At the start of lockdown, as supermarket shelves were cleared of flour, people who might not otherwise have thought to seek out a local bakery – let alone a local mill – started to do just that. In this episode, we’ll hear about how this sudden upsurge in demand presented a huge challenge for these small-scale bakers and millers – but it was a challenge they met with enthusiasm and ingenuity, as well as a deep sense of responsibility to their communities.
At one time, pretty much every town and village had its own flour mill, driven by wind or water. Today, across the whole of London, just one working windmill remains – Brixton Windmill. It’s a unique heritage site with a rich educational programme. But as lockdown began, the mill became much more than a historic curiosity – and its volunteers found themselves providing a vital service to the local community. Meanwhile, bakers across the country, from the city of Bristol to the highlands of Scotland, were baking nourishing loaves for the people who needed them most.
These bakers and millers, many of whom have spent the last few years investigating the connections between the bread, the mills, the farms that produce the grain, and, crucially, the soil in which that grain grows, are engaged in building a better system – one that looks very different to the one that produces most of the bread we eat in the UK today. When inflexible, centralised supermarket supply chains buckled, join us to learn how they were able to carry on producing flour, baking bread and feeding people – thanks to the localised, adaptable, human-scale infrastructure they’re part of.
How can we grow that infrastructure? How can we all become part of a more resilient, equitable, efficient and enjoyable bread system? How can we help local millers stock local takeaways with bread baked with their flour? How can we help people to understand that, if they care about good bread, they also have to care about healthy soil? And how can we make sure that we celebrate everyone involved in making our bread – and that we listen to what they have to say?
We hear from Abigail Holsborough, head miller at Brixton Windmill in central London, who found themself providing a vital service to the local community as flour stocks ran low. We meet Rosy Benson, a Bristol-based baker who started a bakery called Bread and Roses to provide nourishing loaves to the people who needed them most. Up in Scotland, we hear from another baker named Rosie–Rosie Gray–who moved to a small village in the Highlands, just before the first lock-down, to set up Reviving Foods, a bakery in a converted horse-box.
This episode of Who Feeds Us? was produced by Dave Pickering. The executive producers were Jo Barratt, Abby Rose and Katie Revell. Thank you to Rosy Benson, Rosie Gray and Abigail Holsborough for sharing their experiences. For this episode, the community collaborators who unearthed the stories were Col Gordon and Cathy St Germans. The project Manager for Who Feeds Us? is Olivia Oldham. Our artwork is by Hannah Grace, and the original music for the series is by Michael O’Neil.
Who Feeds Us? is possible thanks to the Farming the Future COVID Response Fund. We’re very grateful to The A Team Foundation, the Roddick Foundation, Thirty Percy and the Samworth Foundation for providing the funds to make this project happen. Many thanks also to Farming the Future Advisor Dee Woods for her guidance in bringing the team together.