I also heard rumours that there were some bakeries interested? In short, I would like others to see OurField as a successful, replicable model and for our crop to help transition the field so that the next crop would need less chemical inputs.

Thanks to John and family for having us!

TF

Tamsyn Forsyth Sun 26 Feb 2017

Hello! We just read Tessa's post and we just wanted to say that we are very much in agreement with the points she raises around ensuring a degree of success to make the project an attractive model for future uptake.

With regards to what to grow, our initial thinking is a preference for spelt, potentially with a companion crop as increasing diversity appeals to us. It would be great to be able to take this project through to completion, ergo marketing and selling the final outputs ourselves vs. selling to a wholesaler. Thoughts?

NR

Niki Reynolds Mon 27 Feb 2017

Hello,
After a lot of consideration I would like to suggest growing spelt with a companion crop of lentils..

EC

Emerson Csorba Mon 27 Feb 2017

Hi All!

This is a fascinating discussion, and I concur with those that advocate for a middle-ground here: I do think that financial viability should be an important criterion in our decision-making. Moreover, I agree that our collective work through #OurField can serve as a valuable source of information for 'future farmers,' and that this is an important consideration in our decision-making -- though with a small addition that future farmers will only be successful if they can live profitably through their farm work. My vote as it stands is for spelt, though I'm open to considering a small companion crop along with this.

CL

Christine Lewis Mon 27 Feb 2017

Would like to suggest we could consider splitting the field into half with one half with a companion crop and one half without if not too much labour. I also think a good injection of fertiliser at seeding time seems very sensible, why make it harder. Also just to check that I remember from the discussions that sieving companion crops did not easily make them okay for human consumption - the grain would be but the companion crop would be for animal feed due to sieving mechanisms. Great to have this discussion here - I agree with Tessa on the wider debate but feel excited to give a companion crop a chance - hence the 50% option. We cannot though fail or others will never follow.

AR

Abby Rose Tue 28 Feb 2017

I feel very undecided and that there are good reasons to choose all three. Really enjoyed reading all the thoughts from the group so far. Re-iterating the thoughts of others in the group - I think it's important that profit plays some bearing in our decision as John has the largest stake in the field - so he has the most to lose financially...I feel we must acknowledge that farming is a livelihood. On the other hand what's exciting is we are sharing that financial risk so we can be a bit experimental. So I feel we are in a strong position for our decisions to be driven by effect on planet and profit. I am very excited about John's suggestion of companion crops and although it is somewhat unchartered territory in the UK - My understanding from John is that he thinks there is little to lose financially . Quick questions @johncherry - Is that correct? And if yes are there any benefits to the soil/earth of a companion crop? If we use a companion crop - as there are two crops, would you ordinarily apply more chemical inputs?

JC

John Cherry Tue 28 Feb 2017

In answer to Tamsyn and Abby's questions about companion crops...we don't really know. In theory, companions are better for the soil and planet. Monocultures very rarely occur in the wild, so we are asking to problems if we try and grow them in our fields. All the evidence suggests that pest, weed and disease problems are reduced where suitable companions are grown, which should mean less need for chemical intervention. However, there will be a certain amount of guesswork when it comes to working out what are suitable companions.

The easiest one (for all these crops) would probably be to sow an under-storey of white clover, which would suppress weeds and add a little bit of N, but it wouldn't be harvestable. It's a cost for an uncertain benefit. Otherwise, for wheat or spelt, some faba beans sound like the best option; they would add diversity and a bit of N and each crop would get some benefit of disease and weed suppression. But these benefits only really apply if we go for no extra N after the seed-bed application, ie a quasi-organic approach. Similarly the lentils work best if they are the main crop and oats are sown at 15 to 25% of their normal seed-rate and are effectively a trellis for the lentils to grow up. Lentils are pulses so have to be grown without N fertiliser, hardly anyone grows them in the UK, whether that's inertia or for good agronomic reasons, I don't know. Oats and lentil seed are a similar size and weight so are tricky to separate. The separation doesn't hurt either seed necessarily, but might reduce the value if we can't make a clean job of it.

I'm deliberately making a hash of selling companions to you as there is risk attached, either low/no yield or contaminated crops meaning we don't get paid. As people have pointed out, we're all invested in this and it would be a shame to kill the idea off with a spectacular failure in year one. What I think we'll do anyway (regardless of whatever you vote for in this field) is to plant two or three demonstration companion crops plots in the Groundswell field for delegates to look at during that show at the end of June (Andy Howard is speaking at the show, so he can lead people through the plots). This will satisfy my curiosity and also be something for #ourfield people to look at everytime they come up.

TF

Tamsyn Forsyth Tue 28 Feb 2017

Interesting idea @christinelewis - @johncherry would a 50/50 field split be a feasible option? For example, half the field spelt and half spelt with companion crop? A couple of people have suggested spelt and lentils - I checked my notes and have written that lentils would be a potential companion crop for oats (and this combination has been done successfully in London), but it is hard to separate the crops post harvest; however, I thought that spelt and lentils were not an option as the spelt outgrows and overshadows the lentils so they don't get the light and beans would be the more suitable companion crop for spelt (and wheat)? If we choose the right varieties of spelt and beans they will ripen at the same time and there is less disease potential, potentially resulting in a higher yield than mono cropping. @johncherry what are the pros and cons to the potential different companion crop combinations?

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 28 Feb 2017

It seems worth remembering that every action on the field has costs, so splitting it immediately doubles the possible number of actions. Further the field itself is just a small part of a larger farm, so presumably the point of making decisions is to make them, not just to say 'lets do a little of everything'? We have to be careful not to turn our horse into a camel.

TF

Tamsyn Forsyth Wed 1 Mar 2017

@grahamehunter I am in agreement, we shouldn't do a little of everything and I suspect that wouldn't align with a desire to succeed with a model that breaks even. I love to explore all options and non-options to understand the reasons for and against before reaching a final decision; thank you for your reply :-)

HG

Harry Greenfield Tue 28 Feb 2017

Hi Everyone
Have really enjoyed reading the discussion so far. I think Tessa said something close to what I had been thinking too. I'm interested in seeing how farming happens on the farm as it would normally run, and to some extent taking a similar set of decisions as John and Richard would without us there. I think that being no-till is already an exciting innovation so ensuring our decisions are broadly in line with what supports the no-till principle seems important to me.

I also agree that I don't want to expose the group to a large amount of risk for the sake of quite extreme experimentation. There is definitely a value in showing that this is replicable - both for farmers and non-farmers.

So I think my preference would probably be for either wheat or spelt without a companion crop (and using inputs as necessary). I'm ready to be persuaded about the companion crops though, but slightly wary of trying something for the first time without consulting closely with someone who has done it before!

I would be really interested in looking at new ways of marketing the crop and I think I remember hearing at the farm that it's worth starting to think about that as soon as we can. I quite like the idea of an "OurField" branded product at the end of it!

SJ

Steven Jacobs Wed 1 Mar 2017

Hi,

Great discussion, really good to read.
There is so much to know and I do support John when it comes to the complexity of companion cropping. Andy Howard has written an excellent Nuffield report on the subject - The potential for companion cropping and intercropping on UK arable farms. And their are a great many places for further information on Green Manures, which are crops that can add benefit to the soil, this one is quite thorough and is recommended in Andy's report - http://www.organicresearchcentre.com/manage/authincludes/article_uploads/iota/technical-leaflets/green-manures-species-selection.pdf.
Field beans make a sensible choice from what I'm looking at in this discussion so far as they are relatively straightforward to grow alongside cereal crops and have a marketable value.
Oats or the mulika wheat for the maiincrop seems sensible. I'm not a farmer and most of the farmers I work with are organic and not min-till, though some are reduced tillage. So, I don't know how a green manure would work for John in terms of then not ploughing back in.

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 1 Mar 2017

@nikitagulhane Hi, Niki You were the first to propose a combination of spelt and lentils together - after reading the several other posts since, and some relevant links, is there anything you would like to add to or vary your suggestion?

DK

Daniel Kindred Thu 2 Mar 2017

Hi All, apologies for coming late to #OurField. I'm a farmer's son and a crop researcher with the company ADAS, and I also took part in Field of Wheat (though afraid I never made it to any of the meetings). We run the Yield Enhancement Network (www.yen.adas.co.uk) which involves a yield competition and works with most of the major agri-businesses ... so i come from the conventional intensive agriculture end of spectrum, and by & large I'm prepared to defend intensive agriculture from a sustainability perspective (mainly because it enables land sparing see- http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n5/abs/nclimate2910.html). However, I recognise that continued improvements in productivity and sustainability require consideration of the full food, farm and soil ecosystem, and that all farmers researchers & advisors have much to learn from each other whatever system they come from.

Regarding the decision here, spring wheat or oats grown more or less conventionally would both be a pretty safe bet. However, they don't necessarily play to the advantages brought by the collective in #ourfield. I know very little about spelt, but if we are sure we have a market, the price is high enough and we are confident we'll be able to harvest at least some yield (2-3 t/ha?) with a saleable quality then i feel it may be worth the risk. I wouldn't advocate companion cropping at this stage, especially not with lentils that no-one in the UK knows how to grow alone, let alone with another unfamiliar crop. But would be great to see a strip sown so we know for the future.

@johncherry John, i may have missed it, but please can you say what your soil type is? Do you have any recent soil analysis, ideally with soil organic matter %? Do you ever get soil mineral nitrogen tests done in spring? Out of interest what typical yield of winter wheat would you expect? Can you give the grid reference or latitude/longitude for the field? Sorry for all the questions. We can enter this field into the YEN and get a 'soil health check' analysis from NRM, and i should also be able to get satellite imagery through the season.

GH

Grahame Hunter Thu 2 Mar 2017

This is to introduce the first vote

_ Once upon a time a Farmer and his Agronomist were discussing what to plant, and how it should be treated, and the advantages of companion crops on their farm with their equipment in a particular field._

_ They soon realised that in their circumstances if there were to be companion cropping there was a __ big risk__ of the quality of both crops being diminished, the separate yields lower, and with a high likelihood that the end product would end up as animal feed._

This is where we are at Weston now. For this reason _the first decision to be made is whether the Group _

  • wants to be more adventurous, more experimental, whilst knowing the resultant crops would be of poorer quality, harder to separate and most likely end up at least in large part as animal fodder.
    or

  • wants to aim for the highest quality crop which would definitely end up as food for humans, including the possibility of making bread flour.

So here is the first binary choice:

Does the group wish to be experimental?

(= adventurous with companion cropping, but with the likely harvest being poorer, and most probably used for animal food,)

or

Does the Group instead want to aim for a high quality single crop (mono-culture)?

(= safer, and with the intention this will definitely be for people to eat?)

__ It is only yes or no – so read these statements carefully __

  • Vote __ YES __ to support an adventure into a multi-crop, perhaps with poorer outcomes.
  • Vote __ No__ to avoid companion cropping and go for best quality single crop, intended for the human food chain – including baking quality.
GH

Poll Created Thu 2 Mar 2017

Do we want to be adventurous, with companion cropping? Closed Mon 6 Mar 2017

Outcome
by Grahame Hunter Tue 25 Apr 2017

By a clear majority of voting members, OUrField Weston will cultivate a main and a companion crop.

Starting on 09 March there will now be a proposal for all members to choose one of three combinations, using a multi-choice method of voting.

John has started a conversation in the main thread on the options. Make your voices heard there.

Also see the alternative "admin" and "off topic" threads, if there are things you wish to raise, NOT related to the chioce of crop.

Grahame

Vote YES to support a more adventurous and experimental approach but which realistically will most likely result in poorer yields and a crop suitable for animal feed

Vote NO to reject the companion crop, but to then select the most interesting mono-culture crop for a high quality harvest for humans to eat.

Results

Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 60.9% 14 D AL AR TF NR AS LB TS KS CA SJ AG S&D E
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 39.1% 9 HG SF WA CL MDV MS VLD AL DK
Block 0.0% 0  
Undecided 0% 18 A DU GH JC CG JT TA TT RM SW SG EU EC HB NG EM SD CL

23 of 41 people have voted (56%)

AG

Averil Glencross
Agree
Fri 3 Mar 2017

I like the more adventures idea. I am involved for the experimental side rather then the financial return.

WA

Wendy Alcock
Disagree
Fri 3 Mar 2017

As I posted in the main thread - I vote no as I am swaying between spelt or wheat/beans and spelt seems to be the most popular option at the moment, John plans to try a companion crop anyway and my hope that we end up with human quality food.

KS

Karl Schneider
Agree
Fri 3 Mar 2017

Companion cropping helps to protect the long-term health of the soil, so I vote yes.

D

Darren
Agree
Fri 3 Mar 2017

I'm interested in the thinking behind the risk of the crop having to go for animal feed and could change my mind. If we are finding an outlet ourselves rather than selling onto commodity markets, we may be able to overcome downside of lower yields.

E

Edna
Agree
Sat 4 Mar 2017

I think we should go organic as possible and experiment. Companion planting sounds the right thing to reduce chemicals.

CL

Christine Lewis
Disagree
Sat 4 Mar 2017

I think we should start this crop with a very strong foundation building on what John and Richard know works and make our changes, innovative input and risk taking once we know we have a crop that has had the best possible start.

AS

Alexandra Sexton
Agree
Sat 4 Mar 2017

I'm excited for a more experimental approach, and also thinking long term if the project (hopefully) goes beyond 1 year then companion cropping will invest in the soil for future harvests where human food could possibly be grown with very low inputs

AL

Alfred Lawrie
Disagree
Sat 4 Mar 2017

Seems shame to end up with animal feed. Want to see if we can successfully grow something like spelt for human consumption in a manner that others could replicate.

CA

Catherine Arend
Agree
Sat 4 Mar 2017

Time to experiment with the possibility of companion crops. I would like to know more about harvesting two crops at once. How do you separate them? Sifting I suppose?

AL

Annie Landless
Agree
Sat 4 Mar 2017

I think this project is all about exploration and experimentation for us and John. Having discussed it with Dad we are keen on seeing what a companion crop might bring the collective!

VLD

Veronica Lopes da Silva
Disagree
Sun 5 Mar 2017

#OurField can be a viable and attractive model for a farmer's risk to be shared, that others may follow if 'successful'. I vote to grow spelt for human consumption, to keep an eye on John's experimentation + hopefully experiment more in the future

MDV

Matteo De Vos
Disagree
Sun 5 Mar 2017

Since I'm leaning towards spelt, I think it would be best to avoid (for now) the added uncertainty and risks that companion crops may bring. This helps ensure that OurField becomes a viable model with a high quality product for human consumption.

TS

Tristram Stuart
Agree
Sun 5 Mar 2017

I've posted my reasoning on the discussion thread: I am for doing it ecologically and determined we find a human consumption market for our crop

AR

Abby Rose
Agree
Sun 5 Mar 2017

I hope we can find some companion crops that aren't as risky as lentils but still good for the soil

S&D

Sebastian & Dan Powell
Agree
Sun 5 Mar 2017

The two of us sharing this vote feel this is the opportunity to be experimental in the hope that the rewards of experimentation will outweigh the risks. So less concern for profits but more for potential longer term benefits of trialling new things.

LB

Lucy Bradley
Agree
Sun 5 Mar 2017

I've shared my thoughts in the main thread. Wow, what a hard first decision.

WA

Wendy Alcock Fri 3 Mar 2017

This vote may be in the wrong order for me as I am swaying between just spelt or wheat with a companion crop of beans (not lentils as it’s too unknown and doesn’t seem a good match for either grain).

I think we should take some risk – and try one newish thing for John – but not try all new ideas at once and make things much more complicated than they already are / need to be. I too would like the project to look successful to others – not wholly financially but also that we have not been afraid to move slightly further away from standard farming practices in the UK. I think either of my options will do this and would be happy with both.

Some of you may be interested in a little experiment I have carried out. Post visiting the farm I hunted out some spelt flour to make some spelt bread for the first time. I found Dove’s wholewheat organic easily at Sainsbury’s (£2/1kg) but had to go to Waitrose for white, where they had Waitrose own non organic (£2/1kg) and Sharpham Park organic (£3.50/1kg).

I made a 100% white, 100% wholemeal and 50/50 (this is the taste I prefer when I use wheat). I found the white to be a bit dull tasting, the 50/50 to be ok and the wholemeal to be really tasty (more than wheat and with a softer structure to the loaf). The 100% wholemeal spelt loaf therefore appeals to me from a nutritional point of view as I can move away from my previous 50/50 wheat. @nikireynolds @tamsynforsyth as nutritionists you may have some useful info to share on the differences?

I have a few questions that would help me (and maybe others) decide between my own two options.

@johncherry You have said that lentils would need to be the main crop with oats at only 15 to 25%. Do you know a rough ratio needed for wheat:beans?

@romymiller I have seen that Gails makes some spelt loaves sold through Waitrose and maybe sometimes directly Have you had much feedback from your customers about the bread? Was it popular or hard to sell?

My vote:

In order to keep things moving and make a vote on this proposal though I have said no – this is based on John’s suggestion he will try companion cropping elsewhere on the farm anyway, from looking at overall views spelt seems to be the most popular option at the moment (probably myself included) and my hope that we end up with human quality food (ideally that can be used for bread).

TF

Tamsyn Forsyth Sat 4 Mar 2017

@wendyalcock as far as my knowledge on spelt goes, the wholegrain flour contains a higher proportion of protein than the white (note that spelt flour generally has a higher protein content than other types of grain flour such as wheat), and it also contains a greater portion of dietary fibre (crucial for gastrointestinal health and digestion). The white spelt flour has some nutritional advantages over the wholegrain flour, primarily being lower in calories and having a lower gluten level. As with protein, spelt flour generally is lower in gluten levels than many other types of grain. Hope that helps :-) If anyone else knows any more / different please shout!

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 5 Mar 2017

@wendyalcock I am interested in the spelt bread discussion - but as my remarks are really nothing to do with the main subject, I am going to set up a new "random" topic, and comment there..

D

Darren Fri 3 Mar 2017

As I mention in my introduction I'm really interested in people growing their own food together & would be very happy if we grew something that all (or most) of us ended up using as food. To me this would be a very successful outcome. I understand this will take extra work (figuring out processing and/or marketing) rather than just selling onto the commodity markets - but I'm up for putting efforts into that.

With this in mind I think oats would be a great choice as most people dont bake their own bread. I eat lots of porridge, oat cakes (I've never made them, but have a friend who does and they are quick, easy and crumbly delicious) and even sometimes use oat groats as a respectable alternative to brown rice. So I've been doing a fair bit of research on growing oats.

At the farm @harryboglione wondered about the possibility of using naked oats, which are interesting as they are much easier to process for food. They also dont need to be heat treated, so, if you were so inclined could sometimes be sprouted (for higher nutritional value & greater variety of uses).

I'm also very into soily stuff and intrigued by the possibility & effects of cover crops, although it would be sad if what we grew could not be used for human food. I got excited about the idea of lentils & oats (thinking of eating a dahl curry with oat groats - a meal from the field), but If I'm understanding correctly separating will be difficult and could potentially lead to the crop having to go for animal feed.

I wonder about the possibility of using a field pea instead as a companion for oats, as the larger size would surely make separation easier?

I'm much less interested in making a financial profit (or breaking even) - although of course it would be good if we could.

I wonder, if you really tried, if you could eat £150 or even £200 (retail price) worth of oats in a year??? ;-)

SF

Sinead Fenton Sat 4 Mar 2017

Very interesting reading through so far. I'm in two very different minds about the direction and hopefully writing it all down will lead me to an answer! I really like the idea of companion cropping but I think for me, I'd like to see this as more of a long term project that sets a framework and baseline to encourage the uptake of this model.

I think taking an element of risk and learning within this project is vital, otherwise, what do we share to others once we reach the end of our first season. For me I think the first year (I'm hoping for more...) is a great means of a proof of concept, that collaboration and community investment can prove to be an "ecomonic" and sustainable model for the future of farming, especially in light of the challenges we're going to face over the coming years with policy upheavel and what the future of farming in the UK is currently looking like. So in that respect, I see this as an opportunity to show that other means of farming are viable, and in so, think an element of calculated risk that proves this concept works with the notion of this model potentially being a long-term one seems wise.

I think especially in terms of some of the points John has raised about the separation/processing and the trails they are doing too - I think we could take this time as an opportunity to take a calculated risk that has more opportunity than threat and then research and plan toward a companion cropping method for future rounds. I think if we were to do the latter now it could be rushed as it seems like we won't have the time or knowledge yet to really fully know how we can maximise what we're doing and how to shape it.

So, in longwinded terms, perhaps parking companion cropping this time and seeking a strong foundation through something that's still ultimately an unknown, because it hasn't been done here, but has a lower risk associated with it. So spelt for me.

VLD

Veronica Lopes da Silva Sun 5 Mar 2017

This is a difficult decision, so I would like to make the reasons behind my vote as clear as possible.

In an ideal world, with the benefits of sharing the risk with forty people, I would be in favour of growing food in a way that is least damaging to our environment. For example, I would love to be growing organically. This however only feels viable if we were thinking long term and had time to prepare the soil, and if we had the field for over three years so that we could actually sell organically for it to make sense financially. So while I know what I stand for, I feel that voting in line with that isn't necessarily always an option for me (but happy to consider spraying less than the amounts usually sprayed)

Similarly, in an ideal world I would be in favour of experimenting with companion crops as an alternative to mono cultures. While I am attracted by the potential benefits to the soil and potential for weed suppression, I am put off by the dangers of ending up with a crop that can't be sold for human consumption. I am, however, delighted that John will experiment regardless of our decision here, and perhaps it would be good to observe that experimentation closely and let that influence #ourfields to come (here and elsewhere hopefully!) Given John's willingness to experiment, I'm feeling less inclined to experiment with companion cropping on our particular field until we have a bit more experience with it.

While there is so much that has brought me here - more than anything I would love to be a part of a movement that challenges a farming system that disrespects and undervalues the land and those who grow our food. I would like for our experience to encourage others to connect to their food and food growers and present a viable model for the farmer's usual or expected risk to be shared. So while in my own food growing at a smaller scale I would perhaps decide differently and jump straight into experimentation... on this scale, and with the opportunity we have here to be at the beginning of something, I am currently leaning towards growing high quality spelt, keeping an eye on John's experimentation, and learning as much as I can as well as keeping my fingers crossed that we have more years ahead to experiment as we gain more experience and knowledge!

It's a hard decision but I hope this clarifies where I stand at this point on our journey - even though I do feel that I am swaying between options inside me still!

SJ

Steven Jacobs Sun 5 Mar 2017

I'm finding this simple approach to decision-making a challenge, but I can go with it. Is a good test of my ability to stand back from my inner control freak.

The challenging bit is that I don't know what John has in terms of equipment when it comes to drilling and then maintaining the crop, harvesting and storage and how any crop or crops would fit within his whole farm system. Apologies that I didn't make it to the first farm visit, I would have if I could.
So, considering that I don't have all of that information I'm in favour of companion cropping because of soil care while still producing what I'd like to think are acceptable yields and reasonable quality of a crop or crops.
Crop choice? Oats and beans would seem appropriate but I would be swayed also by drilling and harvest dates. I'd suggest that they'd need to differ between the two crops or John will struggle to successfully manage all that he has to do with this one field let alone across the rest of his farm. A companion cropping system can be relatively straightforward, but it needs planning. The economics of oats and beans is that they are appropriate to both human and animal consumption so depending on quality the markets are potentially available but again this would perhaps be best planned ahead of harvest. So, to investigate buyers and specifications quite early on, I would suggest.
And I'd like to see this as a step on a path rather than an end in itself. By which I mean I'm happy to accept a series of challenges to overcome as long as we learn along the way. We can learn by only applying what John would normally. For some of this group that might suit. And I can go with that if that is what people would prefer. I'd like to be more adventurous. But I work in the food and farming sector and I'm also here to learn how people who are not my usual circle see and feel about food production. My vote will be to agree with being adventurous. And what will be the next step? Do we have a list of steps? Sorry, have looked but not seeing that on here.

TS

Tristram Stuart Sun 5 Mar 2017

If there's a poorer harvest that results from doing a more ecologically friendly approach, are we sure this means it would have to go to livestock feed? My understanding is that the grading system for wheat determines that bread wheat has to have the desired 11+% gluten content; if a harvest fails to meat this specification its only market in the UK now is either biscuit flour (which is limited), or for the most part livestock feed. However, it was not always the case that we are leavened bread in the UK, and it is leavened bread only that requires the high gluten content (for structure etc). Are we able to decide that farming this crop in an ecologically optimal way is an absolute requirement, and that whatever the harvest is we will find a way of making sure it ends up being consumed directly by humans in a delicious and nutritious way. Flat breads, gruels and porridges, pancakes, dumplings, puddings - all of these traditional peasant dishes did not require (or have the luxury of imagining) the kind of high protein bread we expect now... For this reason I vote for the livestock feed crop but with the hope and dedication to making sure it does me end up with livestock but with humans. Please forgive me if I have misunderstood one of the parameters of our operation (eg realistically how will we market our "substandard" crop for human consumption!)

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 5 Mar 2017

At a meeting this morning of the ourField organisers, it was agreed to extend voting until midnight __ tonight __ and all members of the group are urged to read the many interesting comments and _ please cast a vote. _

TA

Tony Allan Sun 5 Mar 2017

Tony Allan
I have tried - but failed to have recorded - a YES vote - for Spelt with companion crop (legume).

The vote would have been made VERY VERY easy if John were to be sowing another field to Spelt.

At our local Tufnell Park (NW5) artisan baker this morning we bought some Spelt bread and a Spelt 'croissant'. They are both very good to eat indeed.

AR

Abby Rose Sun 5 Mar 2017

Finding this decision really hard. I do not want to compromise the crop for the sake of experimentation - I really want to aim for a quality end product that provides great quality food. However, I'm really excited by the possibility for a companion crop to be nurturing the soil, sharing minerals and water, increasing biodiversity all whilst growing our 'cash crop'. I know there are safer companion crops like clover, so although I wouldn't vote to grow lentils, I really hope we can choose a less risky companion crop. So I'm hoping that we can experiment a little but at the same time not take a massive risk :)

LB

Lucy Bradley Sun 5 Mar 2017

I have also found this a really difficult decision because there are compelling reasons for and against both options. I've been swaying between agree and disagree.

In light of the various risks that have been outlined, and that John is also planting companion crops on the Groundswell project, for me one of the key attractions of this option is that it would enable us to minimise inputs. However, I'm not clear by how much as it seems that we would still need some, especially if we want human consumption grade.

This issue of human grade consumption seems really important, but would we only be able to achieve that with a lot of inputs? This also seems a shame if one of the ideas of our field was to spread the risk of trying something new.

I guess I'm also trying to work out on which side of the fence is my middle ground I'm most comfortable with:

Either mono cropping with fewer inputs than would usually be applied, and likely have a grain people can eat... I like the idea of spelt for the reasons others have also pointed out.

or

Experiment a little with companion cropping but not take massive risk (as Abby just said in her comment) in terms of having a good crop, and continuing this as a viable farming model in the future. There are still so many unknowns, but it's come to the crunch time so I think I'm going to have to go with this option.

JC

John Cherry Mon 6 Mar 2017

OK, we seem to have got a result from a turnout of just over 50%...you want a bit of adventure.

This makes the next choice, which we need to get on with, a matter of what to grow and, by extension, how to grow it.I've been mulling over the companion choices and talking to people who've had a go and these are my suggestions:

1) Spring wheat (var. Mulika) grown with a crop of beans. These should ripen at the same time and complement each other fairly well and be relatively easy to separate post harvest.

2) Spelt and an under-story of legumes, probably a mix along the lines of white clover, alsike clover, yellow trefoil and black medic. These will grow much lower than the spelt (which can reach 6 foot apparently) and provide a tiny bit of nitrogen without competing too much. I've no idea how it will work...

3) Oats and an under-story as well. Or oats and beans, but I think the oats will be fit too soon, before the beans are ready.

Adding legumes means we are going to be restricted with how much nitrogen we can use and that might mean we get a thin crop. As it is a cereal crop with legume companion, we could argue the point a bit and give it a decent starter dose of N and see what happens. The options I've chosen should, I hope, not compromise the quality of any grain produced, I had been fretting that growing a bean with the spelt was going to be very tricky at harvest and result in a delay which might involve harvest rain spoiling the grain. This way we'll be cutting above the legume layer and not having un-sievable seeds in the harvested grain (the clovers and trefoil seeds that make it into the combine can be removed easily and possibly used for next years cover, as long as there aren't too many weed seeds in as well...).

There's a lot of 'mights' and 'maybes' in there I'm afraid, but I suppose that is what having an adventure is all about.

DK

Daniel Kindred Wed 8 Mar 2017

John, if we are growing a legume companion crop I'm not sure it makes sense to apply any N fertiliser - this negates the benefit of the legume as it will likely replace any N fixation... and i'm not sure of the legality of applying N to legume assuming you are in an NVZ? However, i agree it could give both crops a good start if soil N levels are low - can you say what the soil type is and what level of soil N you'd expect?

I don't think the spring wheat & beans option will stack up for us - I've seen wheat-beans intercrops grown at Reading Uni and in various EU research projects - past results show the beans alone won't provide enough N to give sufficiently high protein content for the wheat ... and if we apply a decent dose of N fertiliser it really defeats the point of the legume companion crop in the first place, as the beans won't then nodulate and fix N themselves.

I therefore feel that oats or spelt would be a better bet as have much lower fertiliser N requirement and we could grow without any N fertiliser and hopefully still have passable quality. Agree that oats will mature before beans, and too big a risk from lodging, brackling, sprouting, rotting etc of the oats if have to wait for the beans to come fit before harvesting - could be a disaster. An understory of clover, vetch, lucerne could work well, especially if you can keep it going til next season and derive some further value from it. So question then is which of oats and spelt is likely to do best in this situation and which has the greatest marketing opportunity. Given that spelt would be low yielding in any case, and price should be higher i think spelt may be the best option. It also gives the best opportunity to create a good marketing story around the product, especially if members of the collective have good ideas on how we could sell the spelt grain or flour innovatively, rather than as a commodity. Whilst we can't label it as organic, we could claim it to be 'ecologically grown' or similar.

Interested to hear others views.

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 8 Mar 2017

With the group having made the choice for companion crops and accepting this probably means the outcome ends up as animal feed I thought the next decision would be easier but I am very far away from knowing which option I will support. I value everyone's contributions to the discussions though and know we will get there! My initial thoughts were that because the output will probably be for animal feed maybe Spelt was wrong as it is developing as specialised bread making, then I thought what a strange thought that was - good protein is needed for all food chains. Now I think all options are going to be interesting in their own way. I do think an initial boost of nitrogen to give a good start may be helpful so that we can reduce additives later. Looking forward to the next set of options. Would be good to know in advance the timelines so I can make sure I don't miss any deadlines.

AR

Abby Rose Thu 9 Mar 2017

@christinelewis in terms of timelines I think that the next proposal will be started this evening and the vote will close Sunday night at midnight.

JC

John Cherry Wed 8 Mar 2017

Just to be clear, the options I've outlined above should all result in decent human-consumption quality grain. It's just that with the latter two, we will probably only harvest the cereal half of the partnership to avoid spoilt grain. The first one, wheat and beans, should be separable post harvest and both crops perfectly edible, though not many people in the UK eat the Faba beans we grow (the best are exported to N Africa for human food, the rest animal feed). Marketing oportunity there...we've got a few tonnes in the shed from last year (grown as a monoculture) if anyone wants to work on recipes...

A

Abi-Aspen Thu 9 Mar 2017

Hi everyone,

Just posting some of the reading list for 'choosing the crop' in the main thread so opening the word doc doesn't seem as daunting.

Happy browsing, and good luck!

Abi Aspen

SPELT

Northern Grain Growers
All about spelt!
http://northerngraingrowers.org/wp-content/uploads/SPELT.pdf

OATS

SARE (sustainable agriculture research and education): OATS
All about oats!
www.sare.org

WHEAT

Senova - Mulika Spring Wheat
http://www.senova.uk.com/#/mulika

Farming Forum thread on Mulika (2013)
https://thefarmingforum.co.uk/index.php?threads/mulika-spring-wheat.13492/

GRAINS

The Real Bread Campaign
Amazing guide to all things bread!
www.sustainweb.org

NO-TILL

Conservation tillage ‘no-till’ (2006)
https://web.archive.org/web/20080620032531/http:/www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/asp/topic.asp?id=ConservationTillage#mid

Groundswell Agriculture No-till conference and movement
http://www.groundswellag.com/
Event overview: https://youtu.be/LjLyuJr0W2Q

INTERCROPPING

Andrew Howard (2016). The potential for companion cropping and intercropping on UK arable farms
The potential for companion cropping and intercropping utilization on UK arable farms and to understand the benefits and limitations of such systems.
http://nuffieldinternational.org/rep_pdf/1474016405Andrew-Howard-report-2015.pdf

University of Manitoba. Intercropping with Organic Spring Wheat (2005)
Experiments and results
http://www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/naturalagriculture/articles/wheatintercrop.html

Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017. Companion cropping PODCAST
http://orfc.org.uk/companion-cropping/

SF

Sinead Fenton Thu 9 Mar 2017

This is amazing! Thank you Abi!

AR

Abby Rose Thu 9 Mar 2017

Here is also a really nice article about one farmer in the UK, Ian Wilkinson, who has been growing companion crops for a while: http://www.agricology.co.uk/companion-crops-are-farmer%E2%80%99s-friend
if you would rather listen then there is also a recording of the talk with Ian Wilkinson and Andy Howard sharing their stories and ideas at Oxford Real Farming Conference a few months ago: http://orfc.org.uk/companion-cropping/
(just saw Abi posted that link above as well! :) )
@johncherry have you ever been in touch with Ian? It would be great to hear his thoughts as well!

JC

John Cherry Thu 9 Mar 2017

@danielkindred Sorry, I never answered your first questions from 5 days ago, so here goes: Soil type...glacial discharge mix, really a chalky boulder clay overlying chalk, but we get thinner patches and heavier bits. Soil tests, the last one we did for this field was 2011 and it was a conventional Mg/P/K/pH test which showed that everything was index 1 to 3, pH 7 to 7.5. Unfortunately no SOM %age, but actually most SOM tests are unreliable and, although we haven't put any P, K or Mg on most fields since 2011, our indices are creeping up as the soil biology flourishes and extracts more mineral from the clay.
Typical winter wheat yield...7.5 tonne/ha (average, rather than typical). Grid ref, RPA sheets O/S sheet TL2529 field 2256 if that means anything to you.
I agree with your points about applying N to legumes being a waste of N and legume both, but there is evidence that a dose early on can give the legume a good start before it forms its relationship with the N-fixing rhizobia on the roots. Too much and the rhizobia won't bother. As for the legality, it's a grey area, we are growing a cereal crop, the legumes are companions. We are giving the cereal an N boost. I'd love to drop N altogether, but it might be a painfully thin harvest, especially as this was wheat last year, so soil N levels likely to be low.
In answer to your other question about soil N testing, we do sometimes do this and levels are higher than you might expect. Can't now find any paperwork which would tell me what that actually is...you'll just have to believe me...

DK

Daniel Kindred Thu 9 Mar 2017

Thanks John, If I can get a soil analysis and sorted and paid for are you OK to take a sample from #OurField? Would be good to have estimate of SOM% so get an idea of likely mineralisation.
Agree starter N worth considering. Also agree naked oats are another viable option.

JC

John Cherry Thu 9 Mar 2017

We'd be delighted. Who will do the test out of interest?

JC

John Cherry Thu 9 Mar 2017

@abiaspen Just while I think of it...the link you posted above wrt Conservation Agriculture is very much the Monsanto line. They have taken over a chunk of the (North and South) American CA acres with their GM glyphosate resistant crops. It works ok for a year or two, but cracks in the system are appearing where farmers neglect two of the three the important strands of CA: constant soil cover and diversity. The third strand, minimal disturbance of the soil is more easily met by the GM growers. This hijacking by Monsanto hasn't done the CA movement many favours, but hey...
Sorry, this is probably off-topic. Whoops.

JC

John Cherry Thu 9 Mar 2017

To mix things up a bit more, I've been thinking about @harryboglione 's idea of growing naked oats. We've not grown them before and people who have, give mixed reviews. But I think they are worth offering to you as a fourth option. They are allegedly good aggressive growers and swamp weeds to an extent, but yield 25% less (when salesmen tell me that, I realise it means half, in my experience) than normal 'husked' oats. But they sell for twice as much and, as Harry says, they are much in demand from people who mind what they eat.

D

Darren Fri 10 Mar 2017

Ive been thinking it would be good to get an idea of what we might do with any produce as I feel such information will help guide us in our choice of crop.

I see a lot of interest in spelt, I'm quite excited by the idea of naked oats and have been doing a bit of research.

If we are to decide by Sunday we have very little time to explore potential buyers, which I find slightly discomforting.

I guess Gails Bakery may be interested? (@romymiller ?) But maybe only in wheat or spelt?

I wondered about the three big wholefood co-operatives Infinity (Brighton), Essential (Bristol) and Suma (Leeds - IIRC). They're likely to be interested in the Our Field project/story, as it is really a novel co-operative initiative, and in turn stocking our produce.

The volumes we are likely to have, I imagine, will be in the region of what they may be able to handle?

I'll try and call them tomorrow.

Anyone else got any ideas?

D

Darren Fri 10 Mar 2017

Ive made a stab at starting a collaborative spreadsheet so that we can get an idea of the financial implications of our crop choice.

There are quite a few boxes empty and I've maybe made some wrong assumptions or misunderstood some stuff.

I've used data from this thread and from the discussions we had on the Our Field site visit. If you didnt make it to the visit I think everything should be in the youtube video that was circulated after the event - I made brief notes of the figures etc. https://board.net/p/OurFieldVisit

The editable spreadsheet is at https://ethercalc.org/OurField some of the cells have notes - just put your cursor over them.

Ideally we would have a few more of the missing values completed before we make the decision. Possibly some things I've added there arent relevant and some more things could be added.

Ethercalc is like a GooogleDoc spreadsheet, if you know what that means, if you dont it means the text is saved as you type and anyone viewing should be able to see it appear live. There is no need to save after any edit. If you do a load of editing it may be wise to save it to a spreadsheet on your computer (select all the cells and then copy and paste into your spreadsheet program)

If you want to look at an uneditable version (print version?) you can go to https://ethercalc.org/OurField/form - but then you cant point and read notes or edit.

DK

Daniel Kindred Sat 18 Mar 2017

Darren, All. I've added to the spreadsheet. Figures are just guesses off top of my head so need to be improved. Guessed yields with the companion crops and guessed prices. Not sure about seed costs, nor input costs, rent or John's operations costs.
You can play with the prices, costs and yields with this - don't take my figures as being accurate. I currently have with wheat & beans giving best return, but I doubt we would make milling quality without N fertiliser so price likely to be ~£20/t lower.
My vote is for spelt if a reasonable yield and price can realistically be achieved.

D

Darren Fri 10 Mar 2017

I rang around the wholefood wholesale coops and didnt have much luck. The bulk buyers at both Infinity and Suma are not working today but will be back on Monday & Essential Trading wouldnt put me through by phone, but gave me an email address of their head of purchasing.

I also tried Doves Farm to check what interest they would have for things other than Spelt, but everyone there who would be able to help is away at a trade fair in Glasgow till Wednesday.

I'd like to propose delaying this decision for a bit if possible (if that's not happening already?)

I wonder about the energy people within the Our Field group have to take on work organising sales, processing or marketing. There have been some mentions of interest in this sides of things and I'm happy to get involved. To me it feels like this would have good potential to make the project more viable / successful / interesting. Not sure exactly how that would work - maybe we need to open a new thread that can be joined by people who are interested in getting involved in that kind of stuff?

TT

Tessa Tricks Sun 19 Mar 2017

Hi Darren, thanks for taking the time to put together a spread sheet and make some initial calls. It might be worth us getting in touch with Sharpham Park re spelt. I'd be interested to join the potential marketing thread/ team & try and support. Although I'll be upfront in saying that I have zero experience.

GH

Grahame Hunter Fri 10 Mar 2017

As facilitator I am persuaded by Darren's @darren4 argument that it could be interesting to gauge the possible market for the end product; and that if others in the group have time and energy to put to this research, they should have longer than the days until Sunday.

The choice of crop is probably the single most important decision the group makes, and since there is now a rising interest in the matter, _ we should hold off the vote to allow more voices to be heard, and with more evidence. _

There will be a deadline by which John needs to research the availability of seed, and he needs sufficient lead time to place the order in good time for Spring planting - but for now let us assume the deadline __ will be held back at least 7 days.__

If anyone wishes to comment on this decision to delay the vote - please do so on the admin thread, not here and for that reason I will copy this message there.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Sat 11 Mar 2017

I've just lost a long and detailed comment somehow. So, I'm going to be more brief now. Brevity is probably a better way to go.

Bakeries will source flour from a mill who get the wheat mainly from a grain merchant.
Large bakeries will demand a minimum of 13% protein in their flour.
The UK climate prohibits such levels without the use of a lot of nitrogen and normally this is using artificial nitrogen.
Who would be your local mill and or grain merchant @johncherry ?

Smaller bakeries, especially those using sourdough with longer proving of their doughs, might be interested, Ben at E5 in London Fields can also mill his own grain. I'm in contact with Ben and can ask if he's interested. His demand is mainly organic but I can ask. He will want to know quantities.

Essential, Infinity and Suma will not use much raw grain, though they will take some but normally through an existing supplier and at a certain specification.
I'm in contact with these businesses fairly regularly so let me know if you get stuck finding the right person @darren4

Modern cereal breeding has resulted in higher yield but other qualities have lost out. There are ways forward however. From sourdough to cross composite populations and even naked barley.
Here are links -

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/apr/16/recipes.foodanddrink

http://www.organicresearchcentre.com/?go=Research%20and%20development&page=Plant%20breeding

https://andyhowardnuffield15.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/dr-martin-wolfe-wakelyns-agroforestry-suffolk-england-7th-december-2015/

https://mobile.twitter.com/naked_barley

D

Darren Sat 11 Mar 2017

Its occurred to me that I may have made a slightly dubious assumption with regards to yields - if I understand correctly a companion crop is likely to reduce yield of the 'main' crop so wheat yield would be down if grown with faba beans? (faba are broad beans with small beans). I think possibly in the other cases theres likely to be less of an impact as the companion will be smaller/less light competitive?

@stevenjacobs you appear to be mostly talking about wheat/spelt - the expected quantity should be somewhere around 25 -55 tonnes - although these figures may need some adjustment when considering companions.

I might have said before - I'm really interested in the oat option.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Sun 12 Mar 2017

Thanks @darren4 & I too favour oats ideally, however the processing of oats is specialised and we may struggle to get an oat mill that will take our relatively small volume, but I'd take guidance from @johncherry on this, I don't know his local markets or even what he may know of further afield..?
We could consider approaching European Oat Millers? They have an oat milling facility in Bedford.

CL

Christine Lewis Sat 11 Mar 2017

I welcome the opportunity to spend more time thinking about the end product and what an Our Field product could be marketed as - what the values are and how to position this. From the ourfieldproject.org website we have already captured some of this: Living the farmer's journey, reinventing farm economics & sharing farmer risk, but I think we would need to do more. We also have the problem with ourfield.org (parks in Costa Rica) and ourfield.com (footballing app). So we could focus on the product meeting values of either an ourfieldproject (OFP) benchmark or establishing a community supported agriculture (CSA) benchmark - see more about CSA's here: https://communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk/what-is-csa/

Hopefully others know much more about this than me. A bit of a brain dump on a possible benchmark, meeting OFP:
* sharing farmers' risks: allowing a more innovative approach
* collaborative decision making: in depth consideration and general consensus
* focus on sustainability: to ensure better and longer term outcomes
* natural production mechanisms: reducing additives
* building on long term soil viability: focusing on healthy soil
* resisting large scale commercial pressure: not being driven solely by commercial price or yield

As far as outlets go:
* Wheat: bread making
* Spelt: artisan bread making
* Oats: wholefood shops
* Naked oats: specialised wholefood and artisan outlets
I buy special flours from bakery bits http://www.bakerybits.co.uk/bakery-ingredients/flour.html
Also to point out the Scotland the bread standard and assurance system for certifying grain see http://www.scotlandthebread.org/growing-and-research/ and they are also bulking up Scottish heritage grains.

JC

John Cherry Sun 12 Mar 2017

Many thanks @darren4 and @stevenjacobs for your foresight and work on production costs and marketing. What we normally do, once we've established that there basically is a market for a product, is grow it and see what we end up with in the shed. We can then test it for protein/gluten or whatever and sell it on that basis, when we know how much we've got. We sell most of what we grow through a farmer's co-op here in the village, they have a good relationship with local mills, though a lot of these are grinding animal feed as much as anything. We are moving oats at the moment into European Oat Millers. I suspect, Steven, that you're right and that they'd be a bit sniffy about taking an odd lorry-load and treating it specially, but it's worth the ask. Anyone want to buy a little mill and grind and bag what we grow?

Meanwhile I'll get some prices of seed etc and try to fill in Darren's spread sheet, but I know from experience that, come harvest, the figures might well be out by a large percentage...

JT

James Tickell Sun 12 Mar 2017

I like the idea of growing something for people to eat, rather than animals, and in particular, it would be a shame to end up feeding animals destined for being eaten. Would be nice if the Our Field brand (however that turns out) was identified with quality food for those who do care about the ethical sourcing of what they eat, as well as the environmental and health related issues. I looks like others have a far better grasp on the technical issues than me!

HB

Harry Boglione Mon 13 Mar 2017

Hi Every one. I tend to agree with Johns approach to marketing a corp. As there are so many variables in producing a crop that it is relay hard to have any idea of quality or quantity. Especially when we are going to be experimenting.

What i do think is worth considering is weather or not we would like to do some value adding processing to a % of the crop or not. If we process some of our crop it gives us the opportunity to make a higher profit off the processed crop by direct marketing it to relaters and consumers. This will require more work tho but i think could be done well with such a divers group of us. Or alternatively we could just process some for the groups use which could save every one some money. If we where to Grow naked oats we could role them for porridge or muesli. In order to do this We just need a role mill which are very easy to come by. Alternatively if we grew another grain we could get some milled into flower.

AL

Annie Landless Sat 18 Mar 2017

We have a roll mill at home :) I also really like the idea of naked oats. We have been looking into growing them at home too.

WA

Wendy Alcock Wed 15 Mar 2017

Thanks for the spreadsheet (and thinking behind it) @darren4 - I do love a good spreadsheet :)

As I have more of an interest in flour - wheat is now my preference as we are companion planting - I have emailed a few local and/or potentially community minded mills I am already aware of to test the water and see if they might want to work with us on the project. There seem to be many more we could contact once we know for sure what we are growing and rough quantities.

So far I have contacted:
http://www.brixtonwindmill.org
http://www.wrightsflour.co.uk
http://www.nationalmillsweekend.co.uk/pages_wind/wicken.htm
http://www.wessexmill.co.uk - this one has already called me back to say they only take grain from within 40 miles of the mill (we are outside of that) and 1 lorry (I guessed our quantity to be around 30 tonnes based on Darren's ss) would be too small for them to process. Emily was very nice (and offered to give a tour if I or anyone wanted to look around the mill) but she suggested we look for a very small local mill or we would likely end up with our grain mixed with others to ensure it meets quality standards.

Added since original post:
https://claybrookewatermill.co.uk
http://talgarthmill.com

I shall update this post if I hear back from the others but it seems a bit catch 22 without much info to offer people.

I have not given any though as to what we might do with any sell-able companion crop. Although this may only be beans (in what % of the output?) as I think the under-story suggestions from John are not crop giving plants.

Wendy

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 15 Mar 2017

Wendy - a great idea to contact some mills. There is a small water mill close to me, I haven't been there yet but use their flour which is very good - maybe you could email them in a similar way. Their email is info@claybrookewatermill.co.uk and their website is www.claybrookewatermill.co.uk - otherwise I can do it.

WA

Wendy Alcock Wed 15 Mar 2017

Thanks Christine - I've sent an email to them. It would be good to try direct contact with the mills used by John's farmers coop too, if you know who they are John?

JC

John Cherry Wed 15 Mar 2017

I'll find out

AL

Annie Landless Sat 18 Mar 2017

Hi Wendy, hope you're well! I have been looking at this mill too: http://talgarthmill.com/Milling/milling

They supply Golden Valley Food Assembly with flour and all the milling is done by volunteers.

It sounds like an amazing community organisation, I've been meaning I contact them, just had a very busy few weeks!

I am still quite undecided, I'm swaying to spelt but also very interested in naked oats but worried there is more risk attached.

CL

Christine Lewis Sat 18 Mar 2017

Hi Annie - I am walking in Brecon for a week in early May which is close by and could certainly visit Talgarth Mill if it helps. We should know what we are doing by then.

GH

Grahame Hunter Thu 16 Mar 2017

Just a heads up on voting..john and I will identify the choices which now seem appropriate based on the group's comments and interests. This round of voting will start later today and my suggestion is that __ the voting will end on Sunday 19th March at midnight. __ Comments to this, in the admin thread please.

GH

Poll Created Thu 16 Mar 2017

and the crop will be Wheat and beans as a companion? Closed Mon 20 Mar 2017

Outcome
by Grahame Hunter Tue 25 Apr 2017

This was our second vote, and the number taking part edged up slightly - from 23 to 24 voters.

It must be quite re-assuring for John that there are a further 17 members of Our Group who did not vote, but who are presumably happy whatever we grow.

Of those who minded, and voted, __ a clear majority have elected for Spelt with a companion planting. __
The precise wording of _ the winning proposal is .. _

Spelt with a companion under-story which will not be harvested, but which will be a weed suppressant, soil building companion to the Spelt.

In the next days John will be considering the best options for the field and season to support the main crop , no doubt too with Richard Harding the agronomist. He will post further information about what they choose as the final companion planting mixture.

This is a complicated 4 way proposal _ within a voting system which is forcedly binary, _ so please read these choices very carefully..

  • Vote _YES _ for __ WHEAT, with beans as a companion crop. __ Both these crops will be harvested, and available to sell.

  • Vote __ NO __ to reject wheat and beans in favour of __ SPELT with a companion under-story __ which will not be harvested, but will be a weed suppressant, soil building companion to the Spelt.

  • Vote __ ABSTAIN __ to reject wheat, beans and spelt in favour of __ regular HUSKED OATS with a companion under-story __ which will not be harvested, but will be a weed suppressant, soil building companion to the Oats

  • Vote __ BLOCK __ to reject wheat, spelt and ordinary oats in favour of __ NAKED OATS with a companion under-story __ which will not be harvested, but will be a weed suppressant, soil building companion the Oats.

_ if this is not clear, __ ask a question on the admin thread, __where the voting mechanism of this set of choices can be discussed. _

_ The merits of the different crops should be discussed on this main thread. _

Results

Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 34.8% 8 D AR WA RM TS CA VLD E
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 60.9% 14 HG AL TF JT SF NR AS TA CL TT LB EC AG DK
Block 4.3% 1 MS
Undecided 0% 18 A DU GH JC CG MDV SW SG KS EU SJ S&D HB AL NG EM SD CL

23 of 41 people have voted (56%)

TS

Tristram Stuart
Agree
Thu 16 Mar 2017

A grain and a pulse, both for human consumption, would have the biggest public impact, if successful. At present, the choice splits the vote between this pov and spelt, but I am not against spelt if a harvestable pulse can be grown as it's companion.

AG

Averil Glencross
Disagree
Thu 16 Mar 2017

I would like to go for the Spelt option

WA

Wendy Alcock
Agree
Thu 16 Mar 2017

I may change my vote to no/spelt if I hear back from some more mills but for now I would like to go with yes/wheat.

WA

Wendy Alcock
Agree
Thu 16 Mar 2017

I may change my vote to no/spelt if I hear back from some more mills but on the info I have now I would like to go with yes/wheat.

DK

Daniel Kindred
Disagree
Sat 18 Mar 2017

Spelt with an understory companion crop seems like best option to fulfil multiple objectives of the group and to have a chance of making a profit.

NR

Niki Reynolds
Disagree
Sat 18 Mar 2017

I vote No for wheat and opt to grow Spelt.
I love spelt and discovered it 12 years ago when it started to become available.. It is more nutritious than commercial wheat and is popular with people who don't tolerate wheat..

E

Edna
Agree
Sat 18 Mar 2017

It seems the less demanding option on soil.

VLD

Veronica Lopes da Silva
Agree
Sat 18 Mar 2017

As we're told that Spelt is not a good companion for harvestable pulses due to its height, I vote in favour of a wheat/bean combination that would allow us to harvest both. Also excited by the prospect of linking up with Hodmedods in some way!

CL

Christine Lewis
Disagree
Sat 18 Mar 2017

I have just eaten Fava beans cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with lots of ginger and garlic, very nice although the skin is a bit tough. Not nice enough to move me from voting for Spelt. Tempting to think about two crops not one so may change my mind.

TA

Tony Allan
Disagree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

The 2017 experiment could provide information on many issues. The black grass problem is very important. Can spelt outcompete black grass. The experience of growing a companion legume would bring additional knowledge.

TT

Tessa Tricks
Disagree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

Voting for spelt w/ soil health & Grahame's comments on expanding market in mind. Love the idea of linking w/ Hodmedods, & hoping that the Faba IPA can be a yr2 venture after supporting soil w/ 1st crop. For Christine's suggestion of soil samples.

D

Darren
Agree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

Nice to know that the wheat will be no problem to sell and I think more interesting to have both beans and wheat at the end.

TF

Tamsyn Forsyth
Disagree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

I am really interested in growing spelt for a variety of reasons, one of which is from a nutrition perspective; having used it in baking for a few years now I love it.

AS

Alexandra Sexton
Disagree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

This has been a really tough but fascinating decision. I've chosen spelt because I'm interested in experimenting beyond modern wheat for the potential nutritional and environmental benefits, and hopefully help boost profile of heritage grains

HG

Harry Greenfield
Disagree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

I have not had as much time as I would have liked to think about this but having taken some time today to read over the comments I think non-organic spelt seems like an interesting option

RM

Romy Miller
Agree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

I vote for the WHEAT option because of the public impact it could have. It has the best chance of affecting the most amount of people.

AL

Annie Landless
Disagree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

Im going for spelt because I'm interested in finding a market for it and creating a product fit for human consumption. I also really fancied naked oats but it seems like the main market for it is animal feed and perhaps it's too risky this time.

AR

Abby Rose
Agree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

So tough...between wheat & beans or spelt & clover!! I keep changing my mind. But in the end wheat & beans because I am interested in what it takes to grow a wheat crop with a companion planting and how this could benefit farmers & soil & people.

JT

James Tickell
Disagree
Sun 19 Mar 2017

Spelt is a crop of growing importance, given the various failings of commercially grown wheat. Not sure why beans couldn't be the companion crop.

GH

Grahame Hunter Thu 16 Mar 2017

_ Were it possible, I should like to encourage more contributors.. and more questions from lay people without much expertise, with their questions being answered by others in the group who know more. Certainly lots has been said, but perhaps by too few people.. _

@annielandless
This comment was posted by Annie elsewhere, but seems relevant to the current vote on crops selection. I have shortened it, but left the link..

She wrote..

_ I did some digging for info on companion cropping at ORFC 17 -- maybe this is helpful for people to contact/ info which was shared at the conference: _
_ • Another memorable session was on companion cropping, led by Jonty Brunyee of the Pasture Fed Livestock Association and the speakers included Andy Howard, an arable farmer from Kent and a Nuffield scholar, and Ian Wilkinson from Cotswold Seeds...Andy provided examples from around the world of how two or sometimes even three crops were being harvested each year from a single field by using intercropping and companion cropping. He particularly saw great opportunity for growing peas alongside wheat, oats or barley and presented the opportunity to undersow maize with other crops so as to prevent the erosion issues that are common with the crop. _

This link is a more personal take on a general link to the conference supplied earlier by Abi Aspen
@abiaspen

Source: https://thinkingcountry.com/2017/01/06/my-visit-to-the-oxford-real-farming-conference-2017/

GH

Grahame Hunter Thu 16 Mar 2017

Tristram you wrote with your vote _ but I am not against spelt if a harvestable pulse can be grown as it's companion._. The answer is this is not an option, because the spelt is so much taller - up to 4 ft - than regular wheat and so whatever is grown with is is going to be an understory and will be shaded out by the spelt.

So, to clarify, __ if you want to grow spelt vote NO, but know that the companion planting, albeit useful for other reasons, will not be a harvestable, viable crop. __

CL

Christine Lewis Thu 16 Mar 2017

I'm still not ready to choose but will get there by Sunday. From the last decision it was clear that growing the crop with companion crop reduced the likelihood of the end result being suitable for human consumption which makes me lean more towards naked oats first then to spelt second. Both provide a secondary positive impact on the soil for the next year from either of these. @johncherry is it possible to take soil samples before and after to demonstrate the effect of the companion crop for soil building and compare this with samples taken from another field without the companion crop - or using a patch of the field without a companion crop to provide a baseline - obviously just a crude indicator. Decisions decisions...

D

Darren Thu 16 Mar 2017

I have been a bit busy in office hours this week and had limited success talking to anyone who may be interested in buying but was told to fire off a few emails. Awaiting replies to some of these.

I had an email response from the chairman of Doves Farm today saying that they would only buy certified organic produce and wishing us luck with the project - and I did mention that spelt was an option we were considering. If this is true it leaves me wondering where we may sell 20-50 tonnes of spelt?

I spoke to Holly from Grown in Totnes who was at the Our Field launch event in London. She said that the naked oats had incredible amounts of irritating hairs, so annoying, that their grower & his son vowed to never plant it again. They have to be polished from the seed before its rolled. They have all the equipment to do this at a small (industrial) scale. As far as I can see there is no ready bulk market for naked oats other than as animal feed, They dont really get used for human food - except for very limited specialist health/raw food outlets.

As John had previously mentioned there is no ready market for faba beans for human consumption unless they are shipped to Africa. Otherwise they are used for animal feed. I considered contacting Hodmedods who do sell faba (organic, non organic and faba flour), but havent had time and imagine they will have adequate supplies lined up - but guess it may be worth someone trying to contact them?

All this is making me think that currently the best result, if we want all the produce to go for human food, may well be to grow oats and sell them onto the commodities markets. If we were lucky I guess we may be able to find a mill that would be prepared to mill our oats separately and returning some to us, and then we could have a go at marketing some ourselves and have some of our own produce.

AR

Abby Rose Fri 17 Mar 2017

Thanks everyone for the spreadsheets and contacting people! I have no idea what I will choose just yet. But I just contacted Hodmedods to see if they would be interested in our Fava beans - will feedback to the group when I hear back from them...

One thing I have always wondered @johncherry - in terms of the companion crop. If we go with something like clover or an understory crop that is there to nourish the soil then obviously all of the benefits of that plant will be kept in the soil for next year. However if we go for the fava beans, we will harvest the crop and the beans are full of many of the nutrients so we will actually be taking some of the nutrients away from the field. Does that mean that companion crops (or cover crops) that are also harvested are actually less good for the soil in the long run? Or am I thinking too simplistically here?

TT

Tessa Tricks Sun 19 Mar 2017

Very interested to hear the answer to this as I've been making the same presumption.

MDV

Matteo De Vos Sun 19 Mar 2017

Me too. Would love to have an answer on this before I vote!

AR

Abby Rose Fri 17 Mar 2017

Ok I just spoke to Hodemedods...they said in principle they would be very interested in the fava beans...but that also it's complicated....I have tried to summarise what they said below:

One issue: Generally they only buy whole fava beans from north of the Humber river because the Bruchid Beatle hasn’t reached there. However, we may not have as much of an issue with it as we are companion cropping, and also you can spray for it in June to prevent the eggs from hatching in the beans - so we could consider doing that. (http://www.pgro.org/index.php/pest-monitoring-services/bruchid-beetle)
At the small quantity we are producing they would only be able to sell them as whole beans, the processing to split them etc would be too expensive.
If we are able to produce fava beans with no Bruchid beatle problem, then Hodmedods would buy if they met their specifications for human consumption…(they said they could send these through) - at these quantities the spec would have to be particularly high as they would need to sell them for more, to cover the higher transport costs.

Also as our beans will be non-organic the price is more variable…Hodemedods are not selling on the commodities market so they are less vulnerable to the price changes but the prices for fava beans are still pegged to the commodities market and so the price we can get for non-organic will depend on the Australian harvest and how that impacts the commodities price. Apparently prices can vary from £120 - £220/tne depending on markets.
Hodmedods seemed very excited about the project and definitely saw that there could be a benefit to selling our beans on their store separately with the story along with them, and that this could potentially have an added value...but that this would be something they would have to think about.
They also mentioned that one of the big advantages of fava beans is that if we don’t meet the human consumption standards then we can always sell them as animal feed and recover some of our costs.

One other thing Hodmedods did say is that you can brew beer from Fava beans (https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2016/05/fava-beans-brewed-for-eco-friendly-beer/) …and suggested maybe @tristramstuart your company TOAST ale would consider doing a fava bean IPA brew? Apparently an Edinburgh brewery made a delicious IPA using fava beans. What do you think about that?

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 17 Mar 2017

Thanks Abby this is helpful. Having just walked past a local wholefood shop I now have a packet of Hodmedod's whole dried Fava beans and will try them out tomorrow and see if that sways my vote! Also thinking about roasted bean snacks. If we can avoid the Bruchid Beatle by using this as a companion crop and meet the specification for human consumption we could have an outlet for the beans but if we get the beetle then the beans go for animal/fish consumption. Not sure whether dried beans need to dry in the field and if that would work with timing for wheat harvesting.

GH

Grahame Hunter Fri 17 Mar 2017

Although I cannot vote, I do think it may be a pity to eschew growing Spelt on grounds that some mills prefers to buy and sell organic product. The market for Spelt is expanding beyond being a niche product, and I expect its' popularity to grow rapidly as more people come to understand the various benefits of this grain. I now bake bread almost entirely with Spelt (not organic); and many artisan bakers and even supermarkets have introduced Spelt loaves.

There is definitely a market for the grain, in its non-organic manifestation; and it commands higher prices than regular wheat - but of course it has a lower yield and the seed costs more.

It does not need repeating now, and certainly OurField Weston group should be familiar with the argument, that conservation agriculture as practiced at Weston _ can be better for the soil and nutrition than organic methods _ - so I resist being intimidated by claims from health shops and specialty retailers who have developed an organic market..they may be left behind.

MDV

Matteo De Vos Sun 19 Mar 2017

Looking beyond this year alone, I think it would be best to go with an option that optimises soil health in the long run.

I would be interested in knowing more about the (long-term) benefit to the soil of a companion crop like fava beans vs. a companion under-story. Is there any convincing evidence to suggest one is better than the other for the soil? I'm sure it's probably more nuanced / complex than this but if anyone has any insight on this, I'm all ears!

WA

Wendy Alcock Sun 19 Mar 2017

@tessatricks @matteodv It's not a scientific source but I think this answers your question well. http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/10/planting-fava-beans-as-a-fall-cover-crop/

Basically, yes, I believe nitrogen fixing plants can be eaten and still give a benefit to the soil as long as the roots are left behind. Unless others with more experience know more?

One thing to note is that, all being in the Fabaceae family, we shouldn't sow legumes/clover/trefoil every year as they should also be rotated.

@annielandless Talgarth mill sounds lovely :) Would you like me to send them my standard email and see if they get in touch or do you want to do it once the vote's finished maybe?

AL

Annie Landless Sun 19 Mar 2017

Yes please go ahead and email Talgarth mill! Would be great to hear there thoughts and I'm quite strapped for time at the moment!

CL

Christine Lewis Mon 20 Mar 2017

Just a very big list of wind and water mills grouped into region if we think we have time to do more searching - some will be small mills but you never know we may find one ready to experiment with us. List comes together for national mills weekend in May. http://www.nationalmillsweekend.co.uk/index.htm

JC

John Cherry Sun 19 Mar 2017

Sorry, just realised that there are a few outshtanding questions various people have put to me. The answer normally is: I don't know. This is uncharted territory for us. In terms of the benefit conferred by the legumes in the mix, it has to be said that from the legumes point of view, feeding the Rhizobia bacteria that nodulate on their roots is quite expensive in energy terms, ie they have to give the bacteria a lot of sugar to get the nitrogen back. They aren't going to want to give that to the wheat/spelt or whatever. Some will trickle across, if a plant is swamped out by the crop and the roots die back, any N there is available to the crop. In theory. A lot of what we do is preparing for next year. Not much help to you guys, who want to see a profit this time, but there it is. There are other benefits to companions, in terms of weed suppression, disease limitation, pest confusion and symbiotic mycorrhizal intereaction. But I wouldn't like to give that a value that you could put a pound sign against. We'll perhaps leave a strip across the field all lonely, with no companions, and see if it does better or worse.

I'm loving the debate and can't wait to see what wins...

SF

Sinead Fenton Sun 19 Mar 2017

Very tough choice and thank you for the nudge @grahamehunter, time has escaped me! I've been toddling between wheat/beans and spelt. I'm keen to explore how we could develop a market for the beans - I've had some of the bean beer before and it's grand. @johncherry you mention you have a lot of these lying about, could I look at sourcing some from you and doing some experimenting?

After much deliberation I'm going to go for spelt - I think challenging the market with a non-organic but no till alternative could, one, be beneficial for raising the profile of spelt in general and, two, could be an avenue for opening up the no-till discussion with a grain that starting to gain traction

JC

John Cherry Sun 19 Mar 2017

Help yourself, we've got a nice little pile. I'll be using some for spring seed, but they'll be plenty left.

SF

Sinead Fenton Mon 27 Mar 2017

Grand! Think I could pay a visit one morning over the next couple of weekends to pick some up/get some fresh air?

AL

Annie Landless Sun 19 Mar 2017

For anyone interested I did a bit of quick reading on naked oats. Decided not to go with it because although they are eaten by humans I'm worried we won't find a good way to process them. It seems like they often end up as animal feed. They can be used for brewing though! Apparently they make very good straw too. In the end spelt feels safer to grow something marketable and I'm excited about finding a mill who will process it!

http://www.fwi.co.uk/news/naked-oats-energy-boost-finds-followers.htm

http://www.premiumcrops.com/spring-naked-oats.html

https://thefarmingforum.co.uk/index.php?threads/naked-oats.15681/

https://cereals.ahdb.org.uk/media/335860/pr352_complete_final_report.pdf

http://northerngraingrowers.org/wp-content/uploads/OATS.pdf

http://www.quoats.org/documents/Oats%20-%20From%20breeder%20to%20market%20book.pdf

SJ

Steven Jacobs Mon 20 Mar 2017

Hi, I am sorry to have missed the vote. My fault. Other areas of life seemed to take over even as I was reading and thinking through the opinions and options and references. Am a bit down about that. Anyway, well done to all who have contributed. Its fascinating. I agree and disagree with so much, perhaps in almost equal measure. Very interesting and enlightening to read what others are thinking. So, apologies again, and thank you all for your contributions, even for those I disagree with.

TA

Tony Allan Tue 21 Mar 2017

It would be very useful indeed to have comments from Richard Harding on the outcome of the vote. If he has time.

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 22 Mar 2017

a privacy issue has arisen..

See my note in the admin thread, posted after I noticed some members wishing to exchange addresses etc.

If you exchange personal information on the Loomio site - _even if you are logged in _, - be aware it is in a public forum, so visible to anyone _ not just other members of this group.._

So, if you would like me to send your private emails to other members of the group - in a way that they are __ NOT visible to the general public__ - then _ please let me know without disclosing your email addresses on Loomio _ (as I already know all the members' contact information)

@alexandrasexton @alfredlawrie @andreadibiagio @averilglencross @catherinearend @christinelewis @danielkindred @darren4 @edibleutopia @edna @ellemcall @emersoncsorba @carolingoethel1 @harryboglione @harrygreenfield1 @jamestickell @johnanthonyallan @karlschneider @lucybradley1 @matteodv @matthewshribman @nikireynolds @nikitagulhane @romymiller @sadhbhmoore @seangifford @sebastianpowell @shyamdesai @sineadfenton @stevenjacobs @stinewilhelmsen @tamsynforsyth @tessatricks @tristramstuart @veronicalopesdasil1 @wendyalcock @johncherry

SF

Sinead Fenton Wed 22 Mar 2017

happy to share privately

CA

Catherine Arend Wed 22 Mar 2017

Cheers Grahame.

I want to send you some stills and with Fiona's permission a couple of videos for the site. There will be a Dropbox folder for you soon. Anything specific you would like?

All the best and thanks for being our moderator

Catherine 😀

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 26 Mar 2017

Hi Catherine, bucolic shots of happy erstwhile farmers in the idyllic landscape of Weston?

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 26 Mar 2017

To all
We have a problem.
There may be no spring Spelt seed in the country.
If this is the case, then I have requested John to move directly to the second selection of which crop to plant - namely __ a modern wheat variety with a beans companion cash crop - __ _ unless at least 10 members of the group write to me here or at gnlh01@gmail.com to say they particularly think we should have a second vote on the matter _ (at which, wheat and beans, oats and companion crop, naked oats and companion crop, would be offered as the 3 options.

the deadline for telling me you think we should have a whole new vote, is midnight 28 March 2017.

If fewer than 10 persons think this, John will continue to hunt about for suitable Spelt seed, and then default to wheat and beans when he runs out of time.

_ Any members of the group who think they can help source 1.5 tonnes of Spring Spelt seed, should leap into action, and get on the phone! _
@abbyrose @alexandrasexton @alfredlawrie @andreadibiagio @annielandless @averilglencross @catherinearend @christinelewis @danielkindred @darren4 @edibleutopia @edna @ellemcall @emersoncsorba @carolingoethel1 @harryboglione @harryboglione @harrygreenfield1 @jamestickell @johnanthonyallan @abiaspen @karlschneider @lucybradley1 @matteodv @matthewshribman @nikireynolds @nikitagulhane @romymiller @sadhbhmoore @seangifford @sebastianpowell @shyamdesai @sineadfenton @stevenjacobs @stinewilhelmsen @tamsynforsyth @tessatricks @tristramstuart @veronicalopesdasil1 @wendyalcock @johncherry

TA

Tony Allan Sun 26 Mar 2017

Problem with spelt seed
I do not see the point in growing a modern wheat variety. I think we should have another vote unless John advises that getting oats seeds will also be a problem.

JT

James Tickell Sun 26 Mar 2017

I agree about another vote being a good idea

Sent from iCloud9

NR

Niki Reynolds Sun 26 Mar 2017

I would like to have another vote as I don't want to grow wheat.. I don't like wheat and would rather have oats if we can't have spelt.. I will try and hunt down spelt seed as I am a brilliant hunter and researcher in the meantime.. :rabbit:

CL

Christine Lewis Sun 26 Mar 2017

I am okay with going for second choice of Wheat and beans without another crop. Shame if we can't find enough Spelt seed but time must be a critical aspect now. We must remember we voted for the maybe not human feed crop by opting for companion crops in which case optimising farming technique for sustainable outcomes is needed.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Mon 27 Mar 2017

I'm not surprised there is a lack of spelt seed at the moment. It has become hugely popular again in recent years which when this has happened in the past did pull the price down post harvest as there was suddenly so much of it.

Also worth noting is that although spelt is from older varieties of cereals it is a type of wheat and the two main varieties of spelt normally available, Frankenkorn and Zollernspelt are modern versions of the original spelt.
It still comes with attractive qualities of nutrition and taste and can be a hardy cereals once established in the ground.
I'm of the view that the ideal is whatever we all can agree with John would work best in this field during this year. But I also think that its very good if we can also think ahead and consider lessons learnt, quite a few already, to contemplate for future such projects, here and/or elsewhere.
Emmer? Einkorn? Some of Andy Forbes' or John Letts' heritage varieties?
But, many of the heritage varieties they are working with are not spring cereals, I'm thinking for the autumn sowing.
If we cannot get spelt this spring, I am OK for the second option. But I am also OK to give a little more time for sourcing seed if that is available and to help us all find a way through this particular challenge.

NR

Niki Reynolds Mon 27 Mar 2017

@grahamehunter @johncherry I have sourced some spelt seed.. It is £800 a tonne and available to be delivered before April.. Can I telephone you or John ASAP?

JC

John Cherry Mon 27 Mar 2017

The crucial thing is that it needs to be Spring Spelt seed Niki. Apparently most, if not all, Spelt grown in the UK is winter sown as it has a vernalisation requirement, ie it needs winter weather as a trigger before it will form seed heads later in the year. Please telephone though

NR

Niki Reynolds Mon 27 Mar 2017

@john cherry yes I see.. They got back to me to say it was winter spelt seed.. Seems there is no spring spelt seed available to buy right now.. A shame.. Hope we can have another vote

AS

Alexandra Sexton Mon 27 Mar 2017

I'm very keen to grow something other than wheat, so would prefer to have another vote - unless, as Tony says, John advises that sourcing oats or other non-wheat options will also be problematic.

NR

Niki Reynolds Mon 27 Mar 2017

I totally agree on growing something other than wheat which is boring to me as I don't eat it! I do hope oat seed is available otherwise we are stuck with wheat😕

MDV

Matteo De Vos Tue 28 Mar 2017

I would also prefer having another vote if Spelt isn't available

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 28 Mar 2017

There will be another vote about the crop..

@abbyrose @alexandrasexton @alfredlawrie @andreadibiagio @annielandless @averilglencross @catherinearend @christinelewis @danielkindred @darren4 @edibleutopia @edna @ellemcall @emersoncsorba @carolingoethel1 @harryboglione @harryboglione @harrygreenfield1 @jamestickell @johnanthonyallan @abiaspen @karlschneider @lucybradley1 @matteodv @matthewshribman @nikireynolds @nikitagulhane @romymiller @sadhbhmoore @seangifford @sebastianpowell @shyamdesai @sineadfenton @stevenjacobs @stinewilhelmsen @tamsynforsyth @tessatricks @tristramstuart @veronicalopesdasil1 @wendyalcock @johncherry

Sufficient people have voiced concern about sliding into a modern-wheat-with-beans default second choice, that __ I will set up a second vote on the matter.__

The new proposal will go up on Thursday night 30th March and will be open until Sunday night midnight.
_Please use the time before Thursday to air particular hopes of what may be included in the options that will be put to the vote _ (but _ please also understand that the final selection is one which John will determine with Richard Harding based on seed availability, and suitability for the field..)_

NR

Niki Reynolds Tue 28 Mar 2017

That is very good news! Excited to vote for a crop.. Is the only option oats or would it be possible to sow barley, rye or anything else, seed availability permitting of course..? :smiley:

TA

Tony Allan Wed 29 Mar 2017

Dear Grahame

Please send my email to other members of the group.

Best

TonyA

LB

Lucy Bradley Wed 29 Mar 2017

@johncherry are there any heritage grains that would be suitable to plant?

With this second vote are we still going to be choosing between on companion cropping options?

NR

Niki Reynolds Thu 30 Mar 2017

@lucybradley1 @johncherry I would also like to know if we have any heritage grain options or is the only alternative to the wheat, oats?

JC

John Cherry Thu 30 Mar 2017

Slightly embarassing, but we've been flat out this week with planting stuff and calving cows etc and I haven't really focussed on alternative crops. I'm waiting to hear back about some spring rye seed that may be available and don't know if there's any heritage options (as Steven says above, most heritage wheats are winter sown), so we'll delay the vote for a day or two so that we can be sure what we're voting for is actually feasible (and hope spring spelt materialises...we've had a few false dawns wih it so far). It's a pity, the ground is drying out beautifully in this lovely weather, the barley we sowed last week is up on the row already.

NR

Niki Reynolds Thu 30 Mar 2017

@johncherry of course, I understand.. Spring is a busy time on the farm! Spring rye sounds interesting.. Rye is very popular with bakeries, especially artisanal ones.. Good to delay the voting until you are sure of what's available.. It's good news about the warm dry weather.. :thumbsup: :smiley:

LB

Lucy Bradley Thu 30 Mar 2017

@nikireynolds and @johncherry. Thanks for your thoughts and glad to hear things are going well at the farm. I'll keep an eye out for updates re: spring rye over the next few days.

JC

John Cherry Sun 2 Apr 2017

With apologies for the delay, we're still sniffing out alternatives to the three options already discussed and will post what you can vote on tomorrow.

TA

Tony Allan Mon 3 Apr 2017

20170403 Would it be possible to show automatically the date that a message is posted on this string? Or should we - GRAHAME - enter a date of origin ourselves?

Thank you JOHN for finding time for the Ourfield activity despite the multiple pressures of spring.


One of the lessons we have learned is the constraint/opportunity of winter v spring varieties.

If we are to continue next year - as I very much hope we shall - we should already be thinking of next year and the rotation options, as well as our goals. The latter include weed suppression, soil enhancement, financial returns, transaction costs, etc.

Apropos transaction costs I am very anxious that all the transaction costs are being borne by John. Ideally we should capture them and make sure they are in the accounts.

On my part sitting at a screen is exceptionally unstressful. All one does is ask questions and reveal a low level of knowledge. Voting is definitely fun.

WA

Wendy Alcock Tue 4 Apr 2017

Hi all. I have been meaning to type this up for a week or so (and maybe it is better to wait until we know what we’re growing) but I had the time today, so here it is :)

I heard back from three of the mills I contacted in March – all were very keen to hear about the project - and they told me the following:

Wicken mill http://www.nationalmillsweekend.co.uk/pages_wind/wicken.htm

This small community mill was restored a few years ago and has gradually increased production to 7-8 tonnes last year. They are not electric so are reliant on the power of the wind.

They currently buy their organic grain from http://www.hammondsendfarm.co.uk/ who seem to supplier the smaller traditional mills (and e5 bakehouse). They order grain in 2-3 tonne batches (a trailer load) for £500 a tonne. They are not certified organic so cannot sell their flour as such.

They would be happy to try some of our non-organic grain, if the crop is a good quality, either by a) buying and milling to sell the flour themselves, or b) milling the flour for us for a fee. They can send us a quote if we were interested in option b.

Brixton mill http://www.brixtonwindmill.org/

They also buy from Hammonds End Farm but on a smaller scale - £11.25 for a 25kg sack. Last year was the first year they milled anything (just 750kg of wheat and barley) as they have recently finished the restoration. They would like to try some of our grain, quality dependent, but it is unlikely to be much.

Wrights mill http://www.wrightsflour.co.uk

The MD of this 150 year old, quite large, family mill in Enfield called me himself and sent the following email a few days later:

“Following on from our conversation Wendy we would be able to turn your grain into flour, packed in 16 kg sacks and delivered in 26 pallet loads for £150 per tonne. As I mentioned it would probably be best to buy the grain from you at the market price and sell the flour back to you at this additional cost of £150 per tonne. Bear in mind too that we would need a minimum of 29 tonnes of grain which we will process in one go.”

On the phone he also offered the choice of 1.5kg or 500g bags (for an additional cost). All bags will be plain but can be labelled with a design of our choosing.

He said we would get around 20 tonnes of flour for our 30 tonnes of grain (I guessed we might have this amount). Processing takes around 48 hours to clean, condition mill and pack. We will then need to take delivery of the flour as they cannot store it for us.

We can call to book in the work with around a week’s notice of the harvest. They usually do wheat but can also process spelt (if we are able to grow it, of course).


If we end up growing a millable grain I think we have a couple of choices. To use a mill that can process all of the grain in one go and then try to find a buyer for the flour. Or we find several smaller mills to take a part of the grain each who then mill and sell the flour to their own customers. The later would be a nice goal of the project but may be a logistical nightmare!

Apologies to those in the know if some of the info is basic – I have included if I thought it was interesting/useful to know. And do say if you think I have missed any options or you have questions on what I have found out.

LB

Lucy Bradley Wed 5 Apr 2017

@wendyalcock this is really interesting and helpful to get a picture of the various options, including labelling and distribution. Great that mills of different scales are interested too. Thanks for researching and sharing 👍

JC

John Cherry Wed 5 Apr 2017

A quick update for those expecting another vote...we have found some 'summer' spelt in Germany and are currently trying to work out how to get it back to the UK. Thus it looks like we can go with the original vote and grow spelt, but how it will grow, nobody knows.

Meanwhile, if anyone has a van and a spare day or two and fancies a trip to what Grahame assures me is the most beautiful part of East Germany, then get in touch. We will be bringing two tonnes back in big bags.
More later...

NR

Niki Reynolds Wed 5 Apr 2017

Fabulous news @johncherry so pleased to know that you have sourced summer spelt and we can now grow it as we originally hoped to.. Congrats for finding it! :smiley: :thumbsup:

GH

Grahame Hunter Fri 7 Apr 2017

_The Spelt has now been ordered, paid for, transport arranged. _ The well-named German who is selling us the Spelt, Werner Backer (which means Baker), has told me he will make it ready tomorrow (Saturday); and it will be picked up on Monday.

It has been an exciting joint effort. Carolin located the Spelt, despite being about to go to Africa. Several people helped finding transport, thanks for that. I could arrange same-day payment out of my Berlin account, and John called many shippers and found one who can collect and deliver before Easter.

What we are buying is organic Spelt, which is direct from harvest so not sold as seed: it will then need to be cleaned, sieved and prepared for planting here at Weston. John will know more about this when he sees it next week. It is coming from a very beautiful part of the former East Germany, near the border with Czechoslovakia, so has a good provenance. (For those who want to look up the area, DE 96364 Marktrodach-Seibelsdorf)

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 7 Apr 2017

Brilliant team effort everyone. Very excited to be on the next stage.

CA

Catherine Arend Sat 8 Apr 2017

Wow! Well done Carolin, John, Grahame and all! Very happy that we can go with our vote and experiment with something different, because that's what the Our Field project allows.

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 11 Apr 2017

A picture from Herr Backer of the Spelt ready to ship..
Spelt in bags

CA

Catherine Arend Wed 12 Apr 2017

very sexy spelt picture :smiley:

CL

Christine Lewis Thu 13 Apr 2017

That's a lot of seed!

JC

John Cherry Wed 12 Apr 2017

The bags are arriving in the UK tonight, so I'm hoping that they manage to get them here tomorrow so that we can sow the seed before , or over, the weekend.

TA

Tony Allan Thu 13 Apr 2017

Many thanks to everyone who found, ordered and dealt with all the logistics of purchasing the seed. I have been guiltily silent throughout as I do not have the organisational skills to contribute to such activities. If I had I would have wasted other people's time.
It may be normal - John - to work through the Easter holiday. If you and your colleagues do - be sure that it will be part of the story we tell.

JC

John Cherry Thu 13 Apr 2017

The seed is now on farm and I'll try to clean it up tomorrow with a view to sowing it then or on Saturday. If anyone wants to watch or join in with the Morris dance we always do when planting spelt in the spring (it helps the germination) then get in touch.

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 14 Apr 2017

Good luck with the planting and great to hear about the involvement of a Morris dance - hope to see some photos.

JC

John Cherry Fri 14 Apr 2017

We cleaned up the seed today and have half a tonne or so of small seeds and bigger bits of eat etc (pictured) if anyone wants it for eating. Or whatever. We're hoping to drill tomorrow.Holy Saturday night obviate the need for Morris dancers.

JC

John Cherry Sat 15 Apr 2017

Speed the seed in perfect conditions and now rolling it in to ensure it can make best use of rain forecast for tomorrow. Also might squash a few slugs.

JC

John Cherry Sat 15 Apr 2017

Predictive text...should have said sowed the seed. Picture of Bassey admiring seedbed. Mmorris dancers drunk so I did a solitary jig on your behalf.

TA

Tony Allan Sun 16 Apr 2017

Great news and thanks for giving our filed top priority. The uncertainty of the availability of spring seed is replaced by the uncertainties that Nature always brings. Namely the weather and perhaps cold soil. How long did it take to sow the field?

TA

Tony Allan Tue 25 Apr 2017

On Sunday 23 April I responded to Grahame's invitation to look at the field and the bluebells. It was the 8th day after the well travelled spelt was sown. There was nothing to see in the field. It has been dry and very cold for over two weeks.

It was very good to met John and discuss how things were going. Liza - one of he family - has just completed a very interesting dissertation on conservation agriculture. I leave it to John to report on farm activity lest I get a nuance wrong

Over lunch Grahame raised the topic of whether the group would like to know more about the economics of the OurField. activity. In other words would it be possible to account for most of the inputs including for management and stewardship. I have provided with the beginnings of a spreadsheet. Keeping detailed accounts is expensive but without such metrics it will be difficult to persuade others about the impact of the unique OurField experiment. Thanks Grahame and thanks John.

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 26 Apr 2017

Thanks for reporting back and sorry to have missed the blue bell walk and chance to catch up. It is always useful to have more information about the mechanics of farming - the photo of the seeds coming over was enough to show me the scale, which is quite scary!

JC

John Cherry Mon 1 May 2017

Despite the cold and dryness of the weather, the spelt is coming up nicely

JC

John Cherry Mon 1 May 2017

There's a nice dark cloud over the village which squeezed a few drops of rain out and might give the clover a start.

JC

John Cherry Wed 3 May 2017

Sorry not to answer Tony's question (and thanking him for coming out to see the bluebells) about how long it took to sow the field; the answer is a bit under two hours, but there was a fair bit of messing about calibrating the seed metering gear. Spelt is rather different to 'normal' cereals in that the seed remains in a floret of husk and it doesn't flow very quickly so we had to open the drill up a bit. The 1600 kg of seed that we dressed, sowed over just over 8 hectares (21 acres approx), which was just what we planned. We sowed the rest of the field with oats, so there will be porridge still for tea.

We went over it again last week (another two hours) with a set of weeding harrows and a box spinning clover and trefoil seed on at 3kg/ha. We didn't get enough rain to germinate that, but on the plus side the harrows tweaked out a few little weeds. The legumes will sprout eventually, time will tell if they can do any good. We undersowed the oats with this too, by way of adding interest.

In terms of the next decision you will need to make is whether we want to add any fertiliser and whether to spray fungicides and plant growth regulators. Without fertiliser, you probably won't need PGRs or fungicide. With thanks to @danielkindred , we had a fantastic Soil Health Test done, by NRM laboratories. I could perhaps post this if anyone is interested. My reading of this is that there is a fair bit of available nitrogen in the soil and enough of other essential nutrients to grow a crop. Daniel might read it differently. I certainly wouldn't want to apply any nitrogen with the ground being so dry and no rain forecast for a while. But it would be good to know what everybody thinks, so we can plan to act if necessary.

WA

Wendy Alcock Fri 5 May 2017

Hi John. Thanks for the update. If you think we will understand the soil health test it would be good to see it. When do you think we need to make the decision about which, if any, sprays to apply?

GH

Grahame Hunter Fri 5 May 2017

I think I have understood that one of the uses of the soil health test, too, is to gauge long term changes in fertility, soil organic carbon content etc, - in which case if the OurField group continues, and continues with the same field, and if we remember to have the same tests done annually at about the same time, and if the weather conditions at the time the samples are taken is similar, gradually we can accumulate a useful set of indicators - is that how it works? (A bit like periodic cholesterol and blood pressure tests..), or are these absolute values, useful of themselves..

GH

Grahame Hunter Fri 5 May 2017

__ An aerial view? __
I am very happy to say that Tony Allen has sent me a satellite image of the farm area around the OurField plot.
Find it here..
It must be an old image, as all the fields seem to have been ploughed within an inch of their lives..anyhow, it has at least revealed to me my ignorance of what area OurFieldWeston is actually cultivating. _ I have circled in red my idea about this as a first stab, and for John to laugh at, as to what I think is the area._
Now there was a drone up recently, so perhaps someone @edna has a better still-shot of the area? and perhaps with John, I can home in on an accurate representation of where we are..

TA

Tony Allan Tue 9 May 2017

Very many thanks Graham for the comments on the soil tests. I agree with Wendy that we would like to see any test results that John is prepared to share.

It is very good to see the spelt coming up despite the low temperatures and the absence of rain. . There must be some soil moisture in what is still very cold soil.

The irrigators must be getting worried about what is becoming a drought. Let there be rain - soon..

JC

John Cherry Tue 9 May 2017

Not sure if this will work, but I hope I'm attaching Daniel's soil test. There are one or two odd things which I don't understand, like why, if we have very high soil health, do they think we should aim to reduce it. Also I didn't fill in the worm count (there were loads...trust me) or tell them what we were growing (hence no fertiliser recommendations).

To answer Grahame's post about soil tests, they are absolute values, but only relate to the spoonfuls of soil which I collected as I walked a large 'W' across the field. The aim is to collect an average sample of the soil from the whole field, so I took a little bit from here and a bit from there (approx. 20 samples) and mixed them all together. It's a snap-shot of a moment in time, but is useful to give us an idea of what's going on.

The red line on the map is only round half the field, the bit immediately to the right (up to the hedge) is yours too

AR

Abby Rose Sun 14 May 2017

That soil test is sooo interesting! The soil microbial activity is super high - amazing - do you think that is almost all down to the many years of no-till @johncherry ? Have you ever mob grazed this field? and yes that seems very bizarre that they are suggesting you decrease your soil quality?

DK

Daniel Kindred Fri 26 May 2017

I agree we should apply 50 kg N/ha. I would favour applying as Ammonium Nitrate rather than urea, as risk of substantial N losses to ammonia from urea less especially if soil dry.
The soil analyses done here don't really help in knowing how much N to apply. To measure available N in soil requires sampling soil to 60cm depth, keeping samples cool and lab measurement of nitrate and ammonium-N. Assuming a normal arable rotation without large applications of manure or v high organic matter soil we'd expect soil N level to be low, so normally little value in testing for soil-N. John, can you remind me of previous crop and whether any manures/composts etc have been applied in recent years.
Given that we don't know how well the Spelt will stand I think best not to apply much more than 50kg N/ha in case it causes the crop to lodge. Also applying more than 50 kg negates the benefit of the clover, assuming it comes through ok.
The P & K indices were low for this soil. We could consider applying Di-ammonium phosphate to give some phosphorous as well as nitrogen and help early growth... but probably too late now for this too give a cost effective response. We rarely see clear responses to the current crop from in season P or K fertiliser applications even in high yielding wheat crops, so unlikely to be worthwhile here. The policy for P & K is normally to apply to the soil for the long term rather than the crop in season.

TA

Tony Allan Wed 17 May 2017

1 Thank you for the soil report.

2 Have you had much rain this week?

JC

John Cherry Fri 19 May 2017

We've been gasping for rain for weeks and now, thankfully, we've had a bit. Well, over two inches so far and it's still raining. Enough already!

The spelt looks good and is really starting to motor. We need to decide whether we want to apply some nitrogen fertiliser. I was talking to Richard the agronomist about this yesterday and his thoughts were that if we don't apply any, then we'll have a very disappointing harvest. He's recommending applying 50kg/hectare of urea now (approx. cost £20/hectare) which will give it a bit of oomph and help it grow away from the few weeds which are appearing. There is not much sign of the clover/trefoil yet, they should make an appearance now the soil is wetted through.The urea should help them get away too. Over to the collective on this decision...

TA

Tony Allan Fri 19 May 2017

How has the soil coped withe the heavy rainfall? Has it drained down into the profile effectively

How does your proposed application of nitrogen to the spelt compare with what you are doing on other spring sown grains. As we do not have an organic option I would take Richard's advice. I look forward to the discussion.

Please report in due course on how the spelt is out-competing the weeds (which ones?) or not.

All news very much appreciated. The more technical the better.

JC

John Cherry Fri 19 May 2017

The rain has soaked in beautifully as we'd hope on soil under no-till. Couple of photos

JC

John Cherry Fri 19 May 2017

We have unfortunately got some rather wide rows as you can see. The spelt blocked some of the metering mechanism...I don't think it'll hurt it too much, but may allow more weed growth. In the top photo you can see some sow-thistle coming. There are a few other broad-leaved weeds, but if we spray them off then we'll wipe out any clover/trefoil under-storey, so we'll keep an eye out for what comes.

@johnanthonyallan to answer your question about how much N we would normally give our spring crops...in the region of 100 to 150 kg/ha depending on what they are and how good they look

AR

Abby Rose Wed 24 May 2017

thanks so much for the photos and update @johncherry so interesting and helpful!

GH

Poll Created Mon 22 May 2017

Nitrogen fertiliser should be applied soon to the Field at 50kg / ha Closed Wed 31 May 2017

Outcome
by Grahame Hunter Thu 1 Jun 2017

The matter proposed was to follow the recommendation of the agronomist that a small dose of Nitrogen should be applied now; there are several cogent arguments on both sides, and alternate fertilisers were also suggested - but

this proposal was rejected by the group, and the decision of the OurFieldWeston group is that no Nitrogen Fertiliser should be applied.

It has been offered by John to split the field, but that was not proposed; (although supported by 4 group members)
- furthermore at Weston there is another field of Spelt (Autumn sown), so my feeling as Facilitator is that this is not a route forward that has been endorsed by the Group.

This was with distance the largest voting turnout so far (75% of members) , so I think we can take comfort that the result is pretty decisive.

no Nitrogen

  • John Cherry wrote: * We need to decide whether we want to apply some nitrogen fertiliser. I was talking to Richard the agronomist about this yesterday (18th May 2017- gh) and his thoughts were that if we don't apply any, then we'll have a very disappointing harvest. He's recommending applying 50kg/hectare of urea now (approx. cost £20/hectare) which will give it a bit of oomph and help it grow away from the few weeds which are appearing.

  • gh comment *
    It would be helpful if someone who is __ against the use of Fertiliser __ would write a reasoned argument on the main blog, please; to which if he feels inclined Richard or John can answer, in time to help everyone reach a decision for a vote closing Wednesday evening at 11pm.

Results

Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 44.4% 12 HG TF JT SF TT SW MS EM DK CL RE C
Abstain 3.7% 1 SJ
Disagree 51.9% 14 D AL AR NR AS TA WA MDV AG VLD HB NG E SD
Block 0.0% 0  
Undecided 0% 16 A DU GH JC CG CL RM LB TS SG KS EU EC CA S&D AL

27 of 43 people have voted (62%)

CL

Christine Lewis
Agree
Mon 22 May 2017

It seems sensible to feed the crop to give it a good start and get above the potential weeds.

E

Edna
Disagree
Sun 28 May 2017

I thought the whole idea of no tilling is to let the soil do her thing. Fertilisers aim to plants no till to soil which supports the plants. I have no experience in farming but I think we should adhere to believes and not to profit. So what if the crop won't maximise the profit! Next year it will. And maybe we will have great crop.....

WA

Wendy Alcock
Disagree
Sun 28 May 2017

I'm away so am not able to do much research but I did note down that John said the companion planting "would add diversity and a bit of N and each crop would get some benefit of disease and weed suppression. But these benefits only really apply if we go for no extra N after the seed-bed application, ie a quasi-organic approach." several months ago. If we have the option to do half with and half withouth that would be an interesting experiment.

AS

Alexandra Sexton
Disagree
Sun 28 May 2017

My reasons for co-investing were to support the long-term health of the soil, with the aim of seeing if the field could transition to no chemical inputs (and even organic status if possible?) in the future. This is an important part of the experiment for me, more than making profit.

SJ

Steven Jacobs
Abstain
Mon 29 May 2017

I am abstaining, not because I'm unsure but because I don't advocate the use of artificial nitrogen however without being part of a fertility building phase using clover leys I would not expect the crop to perform brilliantly without the pep pill of ammonium nitrate.

Why am I not advocating the use of a product many believe has helped to feed billions of people? Artificial fertiliser has been instrumental in huge yield increases of major food crops. But it's manufacture and use comes at a hefty price.
There is an excellent look at how artificial fertiliser came to be produced in what is known as the Haber-Bosch process by Tim Harford. He looks at the history and effects of current levels of use.
I'd like us to allow experimentation within OurField but I'd also like us to look and learn. John has an excellent approach to farming. He clearly farms with great sensitivity to the land. His methods are careful and strategic. I wish more farmers were like this. I'm not sure we can just dive in and advise against using what I'd hope is a minimum amount of artificial resource. But I would ask that we use this discussion, this pause for thought to get better acquainted with how food is produced. Maybe a longer project could look at running an organic system approach where a productive crop that can be marketed is grown while other fields are in a fertility building phase.
Meanwhile here are the words of Tim Harford -
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38305504
To create those conditions on a scale sufficient to produce 160 million tonnes of ammonia a year - the majority of which is used for fertiliser - the Haber-Bosch process today consumes more than 1% of all the world's energy.
That is a lot of carbon emissions.
And there is another very serious ecological concern.
Only some of the nitrogen in fertiliser makes its way via crops into human stomachs, perhaps as little as 15%.
Most of it ends up in the air or water.
This is a problem for several reasons.
Compounds like nitrous oxide are powerful greenhouse gases.
They pollute drinking water.
They also create acid rain, which makes soils more acidic, disrupting ecosystems, and threatening biodiversity.
When nitrogen compounds run off into rivers, they likewise promote the growth of some organisms more than others.
The results include ocean "dead zones", where blooms of algae near the surface block out sunlight and kill the fish below.
The Haber-Bosch process is not the only cause of these problems, but it is a major one, and it is not going away.
Demand for fertiliser is projected to double in the coming century.
In truth, scientists still do not fully understand the long-term impact on the environment of converting so much stable, inert nitrogen from the air into various other, highly reactive chemical compounds.

Tim concludes that we are in the middle of a global experiment.
And of course we must eat. The more of us there are the more food must be produced. The answer is complex. Less waste, more cycling of nutrients. More value placed on food and a better return for those who produce it. But these things do not provide a quick solution.

C

catherine52
Agree
Mon 29 May 2017

I know that John and Richard would prefer to not spend money on fertiliser so I trust their recommendation and think we should strengthen the crop against the weeds. Question to Richard, don't the weeds benefit from the fertiliser?

HG

Harry Greenfield
Agree
Mon 29 May 2017

It seems like this is relatively small amount of fertiliser which should help the crop to grow. While I understand Steven's point about the systemic problems with use of artificial N, I see this experiment as a way to learn about how we can produce food within the current context, including some compromises that differ from what might be an ideal method of production.

JT

James Tickell
Agree
Mon 29 May 2017

Happy in principle to go with the expert view. But can we source chemicals not from (eg) Monsanto or another big corporation please?

D

Darren
Disagree
Tue 30 May 2017

I wouldn't choose to put N fertilizer on crops for the reasons that Steven explains.

As others have suggested an experiment half/half would be interesting, although Richards suggestion is no doubt based upon the results of many such experiments. Having said that as no-till methods are relatively new to the UK, with its particular climatic and soil conditions, we are to some degree in less well charted territories.

I hope that improved biology in our soil can still provide a reasonable crop without the application.

AL

Annie Landless
Disagree
Tue 30 May 2017

After some deliberation I am voting against applying nitrogen to the spelt crop. While I think this is a quick fix for a better harvest it is more damaging in the long run for soil health and the environment. In the nature of experimentation and shared risk I would like to see what happens if we go without!

TA

Tony Allan
Disagree
Wed 31 May 2017

On the basis of the discussion I have changed my vote to disagree

TA

Tony Allan
Disagree
Wed 31 May 2017

On the basis of the discussion I have changed my vote to disagree

AG

Averil Glencross
Disagree
Wed 31 May 2017

I feel that as this is an experimental project it would be good to see the results without.

AR

Abby Rose
Disagree
Wed 31 May 2017

I want to support the longer term thinking of the field and soil's health...so voting to not apply Nitrogen this time...I really hope we do still get a good crop and I'm sorry John for taking the riskier option! However if there is a chance of doing another proposal after this for a more experiment oriented approach then I would absolutely vote to go 50/50 and see the results.

VLD

Veronica Lopes da Silva
Disagree
Wed 31 May 2017

For reasons already expressed above, I would rather not use Nitrogen fertiliser. Should the option of 50/50 be possible I may opt for that such that we can be able to better understand the impact on our yield.

(Thank you all for your shared research and I'm so pleased to be learning so much from this process!)

MDV

Matteo De Vos
Disagree
Wed 31 May 2017

While it entails more risk, and given the assumption that a 50/50 split may not be as helpful in highlighting differences in a fair comparable time frame, I'm voting No fertiliser (see longer comment). I prefer experimenting and seeing what welse an achieve without extra fertiliser

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 23 May 2017

A new proposal has been started. Loomio seems to have stopped notifying everyone about new proposals, which is the reason for this post, circulated to all paid up members who have joined the Loomio Group. (those 5 who have not joined, have no vote).

the proposal about using Nitrogen fertiliser - ends on Thursday morning at 09:00

@alexandrasexton @alfredlawrie @andreadibiagio @averilglencross @catherinearend @christinelewis @danielkindred @darren4 @edibleutopia @edna @ellemcall @emersoncsorba @carolingoethel1 @harryboglione @harrygreenfield1 @jamestickell @johnanthonyallan @karlschneider @lucybradley1 @matteodv @matthewshribman @nikireynolds @nikitagulhane @romymiller @sadhbhmoore @seangifford @sebastianpowell @shyamdesai @sineadfenton @stevenjacobs @stinewilhelmsen @tamsynforsyth @tessatricks @tristramstuart @veronicalopesdasil1 @wendyalcock

TA

Tony Allan Wed 24 May 2017

Thank you John for the information on the proposed application of nitrogen. I voted yes.
It seems sensible to give a relatively small application in that we don't want the spelt to get too tall and perhaps lodge.
The new moist conditions will I understand mean that the N will be very effective.
Do you use any sensing technique to detect what appllciation of N is needed? I understand that there is NIR (near infra red) hand held imaging equipment that is supposed to provide useful information.

DK

Daniel Kindred Fri 26 May 2017

Hi John, we've worked developing & testing NIR sensors for N status in crops, but there isn't yet a widely accepted approach to use this to directly give an N recommendation for wheat or barley. There certainly won't be any calibrations that are proven for spring spelt in the UK!

AR

Abby Rose Wed 24 May 2017

@grahamehunter please can we extend the deadline for this proposal until middle of next week? I think we need at least a week for people to learn what's at stake and make a decision as I feel like this is an important choice.

AL

Annie Landless Wed 24 May 2017

@johncherry @grahamehunter @abbyrose yes it would be good to hear some counter arguments for applying nitrogen. At the moment it seems like a no brainer to put a bit on and give the spelt a boost, but I am unaware of how this would affect soil health or any other issues it can cause. I'll do a little bit of research now and see what I can find.

AL

Annie Landless Wed 24 May 2017

This is an interesting read: https://www.biofortified.org/2013/04/an-unlikely-fix-nitrogen-fertilizer-and-organic-agriculture/

It hasn't helped me decide yet!

I just found this: https://www.growjourney.com/5-facts-synthetic-nitrogen-fertilizer/#.WSWOnRPytWc

I don't have time to read it now, but I will try and check it out later.

Is the deadline for voting definitely tonight? I agree with @abbyrose it would be good to have the weekend to research this @grahamehunter

JC

John Cherry Wed 24 May 2017

I'm happy to extend deadline, in reality we are unlikely to apply nitrogen until next week now. (We've got busy silaging and it's also a bit dry on the soil surface so spread fertiliser won't soak in). 9 am Wednesday morning works for me, I'll have a word with Grahame and extend it until then.

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 24 May 2017

I am reluctant to extend the vote beyond Monday; something unforseen may come up, and we may need to communicate with the group, and still leave John a margin of time to react and still be on the field if necessary commencing the Wednesday 31 May. There might even be a tied vote!

HB

Harry Boglione Fri 26 May 2017

As some one who believes in not using chemical imputes on crops i would personally oped out of using nitrogen on the field for the following reasons. 1st i think it totally defeats the point of under-sowing the spelt with clover and clover dose not do well if you apply nitrogen to it. 2nd if your applying nitrogen to get the spelt to grow away from the weeds you are also applying it to the weeds which will also make them grow faster. 3rd as we are growing spelt which tends to be a tall crop we are potentially going to put the crop at a grater risk of lodging (falling over making it very hard to pick up with the combine) as a result reducing the yield. 4th altho it is a relatively low dose of nitrogen it will increase the crops venerability to disease down the line. to conclude i co-invested in the project in the name of collaboration and experimentation not to make a profit on my investment and if i don't try to do things differently i won't learn from the experience.

TA

Tony Allan Sat 27 May 2017

I am appreciating the discussion very much indeed. It would be very useful if John and/or Richard could have time to comment. Thank you Daniel for the comment on the NIR (near infra-red) sensor.

NG

Nikita Gulhane Mon 29 May 2017

I would be curious to see what the impact of applying fertiliser to only part of the crop would be. How much competition are the weeds to the spelt - will they deny the spelt space/nutrient/light too quickly to allow it to get a foothold? Purely from a laypersons perspective I have no real concept of what happens to the potential yield if artificial inputs aren't used within a no till framework but I do think Harry B raises some good points.
I would be more interested to see our field follow a low input route with an eye to seeing at what impact this has on the field's soil profile and fertility over the next few seasons.
Since use of fertiliser on only part of the field is not an option I shall vote for no use of fertiliser.

NR

Niki Reynolds Tue 30 May 2017

I originally agreed to apply fertiliser, but after much research and deliberation I have changed my mind and voted to disagree with applying fertiliser.. I believe it would be good to see how the crop fares without any artificial applications and keep to organic principles.

AG

Averil Glencross Wed 31 May 2017

Hi there,

My apologies for not getting into vote. I have been having trouble logging in and once logged in lose connection

I know its too late however my vote would have been no as I feel as the project is an experiment it would be interesting to see if we could do without.

AR

Abby Rose Wed 31 May 2017

@averilglencross the deadline was extended until 11pm tonight - so please do cast your vote today

NR

Niki Reynolds Wed 31 May 2017

I had trouble logging in and I found the answer was to google Loomio and then log in afresh that way rather than via the email link.. Hope this will help anyone who has logging in problems

AR

Abby Rose Wed 31 May 2017

Lots of great reasoning and comments from everyone - thank you. I feel a bit nervous about our spring spelt. I recognise that I'm relatively comfortable with the risk that I might lose £150, but if I was the sole farmer and had invested £10,000 in the field I would not be comfortable with risking losing it all. So the shared risk is heavily affecting my decision...and I also want to acknowledge that @johncherry you are much more invested in this field than any of us with about a £3000 share. So you have more to lose than any of us...but also potentially more to gain as many of us have voted for long-term health benefits to the soil over short-term gains for our crop.
My ideal scenario would be to apply Nitrogen as you have suggested to half the field and then no Nitrogen to the other half and see what happens - this would be a great learning experience. If we chose just one or the other we will never know what affect the Nitrogen application really has. If you have time to comment on everything so far @johncherry and how you are feeling about a nitrogen application or not sometime today before the vote closes that would be amazing :)... I'm still a bit on the fence!

NR

Niki Reynolds Wed 31 May 2017

I would like to propose doing half and half also..

JC

John Cherry Wed 31 May 2017

Happy to do half and half. In Italy at minute and v slow typing on phone so won't elaborate.

NR

Niki Reynolds Wed 31 May 2017

I like the idea of going half and hLf.. Would be fascinating to see the outcome..

AG

Averil Glencross Wed 31 May 2017

Thank you Niki.

The one problem I have is I have forgotten my password and when I logo in the other way I have it saved.

My mistake should have written it down.

NR

Niki Reynolds Wed 31 May 2017

Hi Averil,

Maybe when you try to log in and put any password in there should be a pop up message to say 'Forgotton Password' click onto that then you can re-set it..
Good luck

Niki xx

AG

Averil Glencross Wed 31 May 2017

Hi Niki,

I went in a different way and have voted.

Thank you

Averil

NR

Niki Reynolds Wed 31 May 2017

Hi Averil,

That's excellent..

Niki xx

GH

Grahame Hunter Thu 1 Jun 2017

Admin matters - log in questions etc.
@nikitagulhane @averilglencross

don't forget the other discussion threads for admin and technical questions; and off topic discussions.

Everyone should note that there are separate threads for matters which do not relate to the crop conversation. It is nice to keep them distinct, otherwise the thread can become somewhat unwieldy and everyone has to scroll through matters about voting or logging in, or baking etc :rabbit: to try to get to the points about the crop.

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 31 May 2017

What a fascinating debate. While I prefer to add some nutrition to the field I understand and welcome the debate for the options not to. But we cannot have the option to go with half with and half without under this specific vote. We can have an additional vote but I worry about delay. Nutrition is one thing but then pesticide will be another - what other votes will we need to come to a consensus with and what is the most important. Does nutrition mean the crop is better placed to withstand weeds and make it less likely to need pesticide. I prefer nutrition than pesticide. Hey ho - happy to go with the end result as I am learning a lot but feel I know too little.

MDV

Matteo De Vos Wed 31 May 2017

My main concern with a 50/50 split, if at all feasible, is that it may give us a skewed comparison over a relatively short time frame of the differences between using a nitrogen fertiliser vs not using the fertiliser. In other words, I'm afraid it would give us a misleading result that favours the nitrogen fertiliser option as it's more productive in the short run, while overlooking the potential long term (and thus currently immeasurable) benefits of using no fertiliser.

For this reason, among the other reasons already presented, im leaning towards (with 20 mins left on the clock!) the no fertiliser option. We seem to have a clearer understanding of what will happen if we use fertiliser, so I'm inclined to use this project more as an experiment..even if that entails more risk

JC

John Cherry Fri 16 Jun 2017

Well, we decided to do nothing and the spelt is looking very good on it. There is a smattering of weeds, but at the moment the spelt is outgrowing them and without N fertiliser, they (the weeds) will probably lose the race. So it is a case of waiting and seeing what happens next.

Meanwhile Tony Allen brought David Dent along to give the soil a thorough testing in four locations around the field, including a bulk density test, the result of which we await with interest. More on this elsewhere.

To complement the YEN soil tests that @danielkindred organised, Richard the agronomist took some tissue samples (ie spelt leaves) and sent them to NRM. The results are just in and posted below.

MDV

Matteo De Vos Tue 20 Jun 2017

Very exciting to hear that the spelt is making progress without N fertiliser! Still early days but I like what I'm hearing. :)

Re: the tissue samples sent to the NRM, do you have any insight into what exactly these results mean? I.e. how do these results fare with previous tests, 'average' scores etc. I see most nutrients are in the 'normal' range, with q few being excessive (Molybdenum) and others (Nitrogen and Sulphur) being deficient. How do you interpret that, and how do you correct these extremes?

JC

John Cherry Thu 22 Jun 2017

To be honest , I don't know much about tissue tests. They are a snapshot in time from a randomly selected plant, so could mean anything. We'll do another in a week or two and see if there's a pattern. There should be a correlation with the soil test if they are to mean anything, time tell. A lot of the extremes would be hard to correct on their own. Anything's possible, but is it worth it...
Meanwhile here's a pic from yesterday. Ear emerging from boot. Crop still only a foot high. Needs more rain!

AR

Abby Rose Fri 23 Jun 2017

thanks for the photo @johncherry - grown lots since we visited a few weeks ago!! Really appreciate these updates :)

JC

John Cherry Tue 18 Jul 2017

Spelt is growing away nicely. Now about 3 foot tall. Sky lark nest to add colour.

JC

John Cherry Mon 14 Aug 2017

The spelt is ripening rapidly and should be ready to combine later this week, weather permitting. This leads us to our next set of questions for everyone to ponder: what to do next.

There is no real point in trying to sell the crop until it is in the shed and we know how much there is of it and how nice it is (ie how much protein/gluten etc there is, in terms of suitability for milling/baking). That being said, we still need a plan. We estimate the yield will be something like 1tonne/acre, which gives us 20 odd tonnes to play with. We'd like to keep some back for planting next year, the rest is up to you...

We haven't spent that much of your money this year, it has been a very cheap crop to grow. Whether we would have much more out there if we'd fertilised it and sprayed a fungicide, we'll never know. A lot of the crops planted this spring haven't really come to much as we had a prolonged dry spell when we wanted rain and rain when we wanted dry (like now for harvest). That's farmers for you, always complaining. It's perhaps too early to say what the right thing to do was, whatever, it has been very interesting. I'll leave it to the number-crunchers to work out your returns, a lot will depend on how successful we are in marketing the spelt.

The next question is really whether you all want to carry on with the same field and grow different crops through the rotation. The field needs a break next year, so it won't have a grain crop in (unless you fancy risking a crop of buckwheat or quinoa or some-such 'false-grain' next spring...).
You may all want a change of scene and go elsewhere or invest your cash in something else, we just need to know quite soon; we'll likely put a cover crop in the field after harvest anyway which keeps the soil happy and most other options open.

Meanwhile I'd like to thank Tony Allan for arranging for David Dent to come and do a thorough soil density test in four different parts of the field. Alarmingly, David's conclusions were that the soil is compacted and doesn't have enough air in it for optimal growing conditions. I've had a word with the worms and basically told them to work harder. I'd rather they did the de-compacting, much cheaper and longer lasting than pulling metal implements through the profile.

John

JC

John Cherry Mon 14 Aug 2017

I tried (and failed) to post a couple of snaps of crop since the rain. There are a lot of weeds coming through now, as well as the cover/trefoil companion crop. If we don't get to harvest the spelt soon, the greenery will be problematic. I could suggest that we treat the crop with a pre-harvest dose of Roundup (aka glyphosate) to kill off the greenery, but that might be too much of a wind-up.

AR

Abby Rose Mon 14 Aug 2017

Thanks so much for sharing @johncherry ! whaf would you do in this scenario without our influence at all? Would you spray with glyphosate? And who or how might you sell it? Fingers crossed for a few consistent days with no rain!!

TA

Tony Allan Tue 15 Aug 2017

Very many thanks John for finding time to write a very informative message in you inimitable way that conveys essentials briefly with compelling humour. It is all hugely appreciated. Many thanks also for mentioning the reports on the soil of OurField completed on 10 June by David Dent. We should discuss whether/how to share and comment on the soil survey information.

The yield estimate looks useful.

I agree with Abby that we hear from you on:
1 What you would do without our 'decisions'
and
2 I would like to hear the case for glysophate. I sense the group may not be up to speed on the weed challenges. I know, as you do, that other leading UK farmer exponents of no till feel they have to rely on small and well timed use of glysophate.

Do confirm when you intend to harvest the spelt?

And good luck with the marketing. As you hint handling this task is commercially crucial.

JC

John Cherry Tue 15 Aug 2017

In answer to your question @abbyrose, we would probably grown some spring wheat as we have other fields growing it nearby and we'd have sprayed it and given it 100kg/N/Ha and sold it through our local farmers grain co-op. I can ask them if they've got a spelt buyer.

I don't think spraying glyphosate on the crop now would be a good idea, I suggested it as a tease. It's probably too late now, a lot of the spelt is ripe (with dead leaves) so the chemical would just stay on the ear which we want to harvest and I think that is bad. We will try to harvest on a hot, dry day so the weeds don't block the combine's innards. If the wet weather comes back and the weeds continue to grow, we might have to consider spraying diquat which will scorch the leaves, but not necessarily kill the root, and enable us to harvest a couple of days later. Glyphosate can take up to 3 weeks to work.

You are right @johnanthonyallan that we have to use some herbicides at least with our current no-till system, but we are experimenting every year with techniques to reduce pesticide use. We no longer use insecticides and the blossoming of insect life is palpable, together with the increase in bird numbers (slightly higher up the food chain). Spraying the crop just prior to harvest is one of the first sprays we should be giving up. And I hope we never have to do it (spray, I mean, not giving up...). Glyphosate spraying just before we sow the crop strikes me as the way to go.

TA

Tony Allan Wed 16 Aug 2017

Thank you John for the reply providing the additional information on weeds and pests. Let's pray for a few hot days. It would be useful to inform the group about the weed and herbicide issue. Could we ask Amir Kassam to say how the UK is doing compared with the global no-till story?
I think Abby was asking what you would do next rather than what you would have done on the field this year. As a suggestion for what next - what about sowing a leguminous cover crop?

AL

Annie Landless Wed 16 Aug 2017

@johncherry thank you so much for the update. My Dad has also been furiously combining at home in between awful rainy spells!

It sounds like a pre-harvest glyphosate spray is out, but will it be possible to combine the spelt this week with all the weeds? Do keep us updated.

I think it is time for us to discuss what options we have for marketing/ selling our spelt crop! Keen to hear ideas from the rest of the collective..

@tamsynforsyth @harrygreenfield1 @darren4 @andreadibiagio @jamestickell @abbyrose @catherinearend @averilglencross @alfredlawrie @alexandrasexton @wendyalcock @harryboglione @lucybradley1 @emersoncsorba @christinelewis @shyamdesai @danielkindred @sebastianpowell @veronicalopesdasil1 @matteodv @edna @ellemcall @edibleutopia @sineadfenton @tamsynforsyth @seangifford @nikitagulhane @stevenjacobs @johnanthonyallan @karlschneider @veronicalopesdasil1 @christinelewis1 @sadhbhmoore @matthewshribman @romymiller @nikireynolds @tristramstuart @matthewshribman @stinewilhelmsen @tessatricks

JC

John Cherry Wed 16 Aug 2017

Spelt today. Most ripe, some still a bit green. Will keep an eye on it. Suspect next week better for harvest, but we will see. Not too many weeds showing yet

WA

Wendy Alcock Thu 17 Aug 2017

Hi all

Focusing for the moment on John’s first question ‘what to do next’ and leaving ‘what to do about next year’ for later, below is a copy of my research after contacting some mills back in April.

As I was scanning for my posts I saw potential ideas (and organisations that had been contacted about our field) from other people, but without reading back through all of this thread I don’t want to copy in random bits and pieces.

Maybe people could post again to say who they have previously contacted and what they said. This would allow us to see if there are gaps – eg, Gails, E5 bakehouse, loads of other bakeries and mills – that we could contact to see if they want to buy our grain/flour/something made from the flour.

@johncherry thanks for your updates and pics. It’s good to know you think we’re best waiting to find out our quantity and quality before selling – I can’t think how we’d be able to sell the spelt without it just ending up mixed in with someone else’s otherwise. One question I had, did you manage to find out which mills are used by your local coop? They could be a good place to contact.

Original post:

I heard back from three of the mills I contacted in March – all were very keen to hear about the project - and they told me the following:

Wicken mill http://www.nationalmillsweekend.co.uk/pages_wind/wicken.htm

This small community mill was restored a few years ago and has gradually increased production to 7-8 tonnes last year. They are not electric so are reliant on the power of the wind.

They currently buy their organic grain from http://www.hammondsendfarm.co.uk/ who seem to supplier the smaller traditional mills (and e5 bakehouse). They order grain in 2-3 tonne batches (a trailer load) for £500 a tonne. They are not certified organic so cannot sell their flour as such.

They would be happy to try some of our non-organic grain, if the crop is a good quality, either by a) buying and milling to sell the flour themselves, or b) milling the flour for us for a fee. They can send us a quote if we were interested in option b.

Brixton mill http://www.brixtonwindmill.org/

They also buy from Hammonds End Farm but on a smaller scale - £11.25 for a 25kg sack. Last year was the first year they milled anything (just 750kg of wheat and barley) as they have recently finished the restoration. They would like to try some of our grain, quality dependent, but it is unlikely to be much.

Wrights mill http://www.wrightsflour.co.uk

The MD of this 150 year old, quite large, family mill in Enfield called me himself and sent the following email a few days later:

“Following on from our conversation Wendy we would be able to turn your grain into flour, packed in 16 kg sacks and delivered in 26 pallet loads for £150 per tonne. As I mentioned it would probably be best to buy the grain from you at the market price and sell the flour back to you at this additional cost of £150 per tonne. Bear in mind too that we would need a minimum of 29 tonnes of grain which we will process in one go.”

On the phone he also offered the choice of 1.5kg or 500g bags (for an additional cost). All bags will be plain but can be labelled with a design of our choosing.

He said we would get around 20 tonnes of flour for our 30 tonnes of grain (I guessed we might have this amount). Processing takes around 48 hours to clean, condition mill and pack. We will then need to take delivery of the flour as they cannot store it for us.

We can call to book in the work with around a week’s notice of the harvest. They usually do wheat but can also process spelt (if we are able to grow it, of course).

If we end up growing a millable grain I think we have a couple of choices. To use a mill that can process all of the grain in one go and then try to find a buyer for the flour. Or we find several smaller mills to take a part of the grain each who then mill and sell the flour to their own customers. The later would be a nice goal of the project but may be a logistical nightmare!

TA

Tony Allan Fri 18 Aug 2017

Dear Wendy

Very many thanks for all the information on many interesting options. Best

SJ

Steven Jacobs Fri 18 Aug 2017

Hi,
Certainly is a good read looking through the things people are posting. Thanks to all contributors.
@johncherry my apologies but I can't recall the size of the field that has our attention?

With regard to marketing the grain we will of course need to know the quality before we can make a sale but I'm interested in quantity too. I'm curious also in how the yield will measure up against what @johncherry would expect if more inputs had been used and how the cost of those inputs stacks up against the differences in yield?

And while we consider what to do with the imminent crop we will, I expect, be talking soon about what happens next. Are we taking our money, or losses, and our memories of OurField Weston and disappearing back into the ether?

JC

John Cherry Sat 26 Aug 2017

Quick update and reply to questions...

Field is 20 acres of spelt (with 8 or 9 acres of unsprayed/unfertilised oats at the bottom). No idea how spelt would have performed with a high input regime, but oats will give a steer as most of the spring oats we've got have had some N and a fungicide spray, so what we get form the bottom of #ourfield will give a comparison if you see what I mean.

We are hoping to combine the spelt this weekend, depending on how we get on with our beans...the spelt is very nearly ready and the weather is good so here's hoping.
John

TA

Tony Allan Sun 27 Aug 2017

Greetings from Stockholm. I hope the sunshine is as bright in Hertfordshire as it is here.
Good luck.

JC

John Cherry Mon 28 Aug 2017

Harvest!

TA

Tony Allan Tue 29 Aug 2017

Wonderful. We look forward to any report you have time to send. Sadly water conference I am attending in Stockholm is farmer free. I keep pointing it out. Also pointing out that Late August is not a good time to get northern hemisphere farmers to take a break from harvesting.

AR

Abby Rose Tue 29 Aug 2017

Amazing!!! Thanks so much @johncherry for sending photos and harvesting our spelt -- it's soooo exciting! Interesting there is so much green under the crop as well - is that the clover coming through or is it other weeds? Look forward to hearing total tonnage harvested and quality of the spelt! Also we need to get discussions going with the collective about what we are going to do with it. Thanks @christinelewis for posting about the mills - i think we are waiting for some proposals from other potential buyers as well. We are also trying to get together an overview of the finances so we can understand what we need to sell the crop for to break even etc.

JC

John Cherry Tue 29 Aug 2017

Not so amazing...We have up after a couple of trailer loads...too much greenery and spelt not 100% for. Will try again
John

D

Darren Thu 31 Aug 2017

Interesting cryptic update from John. I'm translating as 'gave up after a couple of trailer loads' and 'spelt not 100% dry'?
I'm happy to put some effort into hunting down some more mills who may be able to do some processing for us.
I'm also interested in what people feel about continuing. I'm keen to continue with this field and/or somewhere else. I'm particularly interested in the possibility of growing a crop that I'd be able to process myself.

TA

Tony Allan Sat 2 Sep 2017

On the topic of continuing I am very much in favour. The relationship with John and the field has been very important and very interesting. It would be good to know what issues we should address and what should be prioritised. Who will lead the discussion?

TA

Tony Allan Wed 20 Sep 2017

What news of the harvest - on OurFiled and on the farm?

AR

Abby Rose Sat 23 Sep 2017

Hello all co-investors. We apologise for the silence our end! The team are super stretched right now in many other areas of life and so we have had a bit of a slow down with OurField. We are aiming to be back on track with the decision about what to do with our spelt in two weeks time. We are also postponing the harvest festival for now (so it will no longer be the weekend of 7th Oct), but will let people know asap once we have confirmed a new date. Thanks so much for all your contributions so far and we are excited for the next decision!

WA

Wendy Alcock Sun 24 Sep 2017

Thanks for the update Abby :-)

TT

Tessa Tricks Sat 30 Sep 2017

Thanks for the update @abbyrose and @johncherry , will keep an eye out for new dates. I'm also feeling that it's been a struggle to make the field a priority. Immediate pressures of life/ wealth of information/ distance from field. All of the things that probably leave us much less engaged with our food than we should be! I really look forward to the next physical convening. Your efforts with the field and to keep us updated are really appreciated @johncherry. I don't feel we've been much help.

TF

Tamsyn Forsyth Mon 2 Oct 2017

I am of a very similar opinion Tessa, I have struggled a little to be as engaged with the project as I would have liked but am really looking forward to the next update / gathering.

JC

John Cherry Thu 28 Sep 2017

Apologies too from me...we did finish harvesting the field in between showers a couple of weeks ago. I haven't measured up yet to estimate the yield, but it looks like 1 tonne/acre is optimistic, but it looks like a nice sample. I had to run it over the cleaner 3 times to get the rubbish out and that has dehulled a lot of the grain, so we will be able to exract some for instant milling. I suspect that the later cut half of the crop will have lost some of its gluten in the rain and so will not be so suitable for breadmaking and thus less valuable. Time will tell
In other news, we finally finished cutting our spring wheat last night, just before the 10 mm of rain that fell as it got dark. It's been a very boring and drawn out harvest and there's a lot of gloomy farmers round here, most of us had a poor harvest yieldwise, though the Farmers Weekly is talking about a bumper UK harvest, so either they are lying as usual or most of the country had different weather to us. Probably a bit of both

John

TA

Tony Allan Fri 29 Sep 2017

Dear John
Very many thanks for the information. The yield is respectable considering the problems of acquiring the seed, the cold start of the season and the less than optimum rainfall. We look forward to more details - in may case especially on the weeds. We value very highly the experience of hearing about and seeing a spelt crop germinate, compete with the weeds and get harvested.

Can you advise what you have in mind regarding the 2017-2018 seasons - on cover-cropping or on a winter sown crop or on a spring sown crop? And beyond. This comment is obviously premature in that we should discuss continuation. I write on the assumption that the project will continue if you can stand the strain. It is hoped that this message might stimulate discussion. If someone wants to draft an agenda to structure the discussion it would be helpful.

AR

Abby Rose Mon 2 Oct 2017

Thanks @johnanthonyallan for asking some important questions about continuing! This is great to start discussing now! In terms of a more formal agenda for disucssing it, we are first going to put together a formal outline for the decision of what to do with the grain - we hope to really get that discussion going by the end of the week. Then once that has been decided we will kickstart the discussion more formally on what to do next in the field and the potential for continuation.

TA

Tony Allan Mon 2 Oct 2017

Dear Abby

Your message is very much appreciated. I look forward to participating. Many thanks, TonyA

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 3 Oct 2017

Results

I have been asked to prepare some post harvest accounts, and have looked at the earlier spreadsheets, the initial forecasts, some predictions made in these pages; and will so far as possible merge that information with the actual figures which I have obtained in discussions with John and the farm book-keeper.

The accounts will therefore be

  • a record of actual expenses
  • combined with some national averages for input costs, and
  • local typical values for specific fixed costs such cost of using the land; and
  • for the income from an unsold crop, much guesswork.
JC

John Cherry Tue 3 Oct 2017

Just to add a further harvest update...we've had a measure up and estimate the total harvest yield at approx. 15 tonnes of spelt off our 20 acres. We sent some of the first cut stuff off to be sampled for gluten etc and it ticked the boxes ok (Hagberg falling number of 215 for those who like an actual figure). We had to mix that with the late cut stuff (so that we had enough to fill the grain drier), so I suspect we'll end up with a lower figure, but it'll perhaps have enough gluten to raise a loaf. We haven't got a value for the crop yet, but Grahame is working on the accounts now so at least we'll know how much we need to sell it for if we're not all to end up in the poor-house...

TA

Tony Allan Wed 4 Oct 2017

Dear Grahame and John. Thank you warmly for the news. Much appreciated. Tony

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 4 Oct 2017

The accounts are now out with the organisers for review..grahame

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 10 Oct 2017

Selling the Spelt

I see that Wendy Alcock had many useful leads and ideas about this - see her post of 17th August - including this from Wrights Mill

“we would be able to turn your grain into flour, packed in 16 kg sacks and delivered in 26 pallet loads for £150 per tonne. As I mentioned it would probably be best to buy the grain from you at the market price and sell the flour back to you at this additional cost of £150 per tonne."

If every OurField member would "buy" eg 25 kg, that would account for a whole tonne. I am not a member, but would be willing to agree to buy 25Kg at £1.50 /kg if packed in small bags, as I can give them away for Christmas.

Perhaps there could be a proposal on whether members want to have some flour for their bread ..

AR

Abby Rose Thu 12 Oct 2017

FIELD COSTS SUMMARY

We have the final costs of the field for the year, here is the summary:

  • Land rent (net of Basic Payment Scheme) 664
  • Farm admin costs 200
  • Agronomist time 109
  • Farmer time 600
  • Machinery/contractors time 1,098
  • Other handling costs (store, drying etc) 210
  • Seeds and sprays 2,168
  • Total Farming Costs 5,048.28

(For anyone who is interested in the wider accounting and how these costs break down further @grahamehunter will publish the full accounts in a separate thread and you can ask him any questions you like about them!)

SELLING THE SPELT

We harvested 15 tns of spelt, so to break even and recover our costs we would have to sell the spelt for £336.53/tn

In the initial agreement there were 60 shares allocated, John owns 18 of them and then there are 42 co-investors. So this means if we don't sell the spelt (so worst case scenario), each shareholder gets £65.86 back. i.e make a loss of £84.14.

Members of the collective have already talked about a number of options for selling the spelt and some have the potential to still make that money back, and even to make a profit but require more risk/work from the collective. So let's start the discussion and see what's possible with our 15 tns of spelt! Really looking forward to everyone's thoughts and ideas!

TA

Tony Allan Fri 13 Oct 2017

Dera Abby
Very many thanks for conveying the accounts from Grahame and John. The summary is very useful indeed. We are very grateful indeed or the detailed work and effort that has gone into the accounting.
I look forward to the discussion on marketing. And hear about the next meeting/celebration. Best

WA

Wendy Alcock Fri 13 Oct 2017

Hi everyone

I think there are a lot of outlets we could contact about selling the grain or flour so I've started a google doc to allow us to record who we have already spoken to. I've added the companies I have seen mentioned but please add any more you have already spoken to or contact from now on. If we all contact 2 or 3 mills or bakeries we will cover a wide range of outlets.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1W_6E1zJuAC0PxursgEGdjYAppTjRDfg1ibAG41547DA/edit?usp=sharing

@john Are you able to confirm gluten levels for the combined spelt – I think this is important info to pass on to possible buyers. Also, did you manage to find out if your local farmers co-op has a spelt buyer or which mills are used by your local coop? They could be a good place to contact.

@abbyrose @annielandless The latest email said “The team has been contacting possible buyers, including Marriage’s and Dove’s who have indicated their interest.” Could you add this info to the document?

@grahamehunter Wrights mill were a good option but I will need to check if they can take only 15 tonnes, as they originally told me they would need at least 29 tonnes.

I would also buy some of the flour if it was available and I have added your suggestion to the doc - where others who are interested in this option can also add their names.

I'm sure I've missed things off the google doc so please see this as a starting document that anyone can edit and add to.

AR

Abby Rose Mon 16 Oct 2017

THank you for this @wendyalcock ! Great summary and we will certainly add to the Google Doc. We are going to post a summary here as well for everyone to see some of the ideas John, Grahame and the organising team have put together to kickstart the discussion with everyone.

TT

Tessa Tricks Sun 22 Oct 2017

Huge thanks for pulling this together Wendy.

AR

Abby Rose Tue 17 Oct 2017

Posting this on behalf of @grahamehunter and organising team:
It’s that time of the year… It’s time to decide what to do with our delicious spring spelt. In some ways this could be seen as one of the most important decisions - as it will decide who finally gets their hands on the grain, what is created (bread? biscuits? animal feed?), and how much of a profit or loss we make on our grain!

John has sent through some details about the quality of the grain and the yield - it appears that it IS high enough grade for human consumption, which is brilliant news. We are awaiting the results of a few other tests, and will let you know the results of those as soon as they come back.

So let’s start the final debate!

Some of you have already been actively researching and exploring options for who might be able to buy the spelt… Well this is your time to speak up and share your findings with the group! Thanks @wendyalcock for putting together this google doc with different options:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1W_6E1zJuAC0PxursgEGdjYAppTjRDfg1ibAG41547DA/edit
If you have any thoughts or ideas please do share them on the loomio feed and then add them into the doc to make sure everyone sees them!

Additionally, our team has been contacting various bakeries and millers, and brainstormed the following ideas:

  1. We could do the milling ourselves - milled and bagged (where?) for a charge of £150/tonne… this could be in 20kg bags or 1kg bags - which will cost differently. Then the question is, what could we sell it for, and to whom? Grahame says you can buy spelt flour for £2/kg in Waitrose.

  2. We could get in touch with bakeries that have a mill, like E5 bakery, and see if they could take some and mill it on site and do a special day selling the bread, and provide us with loaves at our Harvest Festival. This probably won’t cover all the grain, but could be a nice way for each of us to take home some of our own spelt flour and potentially sell bags of flour direct to the public. Is this something that is important to people?

  3. Doves Farm (https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/about) have got back to us offering £190 per tonne of spelt and would take it off our hands entirely.

  4. We are waiting to hear a reply from Marriage’s and Gail’s Bakery.

  5. what other ideas do people have???

We look forward to hearing all your thoughts and discussions.
We will consolidate all the discussions into final voting options Mon 23rd Oct.
Then the vote on what to do with the spelt will run from Wed 25th Oct - Sun 29th Oct. So please do get into action asap and encourage other members of the collective to speak up!

p.s We are just confirming a few details but we are planning the harvest festival to be on Thursday 23rd Nov in London. It will be a really great event! Please pencil that in your diaries!

What are your thoughts? @tessatricks @harryboglione @sadhbhmoore @sebastianpowell @nikitagulhane @nikireynolds @sebastianpowell @ellemcall @edna @edibleutopia @tristramstuart @jamestickell @tamsynforsyth @shyamdesai @averilglencross @catherinearend @alfredlawrie @matthewshribman @matteodv @romymiller @alexandrasexton @johnanthonyallan @lucybradley1 @andreadibiagio @emersoncsorba @christinelewis @christinelewis1 @darren4 @veronicalopesdasil1 @danielkindred @sineadfenton @tamsynforsyth @harrygreenfield1 @karlschneider @seangifford @stevenjacobs @johncherry @alfredlawrie @annielandless @stinewilhelmsen @seangifford @wendyalcock and anyone who we didn't catch in that list!

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 17 Oct 2017

..and there is now a spreadsheet giving a little more information on costs in the accounts discussion thread.

grahame

TA

Tony Allan Wed 18 Oct 2017

Marketing
The discussion on marketing is very interesting. I was wanting to circulate this message on the separate accounting and marketing page but cannot this morning fathom how to do this.
Can I enquire if the offer of £190/tonne for the spelt from Dove's is still open?
£190/tonne gladdens the heart. It appears to be much higher than the £140/tonne quoted in Farmers Weekly for wheat. Can John comment? At £140/tonne for wheat farmers will have a tough year. What is the crystal ball telling us about the price of spelt over the next months. Will it fall?

AR

Abby Rose Thu 19 Oct 2017

I have been thinking that I would really like to have some of the spelt flour for my own use, I'm not a big baker - but as Grahame suggested at some point - I do quite like the idea of giving bags of spelt flour as Christmas presents, a great way to tell the story and spread the word, plus I could probably manage 1-2 kgs myself. Are other people interested in this idea? This would be one way of recovering some of our losses as well potentially.
For this to work we would need to decide how much each person in the collective would want to take themselves...and in order to make it work for everyone do we, as individuals, need to buy that spelt flour from the collective or what to people think about that?
Of course another question is who would mill the spelt for us? @wendyalcock I wonder if Brixton Windmill would mill a certain amount of the grain for us (just 5 tonnes say), and if yes what would that cost? Also have you heard more from Wrights Mill - would they be able to deal with 15 tonnes?

Of course if we did this with all the spelt that would be 10-12,000 kg of flour (assuming about 20-30% loss of weight in milling process - is that assumption right?), which I think is probably too much for us to sell personally. So it would make sense to sell some of the grain to someone like Doves. As you said @johnanthonyallan £190/tonne is thankfully higher than the wheat price, but @johncherry how does that compare to what you would normally expect for a more specialty (lower-yielding) grain such as spelt? I would have thought we could expect more per tonne than that, especially as it's pretty good quality spelt! Really interested to hear what others want to do with the grain.

JT

James Tickell Thu 19 Oct 2017

That does sound like a very sensible approach Abby - thanks for thinking it through

TA

Tony Allan Thu 19 Oct 2017

Dear Abby
Very many thanks for your message. It will be good to try to add value to the spelt and be able to market higher value products. We need, however, more knowledge such as Wendy is generating and some skilled volunteer inputs. In this element of the project my only contribution would be financial either as a donation or in the purchase of spelt bread. We do not bake my our bread.

I have some questions.
1 Is there any urgency with respect to the sale of the spelt produced. Does anyone know trends in spelt prices? Is the demand for spelt grain high? If there is no pressure to take advantage of the current price we have time for a long discussion on what to do next.

2 We need to understand the nature of the "loss". In order to have a better understanding of loss we need to know something about grain prices. The diagram below provides some idea of the downward trend in INTERNATIONAL grain prices since 2012. It would be better to have a diagram for UK PRICES but I do not have such a diagram to hand. I am not sure whether the diagram will transmit in a readable format.

Producing spring wheat, like producing spelt, is only viable if farmers receive CAP payments. It would be good to have enough information to understand the challenges of market volatility and the extent to which the CAP payments mitigate the impacts of volatility.

Meanwhile we should not lose sight of the soil, water, biodiversity ecosystem issues which for most of us are key priorities. We need, for example, a discussion on weeds and glyphosate.

Thank you very much for coping with all the issues that have emerged since harvesting.
Best Tony (Allan)

TA

Tony Allan Thu 19 Oct 2017

The glyphosate issue and weed control

An issue on which the OurField members need to be informed is the use, regulation and the moves to discontinue the use of glyphosate during a complex international corporate take-over of Monsanto (US) by Bayer (Germany).

Professor Amir Kassam a very highly regarded scientist who has devoted decades to understanding and publishing on conservation agriculture shared some comments on glyphosate and weeds and agreed that they could be posted on the OurField website. Dr David Dent who in June very kindly collected and analysed soil samples from our 2017 field has also made some comments.

18 October 2017 at 21:20, Amir Kassam amirkassam786@googlemail.com wrote:

Dear David and TonyA,
EU will discuss the renewal of license for glyphosate on 25 October. The period under discussion now is 10 years, not 15 years, given the muddy debate about agrochemicals, GMO and industrial farming!

If farming moves to CA more rapidly, then it should be possible to adopt/innovate weed management strategies based on integrated weed management approaches. There are already organic CA farms and they use the power of all the three CA principles - no-till (letting weed seeds die in the ground), dead and live ground cover (smothering weeds in different ways and also killing weed seeds with organic acids as humification proceeds), diversified cropping (rotations and associations, including cover crops and allelopathic effects) to manage weeds. The last chapter in Edward Faulkner's book, Ploughman's Folly, is about managing weeds without chemicals.

Planting green is becoming an interesting option on large farms, something which small to medium farms have been doing in South America for quite sometime. This involves using a crimper or a knife roller to roll or crush the vegetation cover/cover crops followed by no-till seeding. With smallholders, most farms get away with not using any herbicides but use weed smothering companion cover crops or mixtures of cover crops (legumes and non-legumes), such as mucuna, Dolichos lab lab or Desmodium or pumkin and so on.

But where herbicides must be used then banning glyphosate will be a real loss. I am prepared to be proven wrong, but I personally do not feel that glyphosate will be banned this time round, given that glophosate is the least toxic herbicide that has ever been produced, and given that it is rated as being possibly carsonigenic, not as being probably carsonigenic or as being carsonigenic. In fact ECHA's Committee for Risk Assessment does not classify glyphosate as a carcinogen. Also, it has become almost impossible to sort things out given all the claims and counter claims, and regional dimensions of the debate where for example US or Canada have no difficulty with glyphosate but Europe has, not only with glyphosate but also with other agrochemicals.

However, the scary part with glyphosate is that the food safety and water safety rules are not being strictly adhered to by farmers and government authorities also do not seem to be imposing them seriously, and thus we have seen glyphosate increasingly entering into food and water chains, due to using glyphosate as a desiccant too close to harvest or as a herbicide to keep water bodies clear from weeds. It should not be impossible to remove these risks altogether by imposing good practice standards.

I would think that industry probably has alternative plans if glyphosate is banned, and they will make sure they make extra profit from the situation. Liberty is one herbicide, manufactured by Bayer, which is similar in action to glyphosate and is already available but not at $4 per litre of active ingredient!

There are likely to be positive outcomes for CA farmers from glyphosate ban because there would be a move to find non-tillage methods of controlling weeds for economic and environmental reasons. No-till CA Farmers already use less glyphosate per hectare and per tonne of produce than farmers who use tillage and glyphosate to control weeds.

On the other hand, some no-till farmers may be forced to adopt intensive tillage to control weeds. In any case, it is high time that more innovative and cheaper ways to manage weeds without chemicals become available, and with CA this should be relatively less difficult to achieve than with poor quality tillage-based farming where both tillage and chemicals are used to control weeds but not very effectively.

David Dents comments
There are other ways to hold weeds in check. A six-field crop rotation including crops with different life styles (rather than cereal-cereal-oil seed rape-cereal-cereal... ) is quite effective. So is a well-timed shallow cultivation (a la Chatterton) but this goes against the no-till mantra.

Whatever the problem, there is usually several ways around it. The problem is to find ways that are also profitable. I do sometimes wonder whether the weed issue is cosmetic rather than critical - but I have no data.


It would be very useful to have a comment from John and anyone who has expertise to share. Weeds affect yield and were I think a problem this year on OurField. How is the clover?

WA

Wendy Alcock Fri 20 Oct 2017

Hello. Sorry I meant to post more but I'm struggling for time at the mo. I'll hopefully get chance to digest all the previous great comments over the weekend. In the meantime, a quick update, I've asked Wrights mill if they can still take our 15 tonnes and I'll let you know when they reply.

My only other suggestion is that we find lots of smaller mills to take a bit of the crop. We seem to be stuck in that middle ground where 15 tonnes is too small for some mills and too large for others! I think Brixton mill would probably still be happy to take a small amount to sell the flour themselves (unconfirmed at the mo) but I don't think they have the capacity to take 5 tonnes from us to return the flour.

Also, there are a few questions being asked that are unanswered and would be useful to know to help with decision making and emails to potential mills.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Fri 20 Oct 2017

Hi,
The issue of pricing is interesting. Its a lot to do with what the market wants. This then comes back to the question of finding what markets are available prior to harvest, even prior to sowing.

Grain prices are liable to extreme volatility. Factors include quality, global trade, weather, time of year and levels of storage.
Organic prices are higher than non-organic, though a note of caution to say that these are also subject to volatility.

For reference here are some recent organic cereal prices:

Feed wheat £265, Milling £295 Feed barley £255, Malting £300 Feed oats £235, Milling £275 Beans £365

OurField doesn’t have an organic crop. But I wanted to point out that there are different markets. The organic one is strong and the crops are grown without glyphosate and without artificial nitrogen fertiliser.

A crucial aspect we must not forget, of course, is that growing crops at all is not easy. And growing organically is certainly not easier than non-organically. And achieving the specifications any of the available markets say they need is especially tough.

15% protein is popular with the largest bakeries. This is extremely difficult in the UK with organic production methods. Or with methods where less fertiliser is used. Nitrogen lifts protein values.

But 15% is not entirely necessary. Indeed it is debatable as to whether the current spec. which includes hagberg numbers and bushel weight is appropriate for the British Isles.

This leads onto questions on varietal choice. There are some who prefer heritage varieties. They have strong points with regard to growing well in low input situations, they often have good flavour but they will not yield as well and they will struggle to get protein levels above 12-13% even in a good year.

There is evidence that modern cereals are declining in mineral density. And that varieties that date back from the nineteen seventies are better able to pull nutrient from the ground than more modern varieties. But modern varieties are the ones being promoted.
Perhaps less yield but higher quality is what even slightly older varieties can deliver.

However, even an artisan baker will need to have a level of consistency. To have flours that are reliable. They want flavour and character but they also need to know how a flour will behave day to day and month to month.

There is a lot do and much is being done. And I believe improving relationships and improving understanding between growers, millers and bakers, and with the eaters is key. Which is why we are all here.
Cheers,
Steven

WA

Wendy Alcock Fri 20 Oct 2017

I've had the following positive reply from wrights mill:

Yes I am still happy to work with you on this project. I think we could manage 15 tonnes although it will cost you more to deliver it to our mill because of the smaller quantity. To progress this further I think we would like to see a sample of the grain first so we can establish the quality.

If all is well we would take in the 15 tonnes (delivery to be arranged by you). We would buy the grain at a price agreed and we would mill it into flour packed into 16kg bags. Given the smaller quantity we would deliver the 10 tonnes of flour (approx.) in one hit to your depot. You would need to ensure there is a fork truck to take the flour off into your store. We would charge you a price for the flour equal to the cost of the wheat plus £170 per tonne. This would need to be paid on a pro forma basis – before we took delivery of the wheat.

Please call to discuss when you have considered the proposal further.

ENDS

Is this something that is easily addable to the options as a costed proposal? I'm afriad I havn't got my head around the numbers yet.

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 22 Oct 2017

Spelt flour costs

to clarify the math on the above, my understanding is that we would pay Wrights Mill a net £2,550 (15 tonnes x £170) to turn 15 tonnes of Spelt grain into 10 tonnes of Spelt flour, delivered in 16kg bags.

Based on the accounts so far (costs to date around £4,448, see the accounts thread), and assuming additional grain handling costs, the OurField cooperative members' net cost per 16Kg bag of milled non organic spelt flour would then be around £11.50 /bag.

Presently I buy Spelt flour for baking at about £2 /kg, often organic. That of course is the retail price for 1.5Kg bags..Although it is not organic, our flour was grown from organic seed, and without sprays ..so in terms of quality should be comparable.

TT

Tessa Tricks Sun 22 Oct 2017

Hello,
Thanks to all who have put out feelers for markets and pulled the figures together. Personally, I would love to have a some spelt to try and gift < 10K, ideally. It's also very exiting to think that the spelt could reach the market... It was a great surprise to hear the news on the quality this week.

Re, @johnanthonyallan 's questions around timings and speed of decision, it would be nice to think we could gift things on by Christmas, but I get the sense that everyone is quite stretched atm and it may be optimistic to feel that the collective would have the spelt milled and in hand in a couple of months time. Whether it's Christmas, Easter, summer, whatever, I would still love to bake an Our Field loaf, but I would be keen to try and sell the majority on to Doves, once everyone felt that they had a little for personal consumption etc.
I've always been under the impression that Doves were purely organic. @abbyrose, I would love to hear more on how this discussion went. E5 and Gails also sound like they are worth holding out for.
Look forward to hearing other thoughts... : )

AR

Abby Rose Mon 23 Oct 2017

Thank you @wendyalcock @johnanthonyallan @stevenjacobs @tessatricks @jamestickell for your comments and thoughts, all v interesting and helpful. I haven't heard back yet from the bakeries I contacted, but will contact them again today. @johnanthonyallan great to hear from Amir Kassam and David Dent as well, thanks for sharing those!
@wendyalcock great you heard back from Wrights. I guess the issue is if we only want to mill a smaller portion of the grain into flour ourselves, say 2 tonnes, then Wrights maybe aren't keen to do that? or would they still do that? Do you think Brixton would do just 2 tonnes milled into flour for us to use if we paid them for it?
It is through other members of the organising team that we heard about Doves, so I'm not sure @tessatricks what the situation is there. I will try and find out more. I think there also may be another option of a larger mill to sell to, will know more hopefully later today!

D

Darren Mon 23 Oct 2017

All exciting stuff. Happy that we've got some food grade produce to distribute.

Spoke to a watermill next to the farm where my friends are growing hemp unfortunately will only mill wheat, but has lead me to look into smaller mills - water and wind and I am getting some results.

A watermill where we may potentially be able to go and help do some of the milling + I'm chasing more possibilities

I'll post more later tonight when I've got more time & info.

JC

John Cherry Mon 23 Oct 2017

Just a quick comment to say that there is no immediate hurry to sell or process the spelt. It is dry and under cover and is easy to store. It's worth remembering that Spelt comes complete with husk and needs 'dehulling' before it can be milled. Some, like Doves can deal with dehulling themselves, most mills will want it dehulled. I could sieve our spelt and get a tonne or two of dehulled seed out for a small sample, but most of the crop will need to be sent somewhere that can deal with it.
I'm sorry not to have been communicating more, we have been a bit busy. Still have some buckwheat and linseed to harvest and plenty of sowing to do before it gets too wet.
In answer to @johnanthonyallan 's question about our Spring Wheat...I'm not sure exactly how it yielded, but definitely under 2 tonne to the acre. It was a horrible year for spring crops round here, too dry when we wanted rain and vice versa. The spelt will probably perform better than our Mulika as it cost so little to grow and will be worth more per tonne. 50kg of N as Urea fertiliser is only £35 or so at current prices. It probably barely paid for itself on the Mulika even so. The sprays we used will have made the crop easier to harvest than our mucky spelt, but otherwise just cost money...
Golly, I do find Loomio hard to use.
John

TA

Tony Allan Mon 23 Oct 2017

Dear John
Very many thanks for finding time to reply. All the information is very useful indeed When next you have time to reply could you address these additional questions:
1 Would there be merit in using some of the spelt harvested as seed for next season? Are there technical or certification issues that would make this option impossible?
2 What have your farm team learned from growing spring spelt? Promising? Never again?
I hope the family is well.

D

Darren Mon 23 Oct 2017

I had a free day so I did some research on mills. I found a nice map online of working wind and water mills and tried calling most of the mills in the South East, East and South Eastern Midlands.

Quite a few are organic and can't mill non-organic unless they totally clean all the mill out afterwards which is a lot of work, so most of these were not interested.

I did however find three mills that could do some milling. I suggested to all of them that some us us may be interested in going to see the spelt being milled and potentially helping out, they all appeared to be open to this.

Amazingly one of the millers turned out to be an old friend, who I didnt realize was a miller. He runs the mill at http://www.fordendwatermill.co.uk/ near Tring which is a small mill. The mill there runs from a big millpond fed from a small stream. He can mill about 100 - 150kg a day. A dustbin full. He could do a small amount for us, but milling 1-2 tonnes is above what he'd like to do. The mill is run voluntarily. My friend earns his money doing other work.

I stupidly wasnt checking the document Wendy put together, so I also rang Wiken Windmill and left a message.

I spoke to the head miller at Pakenham Watermill who suggested they could mill some for us. They are volunteers and normally run the mill once a week. They could mill half a tonne in a day (they normally do short runs of about 150kg) and have storage for half a tonne of un-milled grain. It would have to be delivered to them in 20 or 25 kg sacks. I can borrow the equipment to sack up the grain if John can separate some without husks for us. I've got a truck that can easily carry a tonne, so potentially I could take it to the mill, some of us could go help out for a day, take a half tonne of flour away and leave them a half tonne to mill for us. He said he'll speak to his co-millers and let me know exactly what they could do - it sounded promising.

Nigel Moon the miller at Whissendine Mill, Rutland was very helpful, he wouldnt mill because hes organic but he said he might be able to help us find somewhere to dehull and told me to call Dave Pearce. Who turned out to be the head miller at Wicker Windmill.

Dave said that they mill 1/3 tonne a day, normally operate 7 days a month and expected they could do something for us - he's going to chat to his co-millers. We could probably go join in too. If I remember right they have storage for about 2 tonnes.

I'll the list of mills I contacted to the google doc Wendy started https://docs.google.com/document/d/1W_6E1zJuAC0PxursgEGdjYAppTjRDfg1ibAG41547DA/edit

D

Darren Mon 23 Oct 2017

I was round my parents today and my mum said she had some spelt. I looked, but couldnt see it with the other flour. Turned out it's grain. Organic. Bought from Lidl, when they were doing an organic week a couple of months back.

Packet says - add double the volume of boiling water and simmer for 20 mins.

Had a small bowl with butter, salt and pepper. Quite tasty. I would be up for having a fair few kg of grain for myself & friends. I wonder if we could find someone to buy the grain/some of the grain if it was dehulled so that they could sell on in small bags? Probably worth talking to the 3 wholefood co-operatives, they even do their own bagging.

D

Darren Mon 23 Oct 2017

Pakenham mill said they dont loose much flower when milling, they expect to loose 0-10%

AR

Abby Rose Thu 26 Oct 2017

Great to hear everyone's ideas and thanks for all the research, amazing work! We are currently working with Grahame and John to put together a proposal everyone can vote on...if you have any last minute updates please share them now!!

AR

Abby Rose Thu 26 Oct 2017

And actually whilst putting together the proposal some big questions have come up... @wendyalcock @darren4 @johnanthonyallan @stevenjacobs @tessatricks @jamestickell @johncherry thanks for your contributions already!! If you or any of the other collective members (including me) can find out the answers to some of these questions that would be amazing. And also please do put up any other questions that have come up whilst investigating different options!
1. What would bakery pay for flour - if bakery who buys 1 tn get much better price than 100kg? Can bakers take it in 16 kg bags? or 30 kg bags?
2. What is the shelf life of spelt flour once it’s been through a stone mill?
3. Who or where will we store it once it's milled? and if we do end up selling flour who will take care of shipping it in and out, invoicing bakers etc? Is there is a co-op member who would want to take this on?
4. If we get it milled in small quantities - where will we ship it to once it's milled and how will we distribute it to people from there?
5. Are there any risks we don’t know about? like if it gets damp in a barn it will be a complete loss etc? can it get to the baker and then they send it back?

@grahamehunter will release the proposal in the next few days, once we have a bit more clarity on some of these questions

GH

Grahame Hunter Thu 26 Oct 2017

Abby and I were talking about these issues this morning..my reservation about including small-scale milling as an option was to make sure we understood that _ if we go down this route we are entering a slightly different business area - of wholesaling flour _ which will have other implications beyond farming; and it seems unreasonable to assume that OurField farmer John at Weston should take this on, as well as growing the stuff for us.

The other issue we discussed - not mentioned by Abby - is who would raise the invoices if we sold to a group of small bakers; how would they pay; to whom; and who would chase them if they paid slowly..? (To me, it still seems _ a weakness of OurField cooperative that there is no bank account _ - which we may wish to remedy if we go on for more years..

TA

Tony Allan Fri 27 Oct 2017

Thank you Grahame for raising some important topics. The intervention is timely.
It has been interesting observing the hesitant on-line discussion moving to address issues beyond farming. Such a shift is understandable for a number of reasons. There re three market modes in the food supply chain. 1. Food production is the first mode of the food system. 2 The second mode trades, manufactures and retails food. 3 The third is the food consumption mode including catering. The first is a failed market that is kept in place by incredible farmers and subsidies. [Farmers don't fail. They operate in a system, devised by society [Ourfielders are part of society] and its politicians, where commodity prices do not capture all the costs of production.] The second mode is a fairly effective market where profits are made and taxes paid and there are millions of accounting rules, armies of accountants and many corporates as well as artisanals, The third mode is another failed market where under-priced food has to be available for low income [under-paid?] consumers.

Consumers have lost sight of farming and its risks and challenges. We OurFielders, who are food consumers, have been transformed in 2017 by the opportunity to relate to the high risks that farmers have to face in mode one. The risks are high because both weather and markets can be volatile and make farming very high risk.

We have a lot of members who are active in the supply chain beyond food production. But do we have the experience, and more important, do we have the volunteer time to manage activities beyond the farm gate. I do not have such expertise and I cannot volunteer time to manage or do the accounts. My time time and material inputs so far have been limited to getting Professor David Dent to carry out some soil surveys and to finance some of his expenses.
Because I cannot make a significant contribution to developing inputs and activities beyond the farm gate and I have no idea what volunteer capacities we have I think we should take an approach that matches our capacities. If we have capacity with respect to leadership and operational inputs then they need to be revealed.

I like very much the idea of having a bank account.

It would be useful if this engagement on Loomio could be less hesitant.
Thank you Grahame

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 31 Oct 2017

I think John Allens comments were very interesting, and I do hope that his sign-off comment - It would be useful if this engagement on Loomio could be less hesitant. has not deterred members from speaking further.
I think there is lots of useful information gathered and presented here now, and many thanks especially to Darren for his homework in speaking to mills.

To keep the momentum, I am therefore going to put out a proposal for a simple vote, to limit options, and to direct the avenue of our future moves..

GH

Poll Created Tue 31 Oct 2017

How are we going to sell our 15 tonnes of Spelt? Closed Mon 6 Nov 2017

Outcome
by Grahame Hunter Wed 8 Nov 2017

We have a clear result from the Poll.

Nobody thinks we should be trying to wholesale to several bakers.
The clear majority was for option 4 ..

_ We will get the whole lot hulled and milled in one or two mills, and put into mostly large bags suitable for commercial bakeries; with a small amount bagged for members._

More members voted for this that the other choices combined.

This makes the next steps pretty straightforward; we need to find out __ who can hull 15 tonnes of Spelt for us, or a mill that can accept un-hulled Spelt for milling, __ and carry on from there.

It seems useful if cooperative members can ask those questions / do some of that research, and __ it is now a clear consensus that we do not need to trouble the small mills who can only do small quantities. __

Some of the options will lead to more costs and more risk; and extra work by some members which should perhaps be remunerated.

Results

Results Option % of points Voters
We will get the whole lot hulled and milled in one or two mills, and put into mostly large bags suitable for commercial bakeries; with a small amount bagged for members. The milled spelt flour will be held for sale / shipment to bakeries, and there will be ancillary administrative costs. 52.9% 9 DU TF SF NR WA TT AG E CL
Sell all the spelt soon, unhulled, at best market price. We will likely make a loss but this will fix our loss and minimise future work. Next year we can hope to do better. 29.4% 5 HG JT AS TA SJ
We will get a small quantity milled now, using the "self hulled" sievings; for distribution and sale to members, and for use as samples. There will be ancillary administrative costs. 17.6% 3 AL AR NG
We will get the spelt hulled, at a cost, and bagged up to deliver to several small mills. There will be ancillary administrative costs. 0.0% 0  
Undecided 0% 24 D A GH JC CG CL RM LB MDV SW TS SG KS EU EC MS CA VLD S&D HB AL EM DK SD

17 of 41 people have voted (41%)

TA

Tony Allan Tue 31 Oct 2017

Sell all the spelt soon, unhulled, at best market price. We will likely make a loss but this will fix our loss and minimise future work. Next year we can hope to do better.

I would be content with the first option. I do not have expertise or time to contribute to the other options. I would be happy to donate £100 towards the expenses of enabling the other three options

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 3 Nov 2017

We will get the whole lot hulled and milled in one or two mills, and put into mostly large bags suitable for commercial bakeries; with a small amount bagged for members. The milled spelt flour will be held for sale / shipment to bakeries, and there will be ancillary administrative costs.

Well this options seems to me why I joined the community and hoping this is not too much of a burden for others/us on the extra work involved.

JT

James Tickell Fri 3 Nov 2017

Sell all the spelt soon, unhulled, at best market price. We will likely make a loss but this will fix our loss and minimise future work. Next year we can hope to do better.

I feel we should draw a line, and start thinking about the future ...

TT

Tessa Tricks Sun 5 Nov 2017

We will get the whole lot hulled and milled in one or two mills, and put into mostly large bags suitable for commercial bakeries; with a small amount bagged for members. The milled spelt flour will be held for sale / shipment to bakeries, and there will be ancillary administrative costs.

I’m very much torn with this vote. 
I’m concerned that we as a collective do not have the capacity to fairly manage activities beyond the farm gate and as such I have been erring towards voting for option 1. Explained more fully in the thread.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Sun 5 Nov 2017

Sell all the spelt soon, unhulled, at best market price. We will likely make a loss but this will fix our loss and minimise future work. Next year we can hope to do better.

I think this option leans less on John & takes many factors into acccount thus far discussed. But I’d like to know if the spelt has the protein & hagberg for baking. & I’d like us to consider the market prior to planting the seed, if we continue this

AL

Annie Landless Sun 5 Nov 2017

We will get a small quantity milled now, using the "self hulled" sievings; for distribution and sale to members, and for use as samples. There will be ancillary administrative costs.

If the grain is good quality enough I would love to have some milled for us and decide how to sell the rest when we have all options explored and more samples to share.

WA

Wendy Alcock Sun 5 Nov 2017

We will get the whole lot hulled and milled in one or two mills, and put into mostly large bags suitable for commercial bakeries; with a small amount bagged for members. The milled spelt flour will be held for sale / shipment to bakeries, and there will be ancillary administrative costs.

I have found this a tough choice. As info is still coming in it feels a little too early to vote, and I'm not sure the group will have the resource to manage the tasks involved, but I am going with my heart rather than my head.

AR

Abby Rose Mon 6 Nov 2017

We will get a small quantity milled now, using the "self hulled" sievings; for distribution and sale to members, and for use as samples. There will be ancillary administrative costs.

I definitely want to have a small amount milled for the collective and this gives us time to see the quality of our flour, share samples with people and then sell it as we see fit once we have more info

TF

Tamsyn Forsyth Mon 6 Nov 2017

We will get the whole lot hulled and milled in one or two mills, and put into mostly large bags suitable for commercial bakeries; with a small amount bagged for members. The milled spelt flour will be held for sale / shipment to bakeries, and there will be ancillary administrative costs.

I've found this vote hard as we don't know whether the grain quality is good enough for milling and some of the questions raised have just had some clarity put to them - perhaps this vote was posted a little too early? My 'ideal' vote has been placed

NG

Nikita Gulhane Mon 6 Nov 2017

We will get a small quantity milled now, using the "self hulled" sievings; for distribution and sale to members, and for use as samples. There will be ancillary administrative costs.

I would be interested to see the breakdown on grain quality/toxicity - the end product. I appreciate there will be monetary and individual costs attached etc but ultimately useful to promote full understanding of the chain and for future reference.

AS

Alexandra Sexton Mon 6 Nov 2017

Sell all the spelt soon, unhulled, at best market price. We will likely make a loss but this will fix our loss and minimise future work. Next year we can hope to do better.

Very torn on this decision, mainly between options 1 & 4 - 4 is my ideal vote if quality is good enough. Gone with 1 due to lack of personal expertise & puts less burden on John. Also allows us to concentrate on next crop if we continue (hope we do!)

HG

Harry Greenfield Mon 6 Nov 2017

Sell all the spelt soon, unhulled, at best market price. We will likely make a loss but this will fix our loss and minimise future work. Next year we can hope to do better.

Although I would be interested to follow the progress of the spelt beyond the farm gate - I think that given the extra time and effort involved, which I would not be able to help with, it makes sense to sell it on the market as it is.

TA

Tony Allan Tue 31 Oct 2017

Dear Grahame
Very many thanks for circulating the poll on what to do with the 15 tonnes.
May I pose some questions? I am beyond elderly but I have the curiosity of youth.
1 Has all the harvesting been completed on the farm? With what outcome? One understands it has not been a good year.
2 Will there be a harvest festival? It would be an opportunity for members to catch up?
3 Has it been agreed that the excellent OurField project will continue next year? If not can we have a poll? I am strongly in favour of continuation.
4 If yes - could John advise our cropping, agronomic & beyond farm gate options for 2017-2018?
5 Have you opened a bank account? I hope so.

NR

Niki Reynolds Tue 31 Oct 2017

Very good questions.. I would love to know if, when and where there will be a Harvest Festival..

AR

Abby Rose Wed 1 Nov 2017

@nikireynolds and the whole collective. The harvest festival will be on Thursday 23rd November at E5 Bakehouse, London from around 7pm. We just confirmed this over the weekend, so are now getting into action organising! It will be a great evening, a joint harvest celebration with Farmerama and E5, with some talks, live music, food and hopefully our very own spelt flour (if that's what the collective votes for). Really hope you all can make it! You will hear more from us with an eventbrite link etc shortly...

CL

Christine Lewis Tue 31 Oct 2017

Hi everyone and apologies for getting a bit disengaged due to being very busy over the last few months and I do appreciate everyone's comments, research and views. While still making my mind up on the options can I just check on the third option - a small quantity milled now - what would happen to the rest of it, would this lead to another decision if this option won? I am leaning towards the 4th option but still considering and don't want to put any burdens on others.

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 1 Nov 2017

Yes, I imagine the third option to be just kicking the decision down the road a bit..

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 1 Nov 2017

What is it worth?

I have put a note in the accounts thread relating the costs of production for each individual OurField cooperative meber to the cash balance you each hold, under this heading.
To better understand the financial implications of the poll, and for those who may not have studied the accounts to date, this note may be useful.

TA

Tony Allan Thu 2 Nov 2017

Dear Grahame and Abby and Darren and others who are providing a basis for informed decision making -
Very many thanks for all the the very useful postings on activity beyond the farm gate. The accounting information is very useful indeed and thank you Grahame for making it very accessible. It is good that we have a date for the London meeting later in the month. In my opinion we should use the occasion to share our expertise and inform each other. I'll be happy to watch everyone dance and celebrate the night away but I would also like to give as much time as possible to hearing from John and his agronomist and Grahame. I'd like very much to hear from Darren and I could offer a few minutes bringing people up to speed on the economically dysfunctional food system with which we have chosen to engage. Our advocacy and enthusiasm are laudable but we need to know and understand the nature of our very politicised food supply chain(s). We also need a Q&A with John. I hope he will be able to make it.

D

Darren Fri 3 Nov 2017

I'm wondering exactly how things are going to work.

I've found it a bit frustrating at times not knowing what factors & information is informing the drafting of voting options.

I think it would be nice if the information & discussions the organisers were having were more visible to the collective, but I appreciate that this isn't always easy to do, especially given that the whole Ourfield idea/process is evolving, and I get the impression that the organising team, like many in the collective have found it hard to find the time to participate to the level they hoped.

Its likely to be quite a lot of work to organise dehulling, milling, storage, sales, and distribution. How is that all going to happen? I could only really see some of it coming via volunteer work from the collective.
Also I'm not sure about what possible leads may already be on the table (if any?), above what a few of us have posted in the google doc

I appreciate all the work going into making this happen. I'm enjoying being involved.

TA

Tony Allan Fri 3 Nov 2017

Dear Darren
You were on your screen very late last evening. Thank you for capturing very cleverly the dilemmas facing the collective that include - the complex challenges of farming, demanding learning curves, limited organisational capacities, and the need to decide on how much we can engage in the food supply chain beyond the farm gate. To highlight a few. It is amazing being involved. Looking forward to the E5 Bakehouse event. I'll be locating the venue via the North London Line and the 55 bus this afternoon.

NR

Niki Reynolds Fri 3 Nov 2017

Hi Abby,
I will try and come on 23rd Noveember to the harvest celebration.
It is a very long way to travel and not very easy. I will see.
Partner won't come as its too far away to travel after a long day at work.

TA

Tony Allan Sat 4 Nov 2017

I visited the E5 Bakehouse in vibrant Hackney on a sunny Friday afternoon with Mary. Finding new locations in London on cold very dark November evenings is for many of us a challenge. The only easy way - for those who are not Hackney residents - to get there is by the London Overground service from Liverpool Street on the line to Cheshunt. As the E5 Bakehouse website tells us the cafe is immediately under London Fields station. There are lots of buses on Mare Street which is 500 metres away but I would not enjoy finding the cafe on a dark evening from there. People coming from the north would be advised to get the train from Cheshunt to the London Fields rail station. The E5 Bakehouse and cafe are congenial and good with food. Parking is scarce in the vicinity of the cafe at Arch 395, Mentmore Terrace.

NR

Niki Reynolds Sat 4 Nov 2017

Yes, I gutted that event will take place here.. Have been before, driving on a Saturday when there is free parking and it is light.. Not easy to park due to lack of space.. On public transport.. A nightmare.. Partner won't consider coming.. I am not sure I want to come, a very sad situation..

TT

Tessa Tricks Sun 5 Nov 2017

I’m very much torn with this vote. 
I’m concerned that we as a collective do not have the capacity to fairly manage activities beyond the farm gate and as such I have been erring towards voting for option 1. Should Our Field go ahead next year - and I’m not sure whether ‘next year we can hope to do better’ means that a continuation of Our Field Weston is a possibility - it might be useful to formalise some time commitment from the ‘investors’ and do away with the word investors all together as this suggests more that we are underwriting the crop as opposed to having the option of an active hand in each step. Perhaps give options to collective members on how they would support the initiative with a mix of time, skills and cash. (Anyhow, not the place to go too much into this). 

I’ve certainly been quite ignorant about the amount of leg work needed to take the spelt from farm to table, or perhaps not asked myself early enough in the process what role I would like or be able to have it this or whether I'd be prepared to pay for other's for the further work needed. I’m feeling guilty about the amount of time and effort that a handful of members have put into moving things forwards and that I have very little in the way of time or expertise to offer in return. Thanks to all.

I've made my vote in the hope that the 23rd will offer opportunity for discussion and enable us to make a plan about the future division of labour among members - and that lots of people turn up with with ideas about what they are willing to contribute. I’m hopeful that these things play out better in person than on an online platform. If not, then I perhaps option 1 - cutting our losses and being hopeful about next year - would have been the better vote!

I would love to join in with the milling should anything go ahead with Wicker Windmill @darren4 but I think that would be more for my benefit rather than being of use. I could also make a couple of days time Dec - Feb if there was something that I could contribute to. Hope to discuss on the 23rd.

A

Abi-Aspen Sun 5 Nov 2017

Hi team,

I’m so sorry for the awol silence! I think the #Ourfield team knew that this would be a big undertaking, and it’s always good to be transparent! In all honesty 3 of us have gone freelance since the project started, and personally I have had quite a large career and life change. So sorry to not update you enough! Thanks for being patient with us.

Okay I’ll do an blogpost update and then answer the questions above.

The spelt is being sent to Marriages the millers, who have been super amazing, for testing. It was sent a couple of weeks ago but hulled and the results came back jumbled. I sent again this week to arrive Monday and we should have the test results by the end of the week. It was fun taking John’s old sieve and sieving out the hulled grains, some had been dehulled during combining which was lucky! There was some weed seed (small dark ones, possibly cleavers?) in there, which gives me the impression it will need cleaning as we received some of the Wakelyns population last week which had been double cleaned and was so so clean, and could be planted or milled (Sadhbh and I made some bread with our new Mockmill freshly milled flour!).

We haven’t done that with the spelt yet as the mycotoxin level hasn’t been tested yet (also testing for ergot etc.), and it also isn’t the cleanest we’ve ever seen. I’m starting to understand the complexities of milling grade grain. When we receive the results back next week it will tell us these levels and also the protein level etc. which will indicate if the quality is good enough for milling. If not possibly we can chat with bakeries about the use for biscuit grain, also scout more about the possibility of distilling but maybe cross that bridge when we come to it :)

I’ll try and answer the questions below.

  1. What would bakery pay for flour - if bakery who buys 1 tn get much better price than 100kg? Can bakers take it in 16 kg bags? or 30 kg bags?

It all depends on the quality, if it meets the grade etc. Infinity food sell wholesale spelt flour (organic mind you) for £2.05 per kg based on 25kg sacks (the standard we buy whole grain and flour in).

We have a few bakeries interested, and until we have concrete results we cannot approach to find out how much they would like. They often want this info and then to test the grain first.

  1. What is the shelf life of spelt flour once it’s been through a stone mill?
    Wholegrains are ~6 months, I believe flour is 1-2 months. It also depends on which mill it runs through. Some run at lower speed, lower throughput and keep the grain cooler and thus keep longer, however unless you run the mill or have really tight ties to it it’s hard to tell.

  2. Who or where will we store it once it's milled? and if we do end up selling flour who will take care of shipping it in and out, invoicing bakers etc? Is there is a co-op member who would want to take this on?

If this decision is chosen we will then make plans for the grain to be stored, we as the organising committee would then work together with any of the collective members who would love to be involved to make it happen.

  1. If we get it milled in small quantities - where will we ship it to once it's milled and how will we distribute it to people from there?

On a ‘mill to order’ basis. We have a small desktop mill at our disposal enough to mill small quantities for the collective.

  1. Are there any risks we don’t know about? like if it gets damp in a barn it will be a complete loss etc? can it get to the baker and then they send it back?

The grain may not make milling grade, then we look to biscuit and distilling and then we look to animal feed. To be honest distilling could have been one of the options here, and still might end up being one if we sell unhulled to the highest bidder. Yes to barn or field moisture, it could not make the grade. Also mycotoxin level. This is the fun of farming right? :)

Bakers usually want to try some, else go on the results of the testing. If they buy after either of those two options they generally have committed to sale (just as you buy flour in the shops!) unless they find something untoward.

Any more questions?

Happy to answer anything I can!

RE MORE OPTIONS

There are a number of additional options we could have chosen for the vote. These are the decisions farmers have to go through every year!! However we had to distill into about 4 as not to make making a decision to tricky and confusing for everyone. There are just so many options! Any suggestions we can add and try and work in, sorry for anyone not happy with the options!

RE EVENT AT E5

We have been so lucky to recive support for this project along the way by some amazing people and places, all of which this couldn’t be possible without. The time spent finding a venue is time the organising committee are struggling to find, and we are incredibly lucky and privileged that e5 have offered to host us. I understand the location is not easy for everyone to reach, however unfortubaltly due to our diverse collective this is always going to be a bit tricky. Sorry for any inconvenience, but they are the most awesome bakery! (I was there this morning for breakfast :)

Grain-y love,

Abi Aspen

p.s I have added this all into @darren4's document here! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1W_6E1zJuAC0PxursgEGdjYAppTjRDfg1ibAG41547DA/edit?usp=sharing

@abbyrose @annielandless @grahamehunter @johncherry please correct me if you think any of the above is wrong! :)

TA

Tony Allan Sun 5 Nov 2017

What to do with our spelt? Australian friends who live in Umbria who follow us on Loomio offered the following marketing idea for some of our spelt. Spelt is Faro in Italian. Brian and Lynne buy 'PUFFED SPELT' to include in their sugar free home concocted Meusli. See packet below.

"Dear Tony,
You might like to circulate this among your group as an option for marketing your spelt.
The translation is Farro = spelt. Soffiato = puffed Bio = organic al Naturale = natural - that is no added sugars or other ingredients.

I use it with oats and bran for home made muesli. Brian [Brian was Minister of Agriculture in South Australia and a dryland farmer. He has first hand experience of politics, the political economy of farming, of agronomy and of the food system.]

I send this message to indicate that I am keen to support the building of capacity to promote processing and marketing but think we need to highlight and discuss our capacity deficit. With the knowledge I have now I think we should adopt Option 1 although If the spelt is being stored in suitable conditions so that it can be used as seed I think we should put some aside for use as seed on the farm. If John thinks it is feasible.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Sun 5 Nov 2017

I’m sending my apologies as I’m going to struggle to get to the OurField harvest celebration event on 23 November. I’d very much like to come but I’ve two other events I’m expected to attend 23 and 24 November & both are not in London.

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 5 Nov 2017

@darren4 Hi, Darren, you wrote
_I've found it a bit frustrating at times not knowing what factors & information is informing the drafting of voting options..I think it would be nice if the information & discussions the organisers were having were more visible to the collective, _

well, most of the information leading to the choices which I put out to poll, came from you, Daniel, Tony Allen, and Wendy - all from postings in this forum.

It seemed to me as facilitator, that the cooperative needed to start focusing on a strategic direction, (eg if there was interest or not in becoming flour wholesalers, so going beyond "the farm gate" ) because, as you rightly point out, if we __ do __ wish to do that, there is a lot of additional work to be parcelled out, and costs to be calculated; yet if the majority of the collective simply wish to try and sell to one or two customers, then that simplifies the process.

There is perhaps an organisational lacuna here for determining strategies, which gap might perhaps be partly filled by having small groups of cooperative members with special interests to look into specific matters. For example, a group of issues which I think will be important is to examine
* the likely economics of continuing next year, and
* whether the number of cooperative members should be increased, (by accepting new members)
* or reduced, (by paying out those who wished to leave)
* whether the cooperative would take on the rest of the 14 ha. field of which the cooperative has an 8 ha. share
* a strike-price for new members coming in (basically to "buy out" John's 18 / 60 share, which seems anomalous), and
* the fairest method of determining the pay-out if some but not all members wished to stop.

Sadly, I am unable to attend on 23 November, as I am away until the next day. But I will be with you in spirit.

WA

Wendy Alcock Sun 5 Nov 2017

@abiaspen thank you for your update (and for answering @abbyrose’s questions, which I failed to reply to as I didn’t know the answers – sorry Abby). And @grahamehunter thank you for the accounts and questions about our future.

Also to say, I am very pleased that the event is at E5 Bakehouse. I’ve been meaning to visit the bakery for a while but haven’t made it so far. Thanks to anyone who is organising it :)

Abby you also asked me “I guess the issue is if we only want to mill a smaller portion of the grain into flour ourselves, say 2 tonnes, then Wrights maybe aren't keen to do that? or would they still do that? Do you think Brixton would do just 2 tonnes milled into flour for us to use if we paid them for it?” I’m guessing a bit, as I don’t want to keep contacting mills if I don’t have any new info to offer them, but I think Wrights and Brixton won’t want to mill 2 tonnes for us (respectively too small and large) but Wicken might be a good bet for this, if we chose to go down this route.

TA

Tony Allan Mon 6 Nov 2017

Very many thanks Abi and Grahame for substantial and very useful information.

I like very much your agenda of issues Grahame. How do we discuss? Do we want to set aside two hours before 7.00 pm for a discussion on 23 November. We need you and John at any such discussion and sadly you will not be there and John is clearly very busy. I sense we need another meeting although a discussion on 23 November could be a useful preliminary if we can organise a well chaired session.
I HAVE ASKED A NUMBER of times - do we want to put some seed aside to sow next year? Could I ask that we add this topic to your agenda. Could I suggest that we ask the investors/team/collective to add items to your agenda and begin to discuss on line initially.
Your idea that we evolve a form of division of labour is a good one. Something else to discuss. What would be the division? We first need to know whether John wants to continue. I hope he does. Here is a very preliminary draft list of activities:
1 Develop an on farm OurField three (???) year strategy and also make on farm decisions
2 Beyond the farm gate strategy on marketing and processing and retailing THIS IS THE BIG ISSUE. DO WE HAVE THE STOMACH FOR IT.
3 Reporting, accounting, budgeting and overall planning. Investor arrangements etc
4 .....
THANK YOU VERY MUCH Abi for devoting so much time to the project. Your message has moved things along very significantly.
Best Tony Allan

D

Darren Mon 6 Nov 2017

Slightly disappointed with myself, having missed the vote - having read everything I would have gone with option 3, giving us a focus now and a bit more time to explore options before making a final decision - although I see that wouldn't of effected the outcome.

There have been lots of interesting posts & I've got some ideas to add that I hope will be useful. Will post more when I've got the time to do a bit of research and write them up.

AR

Abby Rose Tue 7 Nov 2017

Thanks all for thoughts and votes, always so interesting to hear from everyone! Think we now need to wait for the test results from @abiaspen so we know that we can go ahead with option 4. Then @abiaspen and @grahamehunter will help us to figure out what's next from this proposal.

EVENT NEWS
The event was very much planned as a celebration with many people invited - please do invite along anyone you think would enjoy an evening celebrating harvest and talking a bit of grains!
Any of the OurField collective who would like to discuss selling the flour and possibilities of moving ahead next year should come an hour early, at 6.30. Then there could be an hours discussion before food and music start. We will get more details of the event to you shortly. In terms of the location E5 Bakehouse, one reason we picked it was because they have a mill on site and so can mill a small amount of our spelt for us on the night to take home and maybe even bake a few loaves with it. They are also incredibly supportive of what we are doing, so think it will be a wonderful atmosphere. I do understand concerns about finding it in the dark @johnanthonyallan & @nikireynolds so I will see if we can have a parking space for OurField members in the back. Then you can arrange car-shares meeting somewhere convenient. I will keep you up to date on whether this is possible!

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 8 Nov 2017

On the night..Abby has suggested the bakers at E5 might

_ mill a small amount of our spelt for us on the night to take home and maybe even bake a few loaves with it. _

It sounds exciting; the sourdough baking method is quite lengthy (at least 20 hours from flour to loaf) so if we wanted some baked bread, we should send Ben some in advance..

TA

Tony Allan Wed 8 Nov 2017

Dear Abby
Many thanks for the additional detail on the 23 November event in Hackney. It will be an important event. Will John be able to spare time?
NOT MANY of us would want to drive to Hackney even from another part of north London. I mentioned parking only to warn about the problem for would-be drivers.

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 8 Nov 2017

@wendyalcock

one possibility

Wendy wrote earlier, quoting Wrights Mill

_ Yes I am still happy to work with you on this project. I think we could manage 15 tonnes although it will cost you more to deliver it to our mill because of the smaller quantity. To progress this further I think we would like to see a sample of the grain first so we can establish the quality. _

_ If all is well we would take in the 15 tonnes (delivery to be arranged by you). _

Wendy, __ do you think you could ask if they can take un-hulled Spelt, and how much of a sample they would like for testing? __ We can then send it to them, much as I think - in parallel - Abby Glencross is already doing with Marriages Mill.

WA

Wendy Alcock Sun 12 Nov 2017

Hi Grahame. Yes, I can definitely ask Wrights if they can take un-hulled Spelt and how much of a sample they would like for testing? I'll email them now.

I've also been trying to get hold of another bigger mill - Shipton. @tamsynforsyth made initial contact by email and I've been trying to follow up with the MD by phone, but I haven't been able to get hold of him so far. I'll hopefully get chance to try again tomorrow and then report back.

Re the event on the 23rd. I shall come for 6.30 @abbyrose. I'm looking forward to chatting with others in person about the options we might have. One key learning of the project seems to be that people don't have much time to share ideas in writing / on Loomio. I know I only have a few times a week I can sit at a PC to type up my research and thoughts.

NR

Niki Reynolds Wed 8 Nov 2017

Hopefully John will be able to come to Hackney.. My partner doesn't want to drive to Hackney at night so I will try and travel on the trains alone if I can.. Out of the 40 investors maybe a handful of people will turn up..? As it will likely be the last time we meet I will probably do the trek if it's not pouring rain lol..

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 12 Nov 2017

@wendyalcock Thanks for that Wendy. Yes, Loomio is not especially conducive to lively discourse; there are several comments by Tony Allen on the accounts page which I think he would like some members to comment on..

Perhaps _ if there are members of the co-operative who feel they have some time for the cause, _ _they could volunteer their names here _, and those - such as you Wendy - who seem to have undertaken several tasks contacting mills, arranging samples to go etc could then delegate some of your tasks to those volunteers?

Otherwise I feel the burden my fall unequally and cause eventual discord..

Furthermore since there are funds in hand belonging to the co-operative, __ if some tasks (visiting mills, preparing or shipping samples etc) incurred costs __, there seems to me no reason why these out-of-pockets should not be reclaimed by co-operative members, even through this forum so it is transparent to all.

WA

Wendy Alcock Sun 12 Nov 2017

@abiaspen did you hear back from Marriges yet? You said last week:

"The spelt is being sent to Marriages the millers, who have been super amazing, for testing. It was sent a couple of weeks ago but hulled and the results came back jumbled. I sent again this week to arrive Monday and we should have the test results by the end of the week."

JT

James Tickell Sun 12 Nov 2017

I have to admit that I've never quite got the hang of Loomio!

Sent from iCloud9

TA

Tony Allan Mon 13 Nov 2017

The E5 Bakehouse event
Thank you Wendy for all you are doing and for making a start on the agenda for the 6.30 pm session in Hackney. I have incorporated your topics in a more detailed DRAFT DRAFT agenda. I expect it to be edited by the four founders. I hope it helps them. Apologies Grahame for suggesting that you update the on farm account and for asking for a paragraph. Your comments would be very welcome.
For some reason Loomio will not let me paste in the DRAFT agenda. I shall try to do this with another comment. Best Tony

TA

Tony Allan Mon 13 Nov 2017

DRAFT E5 Bakehouse Agenda
I could not paste the DRAFT agenda into a comment. I am trying to attach it. A first for me on Loomio. I hope it works. Best Tony

GH

Grahame Hunter Mon 13 Nov 2017

volunteers wanted to help sieve our Spelt

Abi is going to arrange access to the large barn with John this coming weekend 18th or 19th November. What is required, are a few volunteers to _ come to Baldock, to help sieve some of the spelt _ so that around 100kg can be taken by car to E5 for milling before th eHarvest Festival event on 23 November. She predictes this may take 4 or 5 hours.

I am sure that the Co-operative funds can stand the expense of __ re-imbursing the volunteers their travel costs from London, and buying them a decent lunch in the pub.__

sign up here, please

TA

Tony Allan Mon 13 Nov 2017

Sorry I sent the wrong attachment. The attaching system works. Here is the DRAFT Agenda. Loomio was being a bit clunky. I hope the DRAFT agenda gets to everyone's screens. Best TonyA

AR

Abby Rose Sun 19 Nov 2017

Thanks for your draft agenda @johnanthonyallan this will be perfect for Thursday. I am not sure @johncherry will make it that early, but he will be there later on. We will get through as much as we can, and I think we need someone to volunteer to take minutes so we can feedback the discussion to the collective through loomio

TA

Tony Allan Sun 19 Nov 2017

Thank you Abby for your message.
Since I have made a fuss about the meeting I'd be prepared to take minutes. But if someone else has minute taking ambitions I'd be quite happy to have them take them. Tony

D

Darren Tue 14 Nov 2017

About levels of participation, how we organise and Loomio

For quite a few years now I've been involved in projects that have been open for members being actively involved in organising affairs, without appointing an individual or small group as manager(s).

I've been fascinated by the way things have progressed in OurField, doing some research about how Loomio works and thinking a bit about how things could work and how I may like to see things progress.

I was expecting that more people would get involved in discussion and voting - although on reflection and re-reading the OurField collective pdf - which gave everyones introductions - I'm slightly less surprised. I can imagine many havent been able to find the time to engage, some may have joined just to watch and some may have joined to financially and morally support the project knowing they would not have time. I also recognise, from other internet (and 'real life') discussion spaces, the prospect of 'lurkers', people reading whats going on - but, for many possible reasons, not actively engaging in the ongoing process. I think on reflection that a ~50% turn out for voting is quite respectable.

Although I think it would be nice if more people had a more active engagement, I dont think it is a problem if people dont want to vote, or discuss. Low levels of participation is a pattern that I've found repeated in other projects - people have busy lives.

What I would find disappointing is if the opportunity for people to be involved. or observe the process of organisation was reduced. I'd like things to be as transparent as possible.

I notice a few people appearing somewhat confused or unsure of Loomio. Thats not at all unusual of any new internet space/tool. Some people have more experience or pick things up quicker. I've had a good look and as far as I can tell, unless individuals change their email settings, we all get emailed all messages sent to all threads in this Loomio group.

If people are feeling overrun by messages. And I appreciate this is quite possible. There are a number of places to alter settings. There are settings for all Loomio messages, messages to this group, or messages to individual threads. There are details of how to do that here

At times I've found this thread can take a very long time to load, I wonder if others have been having similar issues? Could it be the length of the thread? Or maybe my sometimes poor internet connection?

Maybe things would be easier to follow and manage if we started new threads for conversations about different subjects/tasks and for different votes? People could manage their email settings to suit their interests. Or if we paid Loomio a bit of money for their service we could open sub-groups, for particular tasks (eg. organising beyond farm gate activities), that interested co-investors could join and others could observe if they are interested - but the default would not be that everyone would get every message to the sub-group

I've been closely following the development of online tools to aid group decision making and group working - considering our size, what we are doing and what I imagine/hope we as a group would want I think Loomio is probably state-of-the-art.

Given our geographical spread, ability to come together and time at such meetings for discussing issues I dont think we could find a better way to facilitate group deliberation and decision making. I do however think meetings are valuable and proceedings of meetings can usefully feed back into Loomio as Loomio can feed into meetings.

AR

Abby Rose Sun 19 Nov 2017

@darren4 thanks so much for your thoughts on participation and using Loomio. Really helpful to share how OurField fits in with your other experiences, and I think your discussions of how and why people do or don't participate are spot on. I have been very pleased with the engagement from the collective. I think that having different threads for each decision would be wise in future as the loading time for this thread is ridiculous and makes it impossible to use loomio on your phone because it takes too long to scroll to the bottom.
I also think that having certain co-investors be officially more involved in the organisation and increasing transparency around this is an excellent idea. Something to be discussed if we decide to carry on for another year (or more!). Really hope you can make it for 6.30 meeting on Thursday to be part of the discussion...

TA

Tony Allan Tue 14 Nov 2017

Dear Darren On Loomio
Your comments on how the group has collaborated is very valuable indeed. Very many thanks for sharing your experience.

Dear Grahame
I am very sorry that I cannot volunteer this weekend. Tony

WA

Wendy Alcock Tue 14 Nov 2017

I agree with Tony - thanks @darren4 - very useful things to think through. The thread usually loads ok for me on my laptop (I tried once on a phone, but never again!).

@grahamehunter I am available to help at the weekend. Sunday would be better but I could probably make Saturday too.

WA

Wendy Alcock Tue 14 Nov 2017

I've also heard from Wrights mill, with the following (selected info rather than the whole email chain. Some comments are good, some not so good:

I didn’t realise this was spelt but that shouldn’t be a problem. We would expect that the grain should be de-hulled (as in de-hulled by the combine). Perhaps it is best you send us a sample!

As a sample Wendy – just a couple of kilos to start with. I am slightly concerned about this non de-hulled part. It might be that we need to look at it in the barn. Where is it stored?

I have agreed to send a couple of kilos of both hulled and unhulled in the first instance, which I can hopefully pick up this weekend.

AR

Abby Rose Sun 19 Nov 2017

@wendyalcock thank you for offering to help and it's definitely not something you could do on your own :) so we have been looking into alternative options of how to get about 100kg dehulled! I think @abiaspen will have some updates on this either later today or tmrw.

We did get the results of the tests back from Marriage's:
Protein:13.0
Hagberg:82
Impurities: 13.5
Moisture: 14.80
Bushel Weight: 69.5
Gluten: pass 4
Needs dehulling

The protein content is good enough for bread-making. However the Hagberg No. is low and impurities quite high. Abi will fill you in with more info from millers about what's possible and what this means.
Regardless of what's possible with those numbers, as long as we can get about 100kg spelt dehulled by Wednesday eve and delivered to London, then E5 are happy to mill some grain for us so we can try the flour and members can take some home Thursday eve. If anyone thinks they might be able to help ferrying 100kg of dehulled spelt to E5 bakery on Wednesday by car then please do shout!!

AR

Abby Rose Sun 19 Nov 2017

Wendy about Wrights Mill, thanks so much for continuing this conversation and keeping this opportunity open - best to speak to @abiaspen and @grahamehunter about getting the samples sorted. I think we may find that they only need to see a dehulled sample as other mills have said spelt must be dehulled before milling.

GH

Grahame Hunter Fri 17 Nov 2017

shortage of volunteers - only Wendy so far..

A few days ago, I posted this appeal

_ volunteers wanted to help sieve our Spelt_

Abi is going to arrange access to the large barn with John this coming weekend 18th or 19th November. What is required, are a few volunteers to come to Baldock, to help sieve some of the spelt so that around 100kg can be taken by car to E5 for milling before the Harvest Festival event on 23 November. She predictes this may take 4 or 5 hours.

I am sure that the Co-operative funds can stand the expense of re-imbursing the volunteers their travel costs from London, and buying them a decent lunch in the pub.

sign up here, please

if there are no takers to sieve the spelt, there will very little spelt taken to E5, to be milled for the Harvest event.

__ That does not effect matters regarding the bulk selling of the spelt, but does mean co-operative members may not be able to take some of their own spelt flour home from E5.__

As it is now Friday before the event, anyone who wishes to help needs to liaise directly with Abi Glendcross by phone her number is 07935029192

TF

Tamsyn Forsyth Sat 18 Nov 2017

@grahamehunter I am very sorry, we have a stand at the Living Crafts Christmas fair at Blenheim palace Thursday through Sunday evening so I am unable to offer any time at all; otherwise I would have been there to help. Tamsyn

TA

Tony Allan Sat 18 Nov 2017

I am also sorry that I cannot come to Baldock. Very sorry. Tony

AR

Abby Rose Wed 22 Nov 2017

Really looking forward to seeing many of you tomorrow! @abiaspen is preparing some amazing food. And we have some great discussions planned with farmers, bakers, millers, OurFielders - we hope you will all share! As well as music.
Unfortunately we do not have any of our own spelt dehulled (to be discussed tomorrow), but E5 are preparing some very special loaves just for tomorrow night as a special treat, and the E5 team will be on hand to answer questions about the mill on site!
Please do come along at 6.30 for the initial meeting as well!
p.s ( you should all check out the dinners @abiaspen and @sadhbhmoore are doing this Sunday and Monday at Borough market all about cereals: http://boroughmarket.org.uk/events/sustainable-food-story-supperclubs )

GH

Grahame Hunter Thu 23 Nov 2017

proceding with the implication of the poll

Leaving aside the de-hulling matters (that is, assuming the mills themselves can cope with de-hulling or we find a business to do it for us) I think we should now get firm prices from Mills for processing the Spelt (milling, packing, palletising etc).

I shall be at Weston next week, and can undertake _ packing and shipping of samples_ to any mill that any co-operative member has contacted and believes can take the bulk of the grain, __ provided I have __

  • a full delivery address with post code and
  • a contact address and telephone number for the person who will receive the delivery, and
  • a clear instruction how much to send.

If we can do this, and get prices before Christmas, I can arrange shipping from Weston to a single mill or to two mills, in the New Year.

TA

Tony Allan Fri 24 Nov 2017

Dear Grahame
Very many thanks for sending this very useful information which implies you are prepared to do a lot of important things over the next month. Much appreciated. Your message arrived after I was on my way to last evening's very successful meeting and festival in Hackney.

I have drafted some minutes which you and a few others whose emails I have will have just received. I have incorporated your message into the minutes. I am hoping that Abby who ran a very good meeting , and others present last evening, will augment and approve the minutes for circulation on Loomio.