Loomio
Wed 11 Apr 2018

Announcements & off-topic conversations

GH
Grahame Hunter Public Seen by 50

This is a space for

  • announcements which members wish to bring to the attention of the group as a whole, and that they prefer not to request for me to distribute in a general email.
  • random topics and conversations outside the remit of more specific specific threads.

So, in brief, for anything the group want to discuss in what is still a public forum, but not relevant to another main thread..this is the place.

WA

Wendy Alcock Mon 28 Jun

Thanks for doing that Oliver. Good to see how things are growing and the trees seem to be doing well. This is also on my listen list for anyone, like me, who didn't get to Groundswell (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000x4xx), which seems to be getting bigger and better every year. Well done John and family!

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Fri 25 Jun

Hi everyone, for those who weren't able to be at Groundswell, I made a quick trip up to the field on Wednesday afternoon. Sadly I missed the tour, but I'm sure John and others can add the info I'm missing. I wasn't quite sure what the wheat variety was in the field, I'm afraid.

Here's a short video I made, which hopefully gives you an idea of what's going on in the field

SJ

Steven Jacobs Fri 30 Apr

Thanks John, the pictures are great and the crop looks healthy.

I appreciate the cereal yield per period of time has limits but of course an organic crop rotation while yielding cereals only once or twice in a rotation of 5, 6 or 7 years is productive during the rest of the rotation too, for instance with a diverse ley fixing nitrogen and providing grazing for livestock who also fertilise the ground leading to a cycling of nutrient to enable (one hopes) a healthy field for future years. And of course providing income during those years outside of the cereals.

And over the course of a rotation the mixtures of clovers, livestock manure, cereals and pulses works well by reducing weeds without herbicides and disease without fungicides and also feeds the soil without adding bought in bag fertiliser.

The perenniel approach is different and over time it will be interesting to see how it goes. As you say, John, time will tell.

John, what cereals do we have in there?

The trees are an exciting aspect and will help providing not just shelter but adding focus for more creatures, from the microbial to the feathered varieties who all bring their attributes to the field.

I can see us scything à la Rob Penn come the autumn!

- https://robpenn.net/slow-rise-a-bread-making-adventure/

JC

John Cherry Thu 29 Apr

Guess where the cows pooed.

To answer Stevens points below:

The whole idea of this continual wheat with a permanent understory of clover/trefoil/weeds is that you don't worry about the weeds as they are doing their thing, holding mycorrhizal fungi when the wheat is not there and protecting the soil. It obviates the need for rotations and fertiliser and sprays. If we harvest 1 tonne/acre every year, then that will effectively out-yield conventional organic farms, which might produce 3 tonnes/acre once every five years...

The field has had no sprays of any sort, no roundup, no fungicides, no weedkillers, no fertiliser and it looks ok, even with no rain to speak of for six weeks. I think it's an interesting experiment. The fruit trees look like they've taken ok too. Time will tell.

I've just spoken to John Letts who has taken last years harvest home. He is planning to malt a fair bit of it, as it was slightly musty from the weed seeds and then turn that into Groundswell Beer, ready to sell at the show (23rd/24th June, tickets available now...). He also has some better quality stuff which he'll get milled if anyone wants some flour in 5 kg bags. The weed seeds he dressed out he thinks could make into Blackgrass Whisky. Interesting times...

John

JC

John Cherry Thu 29 Apr

Pictures of field

KF

Kirsten Foster Sat 17 Apr

I'm so sorry to hear that. I think I only met him the once, at a meeting at the E5 bakehouse, but his contributions there and throughout have been so instructive and important. Condolences to John and everyone else who knew him.

WA

Wendy Alcock Fri 16 Apr

So sorry to hear this about Tony. Thank you for letting us know John.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Fri 16 Apr

Oh John, that is such sad news.

Tony was a brilliant scholar and a warm and open person. I am proud to have known him for the brief time that I did.

JC

John Cherry Thu 15 Apr

I feel dreadful that I've taken so long to answer your points Steven and now I've heard the ghastly news that Tony Allan has died. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll leave it a bit longer to answer.

Tony was an intellectual giant and the nicest man I've ever come across and I am just terribly sad

John

TA

Tony Allan Fri 26 Mar

Thank you Steven for your very informative comments. Your invitation to consider a long term approach to OurField including taller heritage wheat and weed control is timely. Also the use of nitrogen fertiliser, regenerative practices, agroforestry, nutrition and marketing. We need John to share what he is thinking. Tony ALLAN

SJ

Steven Jacobs Thu 25 Mar

Hi,

There are several issues here then aren't there?

Weeds are an issue, they compete with the crop, plus if weed seed is not removed after the crop is cut then there are issues such as fungal infection of the grain.

We have discussed approaches to weed control and management. I know that people in this group have voiced opposition to use of herbicides such as glyphosate and John doesn't use a plough.

I wonder then what the long term strategy is?

Another factor I believe we have yet to resolve is use of fertiliser.

The choice is generally between each or a mix of these; green manures - clovers and such, animal manures or manufactured fertilisers.

That last one has an enormous GHG footprint. Research from Sheffield Uni showed that around half the GHG of a conventional loaf of bread is the artifical fertiliser ammonium nitrate, and much of that is from the manufacture of that product before it even gets to the farm.

Some farmers use harrows and hoes to take out or even just to stress the weeds. Timing is vital and it can be nerve wracking when a young wheat crop is already sprouting.

Variety choice has a key role too. Research shows that taller varieties are generally found to be more weed competetive than more recent;y bred varieties. Taller can refer to anything as recent as Maris Widgeon - 1960s - or as far back as April Bearded - 1860s.

Another advantage to taller wheats is they can grow well with less fertility. That would help if ammonium nitrate is not being used. It doesn't when it is being used, as taller wheats are more likely to lodge, to fall over, where a bag fertiliser is applied.

Anyway, food for thought if people are interested in such a discussion.

Do we want to look at what the long term strategy for OurField is?

WA

Wendy Alcock Tue 16 Mar

Thanks for the update John. As others have said I agree the idea of a beer sounds good if (some of) the grain is good enough. The various grades make it hard for lay people like me to comment, so I wanted to say I am happy for you and John L to use the grain for any purpose you think is best. Sorry not to be able to feed in more widely.

CG

Cat Gregory Tue 9 Mar

Sorry he’s just sent me a link that might be handy. It’s for barley but wheat is more or less the same:

https://www.ukmalt.com/uk-malting-industry/barley-requirements/

I think the assessment would need to be made by the maltster rather than the brewery?

Cat

Get Outlook for iOS ( https://aka.ms/o0ukef )

CG

Cat Gregory Tue 9 Mar

Hi all,

Thanks John for the update.

My partner is a brewer so I’ve just mentioned this to him.

Are we sure that the quality is good enough for malting? He seems to think if it’s not good enough for milling, it’s unlikely to be good enough for malting. Or at least that there isn’t a buyer for something that isn’t of a
certain quality.

So is there a way to get this assessed by the buyer (the breweries?) and maybe get some kind of guarantee that they will purchase once the grain is malted? I’m assuming malting would have a cost attached?

I think it’s a great idea but it only works if the malted wheat can be used.

Cat

Get Outlook for iOS ( https://aka.ms/o0ukef )

TA

Tony Allan Tue 9 Mar

John Letts has provided a lot of very relevant information and advice. I suggest you do whatever you have time to do. The beer making option sounds interesting but someone needs to have time to make things happen. If you (and we) don't have time I think the risks are too high to get involved in such a venture. Best regards Tony

CL

Christine Lewis Tue 9 Mar

Hi John, it all seems a sensible choice under the circumstances. If we can find any way to use the crop then we should go for it. Thanks for all you and John L have been doing.

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Mon 8 Mar

Hi John,

Thanks for the update. It seems like unless we feed it to livestock, there aren't a great deal of alternatives. I really like the beer idea and it would be great to have something to give people - as well as maybe even making some money on it.

All the best,

Oliver

JC

John Cherry Mon 8 Mar

Any comments?

JC

John Cherry Mon 8 Mar

We've delivered last years harvest back to John Letts. Unfortunately the amount of weed seed in the sample has given most of it a musty aroma, which makes it unsuitable for milling. Probably easiest if I quote his message:

Thx for sending on the grain. I've worked my way through the bags and have made the following conclusions....

 

1. The spelt/emmer mix doesn't have much more than 5% spelt/emmer in it, as I remember from when we walked the fields (and I've just checked some old photos). As I remember, there was a lot of volunteer wheat (I think it was volunteer) but there was so much grass it was hard to figure out what was what.

 

2. C. 1.5 tons of of the 2.8 tons of spelt/emmer seed is a little too musty for milling, but is probably ok for distilling or malting.

 

2. There is an amazing amount of grass in the samples - at least 10% by weight. I'll get in CYO Seeds to help with this. It's too much for me to handle.

 

3. There is c. 6.5 tons of heritage wheat according to my estimation (not all the bags have a weight indication). C. 3.7 of this is too musty for milling, but is probably ok for malting or distilling. That leave 2.7 tons for milling.

 

So in total I count c. 9.3 tons of grain in total, but after cleaning I reckon there will be 7.5 tons or so, of which I can use 2.7 for milling.

 

I would prefer not to feed this grain into TOAD's main products because I think this grain contains modern wheat, but can I suggest we get it malted?  This is exactly the size of a malt batch at Crisps. it would make a fine Groundswell wheat beer. If there is any surplus malt TOAD would buy it. And malt keeps for at least 1-2 years if kept cool. A spirit batch needs only 2 tons, but I'm not sure if TOAD is ready for that just yet as they have quite a queue in their production plans for the short term.

 

If this does not appeal to you then I can try to shift some of the non-smelly grain to my miller for baking - but i won't be able to claim the emmer/spelt is heritage. And that still leaves the 3.7 tons of smelly heritage grain.

 

I'm not sure how we can work out the price for your work... it was a terrible year and I don't know your production costs. But maybe, if we got it malted (c. 350 a ton delivered back) we could recoup any loses and, perhaps, even make a lot more on the beer?  My contribution so far has been the grain used for seed. Your's has been production cost and delivery of the harvest. I say we be bold and get it malted, and then find a couple of breweries to make some great beer for sale at Groundswell or elsewhere. Groundswell Ale..  has a ring to it.

TA

Tony Allan Wed 6 Jan

Dear John

You could do without this frustration.

Also the lock down does not help. It is really quiet in London today

Keep safe. TonyA

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Wed 6 Jan

Thanks for the update John – not ideal! I’m tied up with work commitments currently, but would love to come and lend a hand assuming restrictions allow, by the time the trees are delivered.

Sent from Mail ( https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=550986 ) for Windows 10

JC

John Cherry Tue 5 Jan

Quick update...in turns out that the dopey Woodland Trust failed to actually order half the trees (despite telling us they'd be delivered between Christmas and the NY), so we planted a few cherries and a lot of hazel and elders today (that had been delivered) and now we await the other fruit trees. So if you were thinking of turning up with a spade tomorrow (no-one did today, so we weren't holding our breath), please don't break lockdown on our account!

John

TA

Tony Allan Wed 30 Dec 2020

Dear John

Thank you for the invitation to help plant trees. As I said earlier the spirit is strong but the flesh is elderly and weak. I only way I can contribute is with a donation. I shall be in touch. Good luck with the project. TonyA

WA

Wendy Alcock Sun 3 Jan

Sorry John, I will be working on those days but all the best with the planting.

"The guys who want to harvest the fruit" also sounds interesting. I have heard about other partnerships like this forming and it seems like a great way forward. Do they have a website/social media presence we can follow?

JC

John Cherry Tue 29 Dec 2020

I'm sorry for the late notice, but we've provisionally earmarked the 5th and 6th January for tree and shrub planting for the agroforestry project. There are a lot of hazel and elder bushes and apple, pears, cherries, plums and gages, roughly a thousand altogether. We've marked out the rows already and have a plan so it shouldn't be too arduous a job. The guys who want to harvest the fruit have got a few helpers lined up, but there will be room for more if anyone fancies it...a bit of exercise before the Oxford Real Farming Conference begins on the 7th!

The forecast is a bit dodgy and with all the covid hassles I don't expect anyone fancies this particularly, especially as we'll ask everyone to provide their own lunches etc. It should be happening from 10am both days, let me know if you're keen or turn up at Lannock Manor Farm (before 10am)

John

WA

Wendy Alcock Fri 11 Dec 2020

Thanks for the update and link, John. I'm very much up for coming to plant some of the trees in the new year! If you need any help to organise a date I can help with this too, if this would be useful.

TA

Tony Allan Thu 10 Dec 2020

Dear John, Joanna and Paul - Thank you for posting the excellent Groundswell webinar on soil health. It was a very good session. And thank you for the up-date on the wheat and the weeds on OurField. The news on the tree planting is very good. The idea of doing some planting is good. I regret that he spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. What species will you be planting? Best Tony (Allan)

JC

John Cherry Wed 9 Dec 2020

If anyone is interested, here's a recording of a webinar we did on Monday:

 https://youtu.be/nnYVEcbhL7A

Also, the agro-forestry project is coming along nicely, the Tree Heritage people reckon they'll get the trees and guards etc to us by Christmas, so if anyone is keen on a bit of planting, we might try and get a gang together early in the new year.

The wheat is up on the row, surrounded by a lot of weeds, but I'm full of hope that it'll get away ok. We'll give some thought to grazing it off around March time if the weeds look like they're coming on a bit strong.

I hope you're all keeping well

John

TA

Tony Allan Sat 21 Nov 2020

Dear Annie, Thank you for sending the information on activities in North-East England. My roots are in Northumberland. We have learned from hard experience that putting a local supply chain in place with local players is a key condition for commercial success. It would be good to hear from JohnC if there are any signs that there is any market innovation in Hertfordshire. Tony (Allan)

AL

Annie Landless Fri 20 Nov 2020

This is quite an interesting session from the Northern Real Farming Conference 2020 on minor cereals and the supply chain - much of the spelt discussion echos questions we had in year one: https://www.northernrealfarming.org/events/developing-supply-chains-for-minor-cereals-in-north-east-england/

Hope you are all well! :)

CL

Christine Lewis Tue 1 Sep 2020

From Tony (Allan)

Do find time to listen to two amazing BBC Radio4 programmes which were on air this morning.   

 

Nature notes, from farming to fungi - 31 August 2020   about 45minutes

 BBC Radio4 - Start the Week

James Reebanks, Melissa Harrison, Merlin Sheldrake with Andrew Marr

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000m569

 

 

BBC Farming Today    31 August 2020     about  12 minutes

The Farming Forum        https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000m4cn

On regenerative agriculture.  An amazing Farming Today episode.

 

This Farming Today episode is interesting as the programme has interviewed conservation and regenerative farmers a number of times in the past five years.  But there is never any further discourse.  Every time the system is presented as if the topic has never been identified before. In addition the NFU never responds or presumably is never asked for an opinion. The farm input corporates, who sell cultivation equipment and tractors remain silent. As do those who sell pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer. DEFRA is silent.  It is a very long and expensive - what social scientists recognise as - a sanctioned discourse. The powerful commercial interests are determined to go on doing the wrong thing extremely well.

 

Actually Syngenta and Bayer are showing signs that they realise that regenerative principles cannot be ignored. Perhaps it is time to reach out to them.

 

Best    Tony (Allan)

SJ

Steven Jacobs Mon 27 Jul 2020

So good to hear your words on the radio, Rosy.

You hit the nail on the head, several times. This line sticks out, for me, - We shoud be asking why some people can’t afford good food, and where does this fixatation on cheapness come from in those that can afford?

Well done for being so clear and insightful and getting your voice heard. I know it may not move mounains today but people might hear that interview and it might give them added incentive and added confidence to do something brilliant.

WA

Wendy Alcock Mon 20 Jul 2020

I also listened back, thanks for the fuller update Rosy. It's here for a few more days if anyone else wants to listen https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000kmkw

The bit you said about the fixation on cheapness from those that can afford is what irks me the most. Hopefully food security means more in our post covid world.

AR

Abby Rose Thu 9 Jul 2020

Brilliant work @Rosy Benson - you are amazing and thanks for sharing such inspiring words :). And thanks for bringing it to our attention @Tony Allan. Can't wait to taste a Bread and Roses loaf one day soon

RB

Rosy Benson Tue 7 Jul 2020

Hi Tony, thank you it's nice to hear you caught it the quick interview I did on Radio 4, you must have been awake early to catch Farming Today! The full interview was on local food responses in the time of Covid and their push towards future food resilience, its great that local grain is getting more attention. Here is a transcript of the longer interview if anyone is interested in my ramblings on where I'm at with using local grains! 

INTRODUCTIONS

Hi I’m Rosy Benson of Bread and Roses, a bakery project in the city of Bristol  I mill, mix, bake and deliver FRESH BREAD. I set up this project  arm of the bakery around the start of lockdown to make loaves for a couple of charities delivered through the Bristol Coexist Community Kitchen, that funding is due to end soon. Sustainable long term funding for vulnerable food insecure groups to access real nutritious food is perhaps a whole other radio programme!

The other arm of the bakery is a doorstop delivery of your weekly loaf, we are set up using a subscription model where customers set up a monthly direct debit, this arm of the business in part subsidises the other but there is a limit to how much I can sustainably do for free. We definitely increased our capacity and took on a lot more customers in the initial few weeks of lockdown as people scrambled to secure their weekly provisions.

I think what makes the bakery different to many others is I buy in grain direct from farmers in the South West and around the UK, I like to mill fresh flour for better flavour and nutrition and I do long fermentation bread (sourdough) using a whole range of different grains, not just wheat, grown in farming systems I support and I go and visit those farms throughout the year. 

We’ve managed to keep the costs down by sharing a bike delivery system with a local salad and milk business and we have quite a basic bakery set up, so our overheads weren’t massive.

I’m very excited for the next few months, whilst we continue to look for an affordable production/retail bakery space in Bristol I am currently setting up a teaching bakery with a friend, actually on the farm where a large proportion of the grain I use comes from, Gothelney Farm in Somerset, it will be called Field Bakery, this has been helped by the support and encouragment of Fred the farmer who runs Gothelney. I’m very aware of how little access the average person has to where and how their food is produced, especially those living in inner city Bristol, so we will be inviting small groups to come out for the day on the farm, to walk through the hundreds of different varieties of grains out in the fields, to see the pigs! teach them a little about the soil and the farm system as a whole, give them a chance to get their hands messy in the dough and for them to bake and take home their own loaf and mill their own bag of flour using Fred’s grains. I hope they’ll enjoy the experience and in the future take a minute to consider supporting local grain when they next make or buy bread. Day courses start pre harvest in August.


HOW HAVE YOUR BEEN AGILE as A BUSINESS through lockdown?

As bakers we worked hard before, so that didnt change, but I think almost overnight I felt a little more pressure and sense of responsibility to keep baking for my community here in Bristol, but I also try to have a sense of level headedness about what’s happening. We are very resilient. I found a set up where I could work alone, and took advice on how to work safely. The long term goals of Field Bakery bakery are now clearer than ever.

Small independents businesses with short supply chains were able to adapt very quickly.  

Many bakeries expanded what they offered to keep access to food for people  from local producers when other routes to market  stopped.

The supermarket model can’t provide the same quality, transparency and authenticity in (what they call) bread, their model doesnt adequately feed people, and creates great amounts of waste and how they’ve been allowed to take market dominance (especially in the area of food aid) at this time is really worrying. I hope this moment in time has reminded people to support small businesses then, now and always. We need them for their skills and the diversity they bring. 

The South West Grain Network is relatively new and part of a much bigger UK and international grain movement. It has taken many years of commitment and labour from farmers to go in this direction, often without governmental help but down to their own experience and observations on caring for their soil, I’m happy to be helping provide a market in the city of Bristol for that grain and to help with the education that goes alongside creating that market. As a network we still working it out, there’s been plenty to do in terms of logistics, purchasing grain cleaning equipment to improve quality, as well as  thinking about how we can help other farmers and bakers to connect in the future so more networks can exist.

I hope that they’ll be a lasting change with the increased awareness around grain and local food as we as food producers (primary and secondary) have become more visible.


CHEAPNESS- why does a loaf of your bread cost £4?

I would like everyone to be able to access local, healthy and affordable food. As Tim Lang writes in his recent book Feeding Britain; “food poverty and inequalities are shaped by forces outside the food sector; jobs, income, social class, taxation, history, genetic chance as to who one’s parents are”

The bread I make is good value for money, a loaf I make will sustain, nourish and can be enjoyed for several meals, the price fully reflects the costs of labour and ingredients which have actually been incurred in creating it and getting it to the consumer. Through the Bread and Roses project bakery in Bristol I also make sure there are a proportion of loaves which are subsidised so everyone we all can access them.  The nutrition and digestability of sourdough, the skill and time spent fermenting and baking at a human scale plus the use of diverse locally grown grains mean it can’t be compared to the cost of a loaf of sliced white from the supermarket. There are huge externalized diet-related ill health costs of cheap food which we will be paying for in years to come, we can already see the effects on our environment and our health. We shoud be asking why some people can’t afford good food, and but also where does this fixatation on cheapness come from in those that can afford? Isnt your diet one of the most important things to spend money on? Part of my motivation for teaching baking is helping people to value local grain and the craft of baking (as well organic vegetables, meat, diary etc) we’ve got a long way to go in terms of education around food and farming. Currently supermarket bread is a symbol of a broken food system, I’m going to bake the way I do as my resistance to that. 

FUTURE RESILIENCE

From a food security and energy perspective it makes perfect sense to grow our food closer, rather than relying on imported wheat. But local grain is much more than that to me. Its the great people I meet in this journey as a baker. As a food citizens, as bakers and other food processors we need to find connection to the land around us so I’m keen to build long term relationships with great innovative farmers and have more reason to get outside. It makes my job a lot more interesting!  I want to support low impact regenerative farming  and encourage biodiversity in the field, for healthier soil, and potentially greater adaption of these cereals to climate instability. As I progress in my career as a baker, having worked in many bakeries in the UK and US I feel I’m gradually getting closer to learning how to make better bread and increasingly enjoy the job I do, maybe its also that I increasingly have more agency in sourcing better flour too, I’m building a real desire for flavour and my appetite grows for good food. I like to create food for nourishment, pleasure and enjoyment, for that moment savoured when you eat something really delicious. 


The more we put our shopping pounds towards local food, the stronger it can become and as they say, a food system is only as good as the one you engage in. I want to know that when I spend money on food its supporting regenerative farming, more of that value should be going back to the producer encouraging good farming practices as well as supporting a valuable meaningful job in the bakery. I believe we all should earn a decent living, but I also want to help foster a sense of purpose and integrity in what we do as bakers. 


TA

Tony Allan Sun 9 Feb 2020

TA

Tony Allan Mon 6 Jan 2020

Dear Wendy

The Farmarama episodes are amazing. It is good that Abby Rose - a founder of OurField is active in Farmarama. It is also good that JohnC is aware of the ideas. We should certainly align OurField activities with the widening awareness of the importance of seed diversity. Best TonyA

WA

Wendy Alcock Sun 5 Jan 2020

Hi Tony. You can listen online here https://soundcloud.com/farmerama-radio Enjoy!

TA

Tony Allan Sun 5 Jan 2020

Dear Wendy

Very many thanks for drawing our attention to the Farmarama material. Could you provide links to the episodes? And a good New Year to everyone. TonyA

WA

Wendy Alcock Sat 4 Jan 2020

Happy new year everyone! And thanks for the update above John/Tony/Christine. I hope the slow down in wet weather is helping in the fields!

As well as Darren's recent mention of the Farmarama episode (no 51) including John Letts talking about his grains I have also just finished listening to the six part Cereal series by Farmarama's Katie which was mentioned in the episode.

If you've not already listened to it (and I'm sure some of you have as you worked on it or are in it!) do!

As we're all part of ourfield we're obviously already bread fans but the series covers so much about the bread making process, from seed to loaf and many steps in between, I'm tempted to go back and listen to it all again.

CL

Christine Lewis Mon 16 Dec 2019

Sharing an abridged offline discussion started by Tony A on the impact of the recent very wet weather on the field with input from John regarding Our Field Weston :

BBC's Farming Today has lots of encounters with farmers having a terrible problem with saturated fields and facing great difficulties getting the winter crops sown. How is it at Lannock Manor Farm?

John's response: It is now quite soggy, we have had to keep off the land for the last week or two. I had a walk around Lannock last night to have a look, as the ditches were running for the first time this winter, the soil has finally admitted to being saturated. The #ourfield crop looks okay, it has mostly emerged. I think we may have lost some seeds to rotting in wet ground, but enough will come to make a crop...

...I think we've had less rain than Lincolnshire for example, and our soil is less heavy than some, so I try not to feel too smug about how clever we are. Most of our cultivating neighbours are, however, way behind and those that have had a go, have fields that look like a re-enactment of the Battle of the Somme.

[Re a comment about beneficial effect of cover crops] You are quite right about cover crops, but even they can't work miracles. I've just been walking across some here, the cover is three foot high in places, but there are still puddles on the soil surface on the heavier ground. We may be regenerating, but we have a way to go. At least with living roots in the soil, so it'll dry quickly when the time comes. I suspect the uncovered soil c/w ponds will take a while longer. Even permanent pasture here walks a bit squishy in places.

One would hope that this wet back end would be a wake-up call for those practising conventional techniques, but so far I've had comments from cultivating locals like 'It's all right for you, you don't cultivate so you've managed to plant everything.' All I can do is meekly nod...words fail me frankly. I don't want to create an 'us and them' mentality which makes it hard to cross the line, but I really want to shout at them 'Why are you spending a small fortune on plough metal, diesel and machinery to get into a situation where you can't plant anything, while simultaneously you are degrading your core asset: the soil?'

Time will tell, people will change when they are ready

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Thu 12 Dec 2019

Hi everyone, I hope all's well. Does anyone know where I can get hold of a few kilos of heritage wheat seed to grow for personal baking?

TA

Tony Allan Mon 25 Nov 2019

Dear Darren

Veru many thanks for drawing our attention to these topics Best Tony Allan

D

Darren Sat 23 Nov 2019

A couple of things I thought Ourfield folks may like

A lovely recent episode of the Farmarama podcast included a long piece where John Letts tells the story behind his grains - which we are now growing.

For seed week, this week, Seed Sovereignty published a series of blog posts that ended with Where have all the grains gone

TA

Tony Allan Sat 31 Aug 2019

Dear Darren
Very many thanks for drawing this farm visit to our attention. It is very important to encourage the engagement of farmers, scientists and consumers on the crucial regenerative issue of soil health. Best Tony Allan

D

Darren Fri 30 Aug 2019

Thought some Ourfield folks may be interested in this Farm Tour in Oxfordshire 17th September
Its with Soil Farmer of the Year, Julian Gold who farms 751 acres of mixed arable crops.

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 2 Aug 2019

A message from Tony Allan:
Industrial agriculture and its climate change impacts
The global climate change debate neglects the role of industrial farming on carbon emissions. The attached article is a well written piece summarising the position and highlighting the problem.

It has no metrics. The CC community only highlights the contributions of energy, transport and other industries to global temperature trends. Agriculture has other big impacts on water, biodiversity and nutrition.
Link to article:

CL

Christine Lewis Sun 7 Jul 2019

A message from Tony Allan:

Dear OurField members

Groundswell 26/27 June 2019

Attached is a short report on the extraordinary impact of Groundswell. It has become a farming phenomenon in the UK.

I invite the other OurField members who attended to supplement these comments.

With very best regards
TonyA

WA

Wendy Alcock Wed 26 Jun 2019

Good luck to the Cherry's for Groundswell and have fun if you're going!

SJ

Steven Jacobs Tue 25 Jun 2019

Hello to everyone, I want to bring to your attention an event I help to mange which takes place each July. This year the OF&G National Organic Combinable Crops - #NOCC19 - takes place on 3 July and will be on a farm in East Yorkshire that moved into organic in 1949.
More details on the OF&G website - https://ofgorganic.org/events/nocc-19

SJ

Steven Jacobs Tue 25 Jun 2019

Hi Oliver, I've sent a ticket code to you by email. Let me know if you get it. Yes its for both days.

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Mon 24 Jun 2019

Hi Steven, I didn't book in time. Can I have that ticket if it's still available? Is it for both days?

SJ

Steven Jacobs Mon 24 Jun 2019

Hello, I will be at John's farm for Groundswell this coming Wednesday & Thursday, maybe see some of you there? I may have a spare ticket if someone does want to go and has not yet booked. Cheers, Steven

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 14 Jun 2019

I have attached a report from Tony Allan about Conservation Agriculture (CA) and hydrology from a research visit on 3 June 2019.

AR

Abby Rose Fri 31 May 2019

I will be there both days - would love to go take a trip to ourfield with you all! Think they have changed layout this year so everything will b v close to OurField

SJ

Steven Jacobs Thu 30 May 2019

Yes, would be good for us to meet up those who can make it.
I will be going to Groundswell. Hope to see some of you there.
Its a great schedule - https://groundswellag.com/sessions/

I'm due to take part in a session in the Agricology space on the Wednesday, detail here and if any of you want to come along you’d be most welcome -
Getting out of the commodity trap – new markets for sustainable arable
Agricology Discussion Tent 26/06/2019 12:15 pm - 12:45 pm

One of the barriers to moving towards more sustainable arable systems is finding a market for smaller volumes of diverse crops. In response to this there is a growing number of farmers who are finding alternative markets for cereals and pulses which support them to farm agroecologically.
Fred Price, Gothelney Farm; Katie Bliss, Agricology; Steven Jacobs, OF&G
https://groundswellag.com/sessions/agricology-breakout-session-new-grain-economy/

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Wed 29 May 2019

Who is going to be at Groundswell and which day?

We should try and arrange a quick catchup and go and look at the field. I'll be going on one of the days (not sure which yet) so can take some photos for everyone.

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Wed 24 Apr 2019

CL

Christine Lewis Sun 7 Apr 2019

I am posting a message from Tony Allen, for info:

Monitoring soil health - comparing the hydrology of soils under conservation agriculture practices with soils in fields being farmed with conventional tillage and chemical inputs

Mark Mulligan at King's College London has initiated a 24/7 monitoring programme to detect hydrological outcomes of the introduction of conservation agriculture practices - namely no-till, cover cropping and rotations. His team has installed monitoring equipment on John Cherry's farm and on the farm of another CA farmer well known to some of us, Tony Reynolds, who farms at Bourne in Lincolnshire. At each place the monitoring equipment has been installed in a field of a neighbouring non-CA farmer. There are four other pairs. The plan is to expand the number of sites. There will be a panel on the activity at Groundswell 2019 on 26 and 27 June 2019. There will be an exhibit at Groundswell where the approach and preliminary results can be discussed.

SJ

Steven Jacobs Thu 28 Mar 2019

Thanks @grahamehunter

And I suggest we identify not only a seed variety we like but a market for the resulting crop as well.
Spelt has issues as it needs de-hulling. We managed to make it work last time, thanks to sterling efforts of OurField members, nod to @christinelewis1 and @oliverrubinstein and @grahamehunter

So, whatever we want to choose from I’d like it if proposers of varieties have also an idea of how and where to market the grain. Or if they have not then it would be gret if we start that conversation before seed is sown.
On a different technical point if heritage or simply older wheat varieties are being considered then we should note that they tend not to enjoy the full fertiliser regime in modern farming.
I know @johncherry is exploring different approaches to fertility building on the farm. But worth noting that if there is a lot of fertility in the soil it can lead to heritage wheats shooting up and then falling over, often called ‘lodging’.
Sometimes they’ll come back up, but its a risk. They sometimes lie so close to the ground even if they do stand back up later in the season they may have picked up some fungal disease if over a very wet soil. Less of a problem if we get another year of drought-like conditions!
Cheers,
Steven

TA

Tony Allan Thu 28 Mar 2019

Dear Grahame
Many thanks for inviting ideas for cropping for next year. We should find out what heritage and population wheat seed is available. Those who are up to speed on seed availability and marketing options should make suggestions. Tony (Allan)

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 27 Mar 2019

The earlier the better for me. Decisions seem to take a long time and planning in advance is something many people have asked for.

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 26 Mar 2019

What crop for 2020?

In view of the very long discussions last year, could we start gathering information about the to-be-sown-perhaps-in-2019 seed programme. Last year we left it so late, that when we eventually decided to plant a heritage crop, that wheat seed was no longer available.

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 27 Mar 2019

No objections but maybe we just call it 'crop updates' so it continues each year. Either way it seems logical not to call it 2018 crop updates.

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 26 Mar 2019

Should we not rename the topic "2018 crop updates" to "2019 crop updates"?

Any objections to this? We called it 2019 in the entire discussion about what to plant, so with that logic the harvesting year becomes the denominator.
I think it is also fine if we stay with 2018 crop updates, but would that then mean we should always then stay with the planting year as the crop denominator? (So, Spring crops / Autumn crops for harvest in the same year, have different descriptors.)

WA

Wendy Alcock Sat 2 Mar 2019

Hi everyone. Tony kindly emailed round a link to a BBC Radio 4 show which visited Martin Lines in Cambridgeshire recently. If anyone else wants a listen I found the programme at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0002rll It's a nice positive listen for 20 mins or so. I found it very interesting.

TA

Tony Allan Sat 5 Jan 2019

Thank you Oliver for the New Year greeting and comment. Let's develop the topics.

AR

Abby Rose Sun 6 Jan 2019

Totally agree and great idea @oliverrubinstein - I am writing a post about this at the mo as well - so will be sure and tag Sustainuary when we post it in a few weeks!

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 4 Jan 2019

Great idea - it's already an interesting read on #Sustainuary and it's only the 4th January.

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Thu 3 Jan 2019

Sustainuary

Hi everyone, happy new year.
On the back of Veganuary, I'm really keen to get people thinking more about the overall impact of their food. I've come up with 'Sustainuary', where people commit to making a concerted effort each day for the rest of the month, to learn more about where their food comes from and how it's produced, so they can make more informed choices.

I'm all for more plant-based diets, but it worries me that people have become so focused on 'plant-based at all costs' and there's not enough discussion (or understanding) about the impact of some of these meat and dairy alternatives. I'm encouraging people to ask questions on social media and for others to share resources that might help (as well as their own knowledge). If anyone would like to follow or take part, I'll be tweeting about it using #Sustainuary as well as sharing things on facebook.

CL

Christine Lewis Tue 4 Dec 2018

Nov 2018 Groundswell newsletter

Here is a link to the Nov 2018 with information about Groundswell 2019 - from Tony Allan

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 18 Sep 2018

agenda suggestions for 30th September?

Perhaps enter them here, or send them directly to Tony Allen.

Tony, I see one of your responses included this comment..
The problem we are facing in making a decision reflects the fact that we have not been able to put in place a multi -season rotation strategy informed by the potential of mob-grazing. We are also facing the problem of not having a research capacity.
Perhaps we can discuss how this could work, at the meeting?

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 2 Sep 2018

Hi, Harriet,
my understanding of how OurField was established, was to get the public (so, people like you, in a cooperative) involved in understanding decisions about how food crops are produced, and the risks and pressures of modern farming selling into both specialised and commodity markets.

Certainly diversification of risk - such as horticulture, which you have suggested - could play a role; however at Weston as a co-operative essentially "renting" a field, I would suggest that we have a choice of two routes to go down:-

  • using the methods which John Cherry employs on his conservation agriculture, no till farm, which could also include other farming methods which he could carry out for us using the equipment and labour he already employs, or

  • doing something ourselves, which in the case of horticulture would mean finding the work force, planting the crop, building the green house etc if that was necessary and above working out how to sell the product. So YES we could do it, but John Cherry is not going to do it for us. He is a cattle and grain farmer.

You would therefore be welcome to make a proposal to the group of how such a project could be established, and with what resources, and where they would come from.

As a precautionary tale, two years ago we asked John Cherry to grow Spelt for us, with no clear sense of how we would sell it - and as a result we have 4 tonnes still sitting in the barns at Weston.

H

Harriet Sat 1 Sep 2018

Hello all, as I am new to OurField, I am wondering if we ever thought about horticulture at least on part of the field? What would be the pros and cons? I am asking because most new entrants to farming are setting up organic horticulture presumably because it is often more profitable than arable. I guess it is another ball game in terms of labour, but it would be good to hear about the specific considerations in the context of OurField. Another question also whether there are any/ we have ever considered agri-environment schemes you can get paid for such as putting in a flower strip in part of the field (perhaps a bit late to do this now we will be out of the next CAP, but would be interesting to keep a look out for options in the UK subsidy policy).

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 21 Aug 2018

2019 crop

soon I will start a thread for the 2019 crop, which will need to commence with a vote on what will be planted. I have spoken with John about this, and will relay the results of that conversation later today..but also the Trello / management team have been looking at this outside this Loomio forum, which is a huge benefit; so there should be a lot of things to read soon, before the final decision.

TA

Tony Allan Sat 18 Aug 2018

Hello Janaki,
Thank you for your suggestions and questions. Christine has dealt with most of them in her reply. And she has also posted a lot of information about the issues being discussed by the coordinating team.
We do have information on the soil of the field. A friend of the OurField initiative is David Dent is a soil scientist who has done some soil sampling of OurField. His analysis can be reported. It would be good to have a Google image of the field and the surrounding area. I shall try to pull one down. It would be the next best thing to a farm walk. Your suggestion that we post such information systematically is a very good one. Best TonyA

CL

Christine Lewis Fri 17 Aug 2018

Hi Janaki - thanks for the suggestion and offer of help. We are trying to organise both a meeting at Weston that suits John's timeline and also a meeting in London that may be easier for many to get to - watch this space. Thanks for offering to help with this, which would be great. I am going to provide an update hopefully today/ this weekend which will outline where we are in more detail. Re planting the next crop I think John will need to have a decision before we manage to meet because he needs to order seeds etc. in advance - I imagine suddenly a choice will appear on the site and very soon.

J

Janaki Thu 16 Aug 2018

Hi returning to the idea of meeting one another -- do you think we can get together in September and talk about what to plant? There are other topics I'd love to hear broached in an introductory form / presentation style, so as to get a bit more intimate with our actual field: quick timeline of the soil and some speculative future timelines; OurField topography and what's happening with the water in that soil; looking a bit more at which plants have established themselves and what they're likely to contribute to soil health; an intro on the commodities market and intro on alternative markets. These topics have been addressed in Loomio, but maybe we could accumulate them into a synthesized picture in a meeting. This is basic stuff, but having a little dating profile of the field would be nice. I can help organize over the next few weeks with a few more members. Thoughts?

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 15 Aug 2018

@grahamehunter Just about to remove you from all the Trello boards - then there should be Trello silence for you! We will keep you and everyone else updated here until we have a plan for any migration. PS very keen on John's suggestions to add OurField 2017 Spelt to his harvest. Feels like cheating but it is very hard for us to address and all part of our lessons learned.

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 15 Aug 2018

Sorry @grahamehunter that you have been bombarded with notifications - we will sort it. We really appreciate your efforts. As Oliver mentions the coordinating/ leadership group is using Trello to organise ourselves.

OR

Oliver Rubinstein Wed 15 Aug 2018

Hi Grahame, the leadership team have started using Trelllo to better coordinate our activities. All decisions and actions will be shared with the collective via Loomio. Likewise, all group decisions will still be made via Loomio.

GH

Grahame Hunter Tue 14 Aug 2018

Trello

I have recently started receiving notices about conversations concerning OurField on a platform called Trello. Is this being proposed as the replacement for Loomio? I do not think I wish to follow two forums for OurField, and many members seem to find even one problematic, so as soon as there is consensus on which is preferred please post the result here .

I am happy to switch platform if required, but in the meantime, members can assume that your facilitator is dumb on Trello..

RB

Rosy Benson Wed 1 Aug 2018

Looks very tasty Christine! Height isn't everything! happy baking x

GH

Grahame Hunter Sun 5 Aug 2018

Thanks for the tip. Subsequently I have used a loaf tin with some success, with a sourdough yeast. My experience too was that the dough was fairly weak, but made a good loaf in a tin.

CL

Christine Lewis Tue 31 Jul 2018

Just made my first OurField bread with a mix of the white and wholemeal flour using a very basic recipe and with dried yeast. The flour was very soft to use and the dough rose very quickly. I think this may mean the flour is not that strong which resulted in a flat bread, it tasted fine though. Next time I will use a loaf tin.

GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 11 Jul 2018

splitting the work area; accounts and finance

copied from the leadership group thread for general comment if any

Grahame wrote:-

I am not sure whether the __ leadership group __ is quite the best forum for drawing members' attention to the bi monthly and other accounts, largely because this is a public forum, and the accounts are sent outside Loomio to each individual member. So an early thing that group could decide on, is how much confidentiality is necessary (eg do we want to air __ in public __ matters such as the price we want to sell the grain at, or what is the rent paid to Weston Park Farms for renting the field?).

It is fair to assume that most accounting queries will fall into one of three categories;

  • someone who has not understood the figures provided, (such as what is the difference between a reserve against charges, and a current expense?)
  • questions about the figures which require general clarification (eg what is meant by the agronomy charge?) , and
  • how the numbers have been calculated (what is the rent, and does this take into account the farming subsidy?.)
GH

Grahame Hunter Wed 11 Jul 2018

clarification; thread member

A thread member is anyone who has contributed to the thread, not those who have read posts in the thread. You can test this, by starting a new thread, and initially, there is only one thread member.
My feeling, along with Tony Allen, is that every forum has wrinkles; so for those who have mastered Loomio there is a benefit in staying put. The main drawback with this one, for us, is that John cannot go to the field, take a picture and post it easily from his phone into Loomio with a comment.

AR

Abby Rose Tue 10 Jul 2018

good thinking @catg - we will look into this!!

CG

Cat Gregory Wed 4 Jul 2018

I don't know if this is at all relevant as I'm still getting to grips with Loomio and am not entirely sure how everything works yet but I notice that although there are 61 members of the OurField group, only 9 or 10 are members of the threads. Could this explain why some people aren't getting notifications and perhaps aren't engaging as much?

CL

Christine Lewis Wed 27 Jun 2018

Loomio does have Slack integration so we could do that. Slack though is only for instant messages etc. and quick feedback and probably not good for maintaining records of what we are doing. It could be that we need to use Loomio integrated with Slack with a Facebook or other website for recording and linking to more detailed information to give a choice for what works well for everyone.

TA

Tony Allan Mon 25 Jun 2018

Dear Christine and Olly
Thank you Christine for your very useful recap. And thank you Olly for drawing attention to 'slack'. Could you provide more information.
Best TonyA

CL

Christine Lewis Sun 24 Jun 2018

Thanks everyone and here is a quick summary of our discussions from memory, I cannot find the posts we made back then in March:

  • Loomio does make it easy to vote on decisions
  • Loomio contains all discussions from when the project started, although it is hard to find things with no search facility
  • Loomio is good for short debate and quick queries
  • Loomio seems bad for people accessing Loomio by phone
  • It is very hard to find older conversations and previous topics unless an administrator ‘pins’ them which makes it not ideal for collecting interesting links and discussions

There any many people who are keen to read what is going on but do not want to comment or engage directly - which is fine and seems normal for a virtual group. In the end we decided there was no obvious alternative to Loomio and would see if there were any improvements in the second year

We did find another Loomio group who decided to move over to another site completely in one go but we felt we needed more participation from members to be able to recommend this - and I cannot find the link now to share with you. As more members were joining it also prevented a survey of current members I was considering how members felt about Loomio communications but we felt we needed to wait for the new group to join and have sufficient time to use Loomio before we started asking them about it. Draft survey - we could use this or something else if members want to.

My thoughts:

  • How many people actually receive the notifications and are keeping up to date with things - selling last year’s spelt and what to plant this Autumn are still our live topics.
  • Is it time to start discussing Autumn planting?
  • Do we want to make better use of the gold status we have on Loomio which lets us set up sub-groups, categories and/or Slack integration - these may be useful but I expect needs to be done by OurField Loomio administrators
  • Do we want to supplement Loomio with the Ourfield Facebook page if we can get the admin rights transferred
TA

Tony Allan Fri 22 Jun 2018

Dear Wendy
Thank you also for commenting on Loomio and mentioning Christine. The small group that discussed the functionality of Loomio consisted of Darren, Christine and myself - as I recall.
If members/investors want to revisit the topic it would be approprtiate. But we need advice based on hard, first hand experience of systems that could provide what Loomio does - namely, discussion group facilities on a number of topics and a voting system. Best Tony Allan.

TA

Tony Allan Fri 22 Jun 2018

Dear Wendy
Thank you for your message. It is good to know that the Loomio readers have had the chance to read the information on Groundswell 2018. Tony Allan

WA

Wendy Alcock Thu 21 Jun 2018

Sadly I can't make it again this year Tony but it does sounds like it's going to be a very intresting couple of days.

TA

Tony Allan Thu 21 Jun 2018

GROUNDSWELL 2018 From Tony Allan

The Groundswell 2018 event will take place next week on Wednesday and Thursday 27 and 28 June at farm managed by the Cherry family. They also organise the Groundswell event.
In an earlier message I suggested that if any OurField member/investors will be attending it would be useful to know when they will be around so that we could meet. I recall I suggested that we could meet in the barn where the self-service lunch will be served. PLEASE advise me on ta1@soas.ac.uk if you plan to be at Groundswell and I'll advise some meeting options.
ABBY will be there. She will be demonstrating a hand held technology that provides soil information. This is just one of the businesses in which she is engaged. I shall be moderating two sessions on soil health at 11.00 am on the Wednesday and on Thursday. These two sessions are just two of over 20 sessions on conservation farming and related issues on the programme. There are also field demonstrations of no-till equipment, a soil survey pit and an earthworm science exhibit. There is too much to do and observe. The quality of the discussions in the barns is very high as top farmers will be speaking about farmer led initiatives and scientists and farmers from across the world will also be contributing. I hope Grahame will be around as it would be good to hear from him. Best regards Tony (Allan)

SF

Sinead Fenton Tue 26 Jun 2018

Maybe we could have quarterly meetings? Get them scheduled well in advance for physical meetings, with a look to having a dial-in option? I think with some of the previous events it's been quite short notice. If I have something in my diary a long while in advance it helps a lot

NR

Niki Reynolds Tue 26 Jun 2018

I rarely engage.. I would like to but I’ve had problems with Loomio. I’ve got a new iPhone 8plus and it seems I can log in now.. my old phone had an old browser and Loomio didn’t work.. I also travel a lot and don’t have apps so I rarely engage..
Maybe a good idea to have a physical meeting in London

SF

Sinead Fenton Tue 26 Jun 2018

I'd agree with Olly - I find it really hard to keep up especially if I've been away with several conversations within a couple of threads and as I'm out or travelling most of the time the app isnt great with my phone. It can be hard to get back into the swing of things I find on loomio or at least in the way we have it setup.
I use Slack at the open food network and can vouch for it being a great tool for our global community to use which is easy to follow, mobile ready and organised.
To add - I'm happy to look at integrations between loomio and slack or help with questions (in my other life I do tech/app integrations for groups like ourselves)

OH

Olly H-S Mon 25 Jun 2018

a better alternative could be slack ? https://slack.com/ It seems to be the go to platform for this kind of forum and seems to be more intuitive than Loomio - but perhaps that may be just because i'm already using it...?