Brixton millers at Farmerama CEREAL celebrations

Ann Bodkin reports on a series of podcasts looking at modern methods of bread production.

Two of Brixton Windmill’s volunteer millers, Abi Holsborough and myself, were part of a discussion panel at the launch of the CEREAL series of podcasts produced by Farmerama Radio at the end of 2019.

The six CEREAL podcasts looked at how the needs of industrial production have come to dictate the way that seeds are bred, grain is grown, flour is milled, and bread is baked and eaten.

Around 100 people gathered at e5 Bakehouse, Hackney, for the first of the CEREAL celebrations with talks and food to share.  The audience was from farming backgrounds, some from food industry, some with no prior knowledge, but all wanting to learn from each other and talk about the future of the grain system.

Standing room only at e5 Bakehouse for CEREAL talks (image by Ann Bodkin)

A physical connection with the grain 

The question put to the panel was “Can we feed our local population?” What a great question for our time.

Abi and I talked about our love of milling, and why the roots of food issues of 1816, the year Brixton Windmill was built, still resonate today. As millers, we see our contribution to the grain system as being rooted in our connectedness.

farmerama panel

CEREAL panel: Abi Holsborough (miller at Brixton Windmill),
John Letts (organic farmer & heritage grain revolutionary),
Isabel Kelly (co-director PX+ festival & co-organiser UK Grain Lab),
Ben MacKinnon (baker & founder of e5 Bakehouse)  and
Ann Bodkin (miller at Brixton Windmill)
listening to host Abby Rose (farmer, physicist, co-founder of Farmerama Radio)
(image by Cassie Robinson)

When milling, we use “the rule of thumb” as the grain is ground and swept out from the millstones by the paddle. We feel if it’s the right texture, then adjust the stones if needs be for a coarser or finer flour. Then we set the stone to mill the rest of the 25kg of grain.

It’s a real joy, as it’s a tactile skill where you have to use your sense of judgement.

Who do the millers connect with?

As volunteers, we love the connection with each other and being part of the working windmill. Here’s more from miller Sheila.

We also connect with local retailers who sell our flour (check if they are open at the moment!) and professional and home bakers who buy our flour.

We support the Real Bread Campaign and the great work they do to promote Real Bread.

Future connections

We loved making new connections and friends at the CEREAL event. When the time is right, we’ll take up the offer of visits to the wheat farms, and we’re excited to be contributing to UK Grain Lab in November 2020 (fingers crossed).

farmerama panel

Abi and John take to the mic (image by Ann Bodkin)

It’s always good to continue a post-party conversation, and Twitter gave us the opportunity to engage with the greats of our grain system – for example, Hodmedod’s and all those who continue to ask similar questions.

So can Brixton Windmill feed its local population?

With a quick bit of maths, we worked out that in order to feed Lambeth’s population with a daily loaf, we’d need to increase our current weekly milling production from 25kg of grain to over 1million kg! Anyone for a spot of milling? 😊

Even if we’re some way off this, we hope we’ve prompted you to ask yourself about your food, where it comes from and how it gets to you.





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