Heritage Harvest – using traditional skills to grow traditional cereal crops – #NCW13

A couple of weeks ago I met John Letts who runs Heritage Harvest in the Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire area. John and his small team help farmers grow heritage cereals for thatching straw and grain and distributes bread and flour through the Oxford Bread Group. The Prince’s Countryside Fund have helped John by giving him a grant to develop his business further. The Fund’s grant has helped to establish a demonstration farm and education centre of heritage wheat varieties in collaboration with a group of 100 thatchers, organic farmers and traditional millers. Their aim is to reduce the UK’s dependence on imported thatching materials while encouraging the development of this traditional skill and providing a valuable diversification opportunity for farmers. 10 school visits have taken place and 2 summer placements for agricultural students completed. The flour is now being used in 4 lines of Astons organic bakery and is available through the Tru Food Group with 350 members.

On a personal note John made me understand the problems we could potentially be facing as a result of global warming and how farmers need to diversify and change their farming methods in our ever changing climate. I was also introduced to some of the earliest forms of wheat including Einkorn which is one of the earliest forms of cultivated wheat dating back to 7500BC. John was very kind and loaded my car with eggs, 4 bags of flour, a sourdough starter and some fresh fruit picked from his allotment. Mrs Lord has since made some delicious sourdough bread using Einkorn and Rye flour.

Keep a look out for Heritage Harvest’s website, John is an excellent supplier of flour to anyone who enjoys baking real bread!

To find out more about the Princes Countryside Fund and how you could help please click here.

In the pictures below John is weeding the borders of the fields with a scythe, he does use motor driven vehicles for sowing and harvesting but enjoys using traditional tools where he can. I was given the opportunity to have a go with the scythe and lets just say I will stick to using a camera!

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