Oxford Local Bread

The website for the Oxford Bread Group


Monsanto, Dow stack up the genes

Posted by admin on July 30th, 2009

GM crops keep marching on (sadly). An interesting article by Stephen Leahy:

BERLIN – The most complex genetically engineered corn (maize) yet has been approved for use next year in Canada and the United States without its potential health and environmental risks being investigated, anti-biotech activists claim.

Neither US nor Canadian health officials have assessed the human health safety of Monsanto’s and Dow AgroSciences’ new “SmartStax” genetically engineered (GE) corn with eight novel genes inserted into corn DNA, said the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), an non-governmental organization based in Ottawa, Canada.

“Health Canada did not conduct or require any testing for this new eight-trait GE [also called genetically modified, GM or GMO] corn and did not even officially authorize it for release into the food system,” said Lucy Sharratt, CBAN’s coordinator. Health Canada is the federal department responsible for “helping Canadians maintain and improve their health”, according to its web site.

“People will be eating corn with eight novel traits without any assessment of the

According to Sharratt, Canadian regulators did not do health or environmental risk assessments simply because the novel traits had been approved on an individual basis previously. Even though this is the first time a corn variety combines all of these, it gets a free pass by regulators.

“It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of basic biology and the complexity of biotechnology,” she said. It also points to a fundamental flaw in the Canadian regulatory system.

“Health Canada has entirely abdicated its responsibility and just shrugged off the potential health risks of eating eight GE traits in one corn flake,” she said.

SmartStax combines or “stacks” previously approved GE traits of herbicide tolerance [Roundup and glufosinate herbicides] and insect resistance into one seed variety for the first time, providing the most comprehensive insect and weed control, according to a Monsanto press release.

The new GE corn is the result of a collaboration between Monsanto Company and Dow AgroSciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company.

“This is a key early step in our commitment to helping farmers sustainably double yields by 2030 to meet the increasing demands for grain for food, feed and fuel,” said Robb Fraley, Monsanto chief technology officer and executive vice president, in a statement.

Next year’s “product launch would represent the largest introduction of a corn biotech seed product in the history of agriculture”, the company claims. Up to 1.6 million hectares could be planted with SmartStax seed in Canada and the US in 2010.

CBAN said Canada immediately withdraw last week’s authorization to sell the new GE seed because safety assessments of multi-trait crops are part of the guidelines adopted by the Codex Alimentarius – a United Nations body that develops food safety guidelines.

“Combining many GE traits together can give rise to unintended effects which could adversely affect health, such as creating new allergies or toxins, or exacerbating existing allergies,” said Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union, a US-based NGO and leading global expert on the potential health risks of GE.

“This GE crop should have gone through a new safety assessment, as recommended by Codex,” Hansen said in an interview.

However, US regulations do not require any health and safety assessments because GE crops are considered the same as regular crops, even when novel traits are combined, he said. “The Food and Drug Administration didn’t even take the slightest look at SmartStax,” Hansen said.

Any studies on safety and nutrition done by Monsanto and Dow do not have to be made public or shown to regulators, who are entitled only to a summary. Moreover, no independent studies can be done without the companies’ permission. “It is illegal for a farmer to give researchers seeds to test without the companies’ permission,” he said.

There have been studies on various GE foods. In May, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), a US-based international association of physicians, called for an immediate moratorium on genetically modified foods, saying they pose a “serious health risk”.

The AAEM position paper concluded “there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects” and that “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health”.

“Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients’ and the public’s health,” said Dr Amy Dean, a board member of AAEM.

Moreover, under international trade rules, the lack of a new safety assessment for this GE corn means that other countries could reject SmartStax without running afoul of World Trade Organization rules, Hansen told IPS.

Nor does there appear to have been an environmental risk assessment done by Canadian regulators. “This seems to confirm that the corn bypassed existing scientific assessment processes that have already been judged insufficient by the 2001 Royal Society of Canada Panel,” said Sharratt.

The Royal Society of Canada formed an independent panel of scientists to evaluate the regulation and safety of these new GE food products in the country’s first-ever independent assessment.

Five years after GE crops and foods were widely available in Canada, the 2001 report from the panel slammed government regulators at Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) who allowed GE crops to be grown.

Little has changed since then and the CFIA has failed to explain its decision not to require environmental risk assessments for SmartStax, said Sharratt.

“This scandal exposes the deepest and most dangerous nonchalance of Health Canada towards the risks of GE foods and the safety of Canadians, said Sharratt.

(Inter Press Service)

Cornfields Bakery in pictures

Posted by admin on June 29th, 2009

The other weekend I managed to take some great bread photos at the Cornfields Bakery in Wheatley. Glorious crusty, crunchy, wholesome bread baked on the premises. Great to living so close to all this goodness!




First time bread baking

Posted by admin on June 24th, 2009

Just as an encouragement to those who want to give baking their own fresh bread. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s baker friend leads the show with a plucky volunteer as pupil.

See more of this collection on my flickr pages!

The world according to Monsanto

Posted by admin on June 24th, 2009

Or the proper title: Controlling our food

A very education, though also shocking video.

On March 11 a new documentary was aired on French television – a documentary that Americans won’t ever see. The gigantic bio-tech corporation Monsanto is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity which has served mankind for thousands of years.

Bread Heroes

Posted by admin on June 12th, 2009

Published on sustainweb.org: The Real Bread Campaign talks to John Letts of the Oxford Bread Group about his quest for a truly local loaf.

Q) How does Oxford Bread Group work?
A) I grow the wheat and Geoff Coleman makes the bread twice a week at the Cornfield Bakery, which is only a couple of miles from where the wheat is grown. We have a subscription scheme, and our customers pay for each month’s order in advance. The bread is then delivered to local ‘hubs’, from which people collect their loaves. The subscription scheme overcomes the cash flow problem that many small businesses face and also eliminates food waste, as we only bake what has been ordered.

Q) What are your aims?
A) To shorten the grain chain and give the people of Oxford bread made from organic grain that is grown, milled and baked locally. As we get more subscribers, we hope to enlist more farmers to grow the grain and more bakers to bake the bread.

Q) What are the main obstacles you have faced?
A) Finding local farmers who will grow small quantities (eg. 10 acres) of grain on contract for a reasonable price; securing minimal funding to cover basic expenses to run the project; setting up the ‘local hubs’ where members can collect their bread; and finding a professional, local baker willing to bake the loaf.

Our miller is a little further than we’d like, but the addition to our carbon footprint is minimal, and he’s supported our project from the beginning and is happy to mill the small quantities we need. As the group grows, and has more wheat to mill, we also hope to use millers who are closer to us. 
Q) We understand that you are using heritage varieties of grain in your bread – tell us a little about these and why you are using them. 
A) We’ve developed a new Oxford landrace of ancient wheat varieties that is well adapted to local growing conditions. Our winter wheat mix contains at least 150 different varieties, all growing in one field as in the days before modern scientific plant breeding.

Older varieties of wheat are lower yielding, but they are also hardier, and produce grain with good gluten content as well as tall, strong straw perfect for use as thatch. They also grow better and are more reliable than modern varieties in low input/organic conditions. The biodiversity of our fields helps keep them free of disease, and the tall stems and large leaves helps choke out weeds.

Q) What types of bread do you produce?
At the present time we produce only one kind of bread – a traditional, long (4 hour) ferment, hand-moulded loaf that is made from our wholesome white flour. This loaf is raised primarily with a slow-acting yeast along with a small amount of rye sourdough starter.

Q) Where can people buy OBG bread?
A) Currently, our customers join one of our local hubs, from which they collect the bread. We also bake to order for special events and restaurants. We hope to supply select local shops for over-the-counter sales within a few months.

Q) How much is a loaf?
A) We are running this as a ‘not for profit’ scheme, and have to charge £2.50 per loaf to cover our costs. Members order at least one loaf a week and pay for their bread quarterly, in advance.

Q) What has the response been to your bread so far? 
A) We’ve had a fantastic response. Everyone loves the bread. We launched the project in early April and are already selling over 100 loaves a week. Many members have told us that our bread tastes like the delicious, Real Bread they have eaten on the continent. Many members with gluten intolerance have also found that they can eat our bread without getting ill.

Q) What advice would you give to others interested in starting a scheme like yours? 
A) Don’t believe what most professional agronomists tell you about how to grow organic wheat! Grow older varieties and ideally mixtures of older varieties, in organic/low input conditions to produce high quality local grain. Make sure you find a committed baker and farmer before you start the project. And try to get a small grant to cover your administration costs, as setting up a project like this requires a lot of time and some funding.

To join an existing Oxford Bread Group hub, set up a new one, or find more information, visithttp://www.oxfordlocalbread.org/ or email [email protected].

Twitter your bread

Posted by admin on June 10th, 2009

This is an amusing concept I stumbled upon, in which a bakery offer a twitter service, informing you when your buns are ready. Do you think it’ll take off? Let us know, and we might just…



Twitter your bread


Bakers at work

Posted by admin on May 26th, 2009

These are just some photos I took the other day of bakers busy at work at the Cornfield bakery in Wheatley, where they produce a local bread made from the organically grown wheat harvested in Oxfordshire fields.





Seeds of Truth

Posted by admin on May 11th, 2009

This is a very interesting article on how the bio-tech corporations are in danger of dominating our food supplies of the future. Time to go organic I think…

Writen by Sheila Stuff

I have learned over the past decade if I want to know what’s really going on in the United States, I have to cruise through the foreign media to see what’s creating a furor or causing a stink. So, while searching for the status of Spain’s on-again, off-again criminal proceedings against six Bush Administration war criminals, thisheadline in Der Spiegel caught my eye — “Frankenfood Ban is Neither Populism nor Panic-Mongering.”

A closer look at the article revealed it wasn’t a Norm Coleman ploy to get folks in Minnesota to quit eating burgers and fries, nor a menu for the genetically obscene monster in Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein,” but an announcement by Germany’s Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner that Germany is banning the cultivation of MON 810, a genetically modified (GM) corn produced by US biotech giant Monsanto.

The GM Monster

It appears that MON 810 is also believed to be the “Frankenstein” of GM crops by at least five other European countries — France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg — all of whom have banned its use. MON 810 was approved by the European Union in 1998, and was the only GM crop approved for cultivation in Germany. Aigner said she had legitimate reasons to believe that the genetically modified Monsanto seed “presents a danger to the environment.” The plant produces a toxin that not only destroys the larvae of the corn borer moth, but other, beneficial, insects as well.

Andreas Thierfelder, spokesman for Monsanto Germany, responded that Monsanto would decide “as quickly as possible” whether to take legal proceedings. She said the “matter was very urgent as the planting season was about to start.” Just how urgent was evident days later when Monsanto filed a lawsuit against the German government, claiming that its ban on MON 810 is arbitrary and contravenes EU rules. Although Monsanto sued France in an effort to overturn its ban on genetically modified corn, and lost that battle in March when France’s highest court ruled that the corn “may” harm the environment and wildlife, the German government is justifiably edgy, as it must prove conclusively to the German court that MON 810 damages the environment.

But the feeder GM corn is just one tiny blip on the Frankenfood radar. And, it’s not just Europeans who should worry. As Jim Hightower,former two-time Texas agriculture commissioner warned way back in June 2004…

“For some time, the likes of Monsanto have had their white-smocked engineers tinkering merrily and dangerously with the very DNA of food, genetically modifying the natural composition of things like potatoes so they contain a pesticide in every one of their cells, or altering rice so it contains a diarrhea drug in every bite. This is no mere lab experiment, for unbeknownst to the vast majority of Americans, Monsanto and a handful of other global biotech giants have quietly spread the seeds of these genetically altered Frankenfoods to so many farms over the past decade that about a third of the foods on U.S. supermarket shelves now contain organisms with tampered DNA — everything from baby food and milk to products made with soybean and corn. Thanks to well-placed campaign donations and powerhouse lobbying, this infiltration of our food supply has been done with practically no consumer awareness, since both Bill Clinton’s and George W’s administrations have let these foodstuffs be sold in America without so much as a label on them to tell us that we’re buying something that our families might prefer to avoid.”

Kinda ruins the appetite, doesn’t it? Not just the fact that Monsanto has infiltrated the bulk of our food chain, but that it clearly believes it has the right to do so with or without our knowledge. It has fought oversight, regulation, labeling and scientific research for years. The arrogance with which multinational biotech corporations such as Monsanto are disrupting and modifying life’s natural genetic order — from seeds to food to animals to humans to the environment — is creepy. The Almighty must surely be watching in slack-jawed amazement.

The Profit Plan

These giants are “chemical” corporations, and one of their goals is to create seeds that will withstand more (and more and more) of their herbicides. Monsanto, which gave us the deadly Agent Orange and the toxic weed killer Roundup, is not alone in its quest to manipulate, or to control the world’s order. Germany’s chemical giant Bayer, well known for its popular and effective Bayer aspirin, and for Alleve and Alka Seltzer, was the first to introduce heroin as well as mustard gas, and produces a series of neonicotinoids — insecticides that attack the central nervous systems of insects, such as bees. Other mega-corporations dealing in both pharmaceuticals and pesticides, to name a few, are Merck, Dupont, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta — but Monsanto has been around for more than a century, produces 90-percent of genetically modified seed — and has many friends in high places. Many high places.

Last year, Vanity Fair’s Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele teamed up to present a well-researched background article, ”Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear,” wherein they listed some, but not all, of these friends…

(…) Monsanto has long been wired into Washington. Michael R. Taylor was a staff attorney and executive assistant to the F.D.A. commissioner before joining a law firm in Washington in 1981, where he worked to secure F.D.A. approval of Monsanto’s artificial growth hormone before returning to the F.D.A. as deputy commissioner in 1991. Dr. Michael A. Friedman, formerly the F.D.A.’s deputy commissioner for operations, joined Monsanto in 1999 as a senior vice president. Linda J. Fisher was an assistant administrator at the E.P.A. when she left the agency in 1993. She became a vice president of Monsanto, from 1995 to 2000, only to return to the E.P.A. as deputy administrator the next year. William D. Ruckelshaus, former E.P.A. administrator, and Mickey Kantor, former U.S. trade representative, each served on Monsanto’s board after leaving government. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was an attorney in Monsanto’s corporate-law department in the 1970s. He wrote the Supreme Court opinion in a crucial G.M.-seed patent-rights case in 2001 that benefited Monsanto and all G.M.-seed companies. Donald Rumsfeld never served on the board or held any office at Monsanto, but Monsanto must occupy a soft spot in the heart of the former defense secretary. Rumsfeld was chairman and C.E.O. of the pharmaceutical maker G. D. Searle & Co. when Monsanto acquired Searle in 1985, after Searle had experienced difficulty in finding a buyer. Rumsfeld’s stock and options in Searle were valued at $12 million at the time of the sale.

Bartlett and Steele go into some detail about the lengths Monsanto will go to protect its patent rights, not only against GM or GE (genetically engineered) farmers, but organic farmers as well. They write…

Monsanto goes after farmers, farmers’ co-ops, seed dealers — anyone it suspects may have infringed its patents of genetically modified seeds. As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records.

Once you opt to buy Monsanto seeds, you are no longer a farmer, you’re a “grower” — a serf — and you must sign aTechnology/Stewardship Agreement wherein you agree, among many other restrictions, to use Monsanto seed for planting only a single commercial crop…not to sell or give seeds to any other person for planting…to pay annual technology fees (in addition to the price of the seed) due Monsanto…to turn over your records and receipts anytime Monsanto asks for them. In short, you sign your life — and your livelihood — over when you become a “grower.” And, if you’re ever taken to court (and it’s likely you could be), and you lose (and it’s likely you will) — you will find you agreed to pay Monsanto and its attorney fees and all related court costs.

The End Game

This goes way beyond garnering profits for agriculture conglomerates such as Monsanto. It is about disrupting the natural order of life — whether plant or animal. And, for those orchestrating this havoc, it is about control. As Henry Kissinger once said matter-of-factly, “If you control the oil you control the country; if you control food, you control the population.” Kissinger has long been obsessed with two things –depopulating the world and establishing a New World Order.

What better way to control the food than to ban seed saving — what better weapon is there to use against starving populations than food? The answer is laid out in detail in F. William Engdahl’s November 2007critical book about genetic manipulation, “Seeds of Destruction.” Engdahl is no conspiracy theorist. He is a leading researcher as well as an economist and an associate and regular contributor for the Centre for Research on Globalization.

In his extensive three-part review of “Seeds,” investigative journalist Stephen Lendman reveals “… the diabolical story of how Washington and four Anglo-American agribusiness giants plan world domination by patenting life forms to gain worldwide control of our food supply and why that prospect is chilling.”

Lendman reminds us that Kissinger has been both at the forefront and behind the scenes since the 1960s when, as Engdahl wrote, “the Rockefellers were at the power center of the US establishment (and) Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (was) their hand-picked protege.” Kissinger was there as Nixon’s Secretary of State in 1973 when the food crisis hit and, as Engdahl said, he decided US agricultural policy was “too important to be left in the hands of the Agricultural Department so he took control of it himself.” Even back then, Kissinger’s goal was to go global and seize control of the agricultural food market. Kissinger’s “food diplomacy” was to use food to “reward friends and punish enemies.”

Lendman writes, “Food is power. When used to cull the population, it’s a weapon of mass destruction.” He says “One way or another, the Rockefeller Foundation aims to reduce population through human reproduction by spreading GMO seeds.” And the “world’s number one” in patenting seeds is Monsanto. He explains…

Like it or not, they’re advancing their agenda, and a 2004 Rockefeller Foundation report shows it. GM crop production achieved nine consecutie double digit year increases since 1996. More than eight million farmers in 17 countries now plant them, over 90% in developing nations. Far and away, the US is the world’s leader “with aggressive Government promotion, absence of labeling, and the domination of US farm production.” Here, “genetically engineered crops (have) essentially taken over the American food chain.” In 2004, over 85% of soybeans were genetically modified, 45% of corn, and since animal feed is mainly from these crops “the entire meat production of the nation (and exports) has been fed on genetically modified animal feed.” What animals eat, so do humans.

According to Engdahl, agribusiness giants, aided by the Rockefeller Foundation, the US government and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are progressing relentlessly toward the second pillar of Kissinger’s end game — controlling food to control (and expunge) populations of lesser nations. In December 2007, Engdahl sounded the alarm about yet another seed venture (adventure?), “Doomsday Seed Vault in the Arctic,” a steel-reinforced concrete seed bank built deep inside a mountain on the remote Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. This “program” is funded by the Rockefellers, by such seed giants as Syngenta and Monsanto — and by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who knows a bit about monopoly.

The Way Out

Engdahl says that, since 2007, Monsanto and the US Government together hold the patent for a commercial seed called “Terminator,” designed to commit suicide after just one harvest, and farmers will be forced to return to Monsanto or other seed giants to purchase new seeds each year for crops needed to feed their populations. He said if they’re allowed to continue their reckless pursuit of power, in a decade or so, the small farmer will be but a memory and the majority of the world’s food producers would be little more than feudal serfs in bondage to three or four giant seed corporations. “Those who say ‘it can’t happen here’ should look more closely at current global events,” he wrote. “The mere existence of that concentration of power in three or four private US-based agribusiness giants is grounds for legally banning all GMO crops even were their harvent gains real, which they manifestly are not.”

The good news is that Europe is fighting back against being forced to plant genetically manipulated seeds for plants and food. Countries like Austria and Denmark, France — and now Germany — are standing up, and standing together, to ban biotech products. As is always the case, when those who lust for power and control concoct their grand schemes, they fail to factor in the human response. Lendman says public opinion throughout Europe is strongly opposed to GMO foods and ingredients. He writes…

Several EU countries, including France, Germany, Austria and Denmark, even ban some EU-approved biotech products to further cloud the outlook. Polls show why, with European public opinion strongly opposed to GMO foods and ingredients, with hostility levels in France as high as 89% and 79% wanting governments to ban them. This shows European consumers are far ahead of Americans and much better protected (so far) by their overall exclusion as well as having labeling requirements for those allowed to be sold. That provision is crucial as it empowers consumers to use or avoid eating these foods. If enough people abstain, food outlets won’t carry them.

It’s not that Americans don’t care that the Rockefeller-Gates-Monsanto plan to solve world hunger is but a ghastly scheme to cull the population of its nonproductive bottom-feeders. Thanks to conspiratorial US media, most of us are either blissfully unaware or are unable to make a sound because, as Hightower said, our “Congress and the White House (and the media) have Monsanto checks stuffed in their ears.”

The way out is to become informed — and just say no to having unlabeled, untested products crammed down our throats. If we do nothing, we will reap what we sow. We will, as Charles Galton Darwin, grandson of evolutionist Charles Darwin, wrote in his 1952″The Next Million Years,” be condemned to the status of workers in a beehive.

We must stand up and support Europe’s attempt to organize a ban on genetically modified crops and food. It is the way — the only way — out of this mess. Lendman, who maintains “the stakes are much too high — human health and safety must never be compromised for profit,” suggests that we read Engdahl’s book, which is a “wake-up call” for all of us.

I suggest we start by reading Lendman’s review of that book, which is a much louder wake-up call.

Enjoy bread as it used to be baked

Posted by admin on May 5th, 2009

An article posted by the Oxford Times

By Helen Peacocke

An enthusiastic group of Oxfordshire foodies aim to turn over a few new loaves in 2009. They are rebelling against today’s chemical-enhanced mass- produced bread. Bread created from flour milled from a mix of ancient cereal varieties grown organically in the Chilterns, will play an important role in their diet from now on.

The coalition of consumers, bakers and campaigners launched their Real Bread Campaign in Oxford, when they met late last year at The Vaults & Garden Café to discuss ways of encouraging us all to eat real bread and so challenge the giant baking companies that dominate the modern bread market. The Oxford Bread Group will be run by volunteers on a non-profit basis.

Those attending the first meeting included Andrew Whitely, the founder of the Village Bakery in Melmerby, Cumbria, and author of the book Bread Matters. After many years as a full-time artisan baker and respected food writer, he wants to spread the word and encourage us all to make our own bread, or at least buy and eat the real thing. Andrew launched the Real Bread initiative nationally, in hope that it would be taken up around the country. He sped to Oxford straight from London, having launched his Real Bread Campaign there.

Others in the new group, who also wish to rebel against the bread sold today, included Colin Tudge, biologist and author of Feeding People is Easy and John Letts, an archaeobotanist and wheat grower. They too had much to say about modern bread.

Andrew’s main argument is that most people would be horrified if they found out what was actually in their daily bread.

He said: “Bread should be the staff of life, but the label on the average loaf reads more like a recipe for a scientific experiment than the ingredients of a staple food.

Andrew pointed out that traditional dough was left to ferment for many hours in order to develop its flavour and improve its texture and nutritional qualities, but modern supermarket bread is no longer made in the traditional way.

The Oxford Bread Group’s literature points out that instead of allowing bread time to prove and develop naturally, flour used for mass-produced bread is mixed with a host of chemical additives, flour improvers and processing aids. It is also injected with air, extruded into loaf shapes and then baked to produce a facsimile of real bread.

Supermarket bread also contains chemical enzymes that are added to soften the bread and extend its shelf life.

The group accepts that we don’t all have time to make our own bread, which is why they have come up with an interesting alternative. They plan to produce and distribute loaves baked by master baker Geoff Coleman of the Cornfield Bakery, Wheatley, using a traditional, long-ferment process that allows the loaf to rise slowly and develop its flavours naturally. But that’s not all. This bread will not be baked from any old flour. They plan to use stone ground Heritage Flour milled from a mix of ancient cereal varieties grown organically in the Chilterns. The wheat varieties that go into the flour have been grown by John Letts. It has taken John more than ten years to be able to harvest enough wheat to make this a viable project.

It all began when he recovered a small amount of medieval grain remaining in the thatch while he was inspecting old roofs. He took the grains to the Gene Centre in Norwich to search for contemporary equivalents he could grow to raise more seeds. It’s been a long haul, but he has finally reached his goal.

He began with just 25 seeds from the seed bank. It proved a slow process, but he now has enough to bring in a good harvest and supply him with sufficient seeds for next year’s planting.

John explained that modern wheat varieties were genetically uniform and produced bumper crops of high-protein grain only when grown with chemical fertilisers, herbicides and fungicides, whereas the heritage grains produced a reliable and sustainable yield of high quality grain in low-input growing conditions.

He insists on having the wheat stone-ground as modern milling takes so much of the goodness out of grain that chalk, iron and B Vitamins have to be added to most flour by law, but even then many vital elements are still missing from refined flour.

Another advantage of using a blend of old varieties of wheat is that it’s genetically diverse, with between 150 and 200 types of wheat in one field compared to the mono cultures of a standard crop.

The group aims to start small, with about 75 households paying in advance to get one loaf of bread a week. They will use existing distribution networks such as vegetable box schemes and farmers’ markets to minimise distribution costs.
The Oxford Bread Group is essentially a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme that will form a direct link between producers and consumers. They also hope it will create a new community of consumers who are dedicated to supporting local producers. Their plan is that it will evolve into a community enterprise, delivering bread and eventually flour and other cereal-based products to local communities through select shops, food co-ops, schools, community cafes and lunch clubs. They also want to develop an educational outreach project.

In fact they have so many exciting plans for 2009, they are convinced this is going to be a year to remember. The group plans to distribute the first of their loaves on Thursday, January 15. If you would like to join the group, you can make contact on [email protected]


The Oxford Bread Group

Posted by admin on April 26th, 2009

This article appeared recently on the BBC Oxford site:

The government is attempting to making radical reductions to our carbon emissions by 2050 and if they hope to achieve this they will have to work out how they can limit the impact the agricultural sector has on the nation’s footprint.


One possible solution is being worked out by a group working to produce a local loaf of bread.  The idea is to grow good quality wheat locally, have it milled as locally as possible and then bake it, you guessed it, locally. It’s all about connecting the producer to the consumer. 

John Letts is a wheat-grower who points out that although you can currently buy locally produced bread the flour is almost always imported from places like Canada or Argentina. He says, “the hope is that by growing flour locally it will reduce the carbon footprint.”

And his flour isn’t made from any old seed. “It has been ten years in the making. It is a blend of wheat with some ancient varieties from all over the world with an eye to producing good quality thatching straw as well as top quality grain for making bread.”

The advantage of using a blend of old varieties of wheat is that it is genetically diverse with between 150 – 200 different types of wheat in one field compared to the mono cultures of a standard crop. This buffers the crop from the adverse conditions that farmers increasingly face.

BBC Oxford will be following this experiment by the Oxford Bread Group from planting to production to see if it could really be the start of the renaissance in farming it hopes to be.