Sustain / Real Bread Campaign / Articles

Let’s make Britain grain again!

A snapshot of the UK and Ireland’s non-commodity grain networks.

East Anglian Grain Alliance gathering at e5 Bakehouse, March 2022. Credit: Chris Young / CC-BY-SA-4.0

East Anglian Grain Alliance gathering at e5 Bakehouse, March 2022. Credit: Chris Young / CC-BY-SA-4.0

A growing number of people in (and beyond) the Real Bread Campaign’s network are taking an active interest in the ‘what, why, where and how’ of not only breadmaking but also right back along the grain chain, to before the seed is even planted. 

Around the UK and Ireland, researchers, plant breeders, farmers, millers, bakers, brewers, cooks, activists and other grainiacs are coalescing into grassroots groups. Participants tend to focus on ways of working that improve: environmental effects of farming; health and nutrition; social and economic benefits; and flavour. This very much echoes the Campaign’s ‘better for us, our communities and our planet’ mission.

Interests and priorities vary between groups but typically include some combination of heritage varieties, mixed populations, agroecological farming, resilience in the face of the climate emergency, stone milling, wholemeal flours and sourdough bread making. In the non-commodity grain world, community, democracy and sovereignty are not mere buzzwords: this is all done for and by the people.

Cross pollination

Everyone’s involvement in the networks is on a voluntary basis. As such, their time to run websites, organise and advertise events, answer emails and so on is very limited. We offer the networks our help to promote and support their aims and activities and are always keen to explore opportunities for working more closely together.

Who’s doing what where?

While organisations (including the Campaign, The Gaia Foundation’s Seed Sovereignty Programme and UK Grain Lab) operate at a national level, here are some of the regional networks, which are at different stages of development. 

Common Grains Scotland
‘A community of crofters, farmers, millers, brewers, bakers, scientists and grain enthusiasts working together to develop localised grain and food networks.’
Email to be added to mailing list for updates.

Cotswolds Grain Network
‘Delineating grain in the Cotswolds. Growing genetically diverse, non-commodity grain for milling, brewing, baking and eating locally.’ 
Contact by email

East Anglian Grain Alliance
‘A community of farmers, millers, bakers, researchers, writers and eaters working together to create resilient and localised grain and food networks. Join us for occasional farm, mill and bakery visits as well as workshops and discussions.’
Contact by email

East Midlands Grain Network
'Operates as a hub for growers, millers and bakers working in the counties of Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire. The aim is to help coordinate the availability of grain and seed through information sharing and cooperation, both within the region and through collaboration with other regional networks.' 
(Currently communicates mainly through a WhatsApp group, rather than a website or social media accounts.)
Email John Turner

Irish Grain Network 
‘We are a not-for-profit group supporting people and businesses within Ireland taking action to develop a diverse and improved Irish grain economy. With a focus on the future challenges of climate change and food security, we aim to build a strong network of plant experts, growers, farmers, millers, bakers, brewers and retailers through increased connection, collaboration and knowledge sharing.’ 
Email Isabel Kelly and Grace Maher

South East Grain Alliance 
‘Founded in August 2020 to promote the use of cereal alternatives to modern commodified wheat and to create local supply chains and relationships for these between farmers, bakers and millers of south east England including south London. SEGA organises regular socials, meetings, crop tours and tastings for its members.’ 
Email Andy Forbes

South West Grain Network
‘An alternative, human-scale, non-commodity grain economy.’
Contact by email or email Fred Price

Welsh Grain Forum / Fforwm Grawn Cymru
‘A community of growers, millers, bakers, maltsters, brewers, thatchers, researchers and friends who recognise the economic, environmental, nutritional and cultural benefits of developing a thriving regional grain economy and are committed to using and promoting Welsh grain.’ 
Email Anne Parry

West Midlands Grain Network
‘A West Midlands community network of grain enthusiasts, farmers, millers, bakers and brewers interested in a local heritage grain economy.’
Contact: via Instagram

Yorkshire Grain Alliance
'A growing initiative formed around a dedicated group of farmers, bakers, millers, traders, researchers, and community members united in their mission to transform the way we produce and access grains. Over the last few years, the alliance has been championing mutual learning, understanding and nourishment, from the fields to the oven. Our members aim to empower people across the food system by building a strong networks that fosters collaboration and support. The group is passionate about sharing knowledge and experience on cultivating and utilising diverse grains, especially in Yorkshire and neighbouring regions, which offer benefits for both people and the planet.'
Email: Ulrike Ehgartner

For more about who’s up to what and where, check out the Britain and Ireland Community Grain Associations (BICGA) map, created by The Brockwell Bake Association’s Andy Forbes.

Add an installment to our cereal serial
Want to write an article focussing on one of the above, or another local/regional non-commodity grain network - in the UK or elsewhere? Click for information.

See also

Published Monday 1 July 2024

Real Bread Campaign: The Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. Whether your interest is local food, community-focussed small enterprises, honest labelling, therapeutic baking, or simply tasty toast, everyone is invited to become a Campaign supporter.

Support our charity

Your donation will help support the spread of baking skills and access to real bread.


Ways to support our charity’s work

Join today Buy gifts Make a doughnation The Loaf Mark

Real Bread Campaign
C/o Sustain
The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA

The Real Bread Campaign is a project of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.

© Sustain 2024
Registered charity (no. 1018643)
Data privacy & cookies


Real Bread Campaign