Brixton millers connected 2022
Ann Bodkin, miller at Brixton Windmill, reports on projects across the year.
In 2019, we started the conversation on playing a part in today’s grain system, in Brixton Millers at Farmerama CEREAL celebrations.
As part of the windmill’s living heritage, our contribution today is rooted in our connectedness. We recognise the importance of working together, and with others, on projects across the year, in addition to the open days and events at the windmill. In 2022 we have taken part in projects, including:
- Co-hosted the Southeast grain alliance (SEGA) winter meet, welcoming SEGA members of farmers, millers, and bakers to Brixton Windmill Centre
- Sowed April Bearded spring wheat, with Jo Kidd on her farm Tree of Life Veganics, Faversham, Kent
- Joined the UK Grain Lab 2022, the international gathering of farmers, millers, plant breeders, bakers, cooks, scientists, and academics, promoting the growing and eating of non-commodity grains in the UK.
South East Grain Alliance (SEGA) winter meet at Brixton Windmill Centre
Jean Kerrigan, Abel Holsborough and Ann Bodkin welcomed fellow South East Grain Alliance (SEGA) members, with a room packed of farmers, bakers, millers, food writers and friends, interested in working together at the SEGA winter meet.
Tours of the windmill, were followed by a delicious lunch and talks from Jean, Abel, and Andy Forbes, Brockwell Bake, South East Grain Alliance co-ordinator. We heard about the historic roots of the international heritage wheat movement, recognising the value in the growers’ knowledge of their place, soil, and climate. Today, those values resonate even more, with heritage grain offering farmers yields and resilience to the impacts of changes in climate and minimising the use of chemicals. Wheat ‘populations’ were the talk in the room, offering a balance of taste, nutrition, and price, key interests of the bakers, alongside the growing interest in plant diversity.
The gathering weathered the storm, and moved across town to the culinary delights of Bermondsey Spa, to hear from the farmers on how they are changing their methods of production, in response to advancing a more diverse and resilient UK-based grain economy. Thanks for the rich and varied contributions, and the welcome pizza supper made next door at Little Bread Pedlar bakery, with drinks and hosting at the Kernel Brewery tap room.
Millers go wheat sowing in Kent
We first met Jo Kidd and daughter Rosa at the SEGA winter meet, where Rosa swooned us with her wonderful wheat illustration. Ideas were hatched for a spring visit to their small family-run farm, Tree of Life Veganic Farm, on the edge of Kent Downs AONB. We were hungry to learn more about their experimental approach to care for the land, the production of their crops, and to sow heritage wheat.
Millers Abel, Danny and Ann joined Andy Forbes (Brockwell Bake), Jess Hercott (Tuerong farm in Melbourne, Australia baker on her European tour) along with Faversham bakery owner James and young family (WildBread Bakehouse).
Andy brought along his newly acquired Victorian grain fiddle to sow with. It turns out you need longish arms to operate! Abel and Andy and their variations of marching on the grain fiddle, prompted the hope that after a very dry winter and spring this was also a rain dance.
The 2022 summer season turned out to be kind for growing wheat. In the autumn, we heard from Jo and family they had harvested just under a tonne of wheat before the end of August rains arrived. Here is to more sowing and hopefully milling another time. Thanks, Jo, for the photos of your harvest.
UK Grain Lab 2022
A huge thanks to the windmill’s trustees for their support in the millers to join the UK Grain Lab, held in Nottingham, over the May bank holiday weekend
Abel Holsborough and Ann Bodkin joined the international gathering of farmers, millers, breeders, bakers, scientists for non-commodity grain. It felt good to represent London’s last working windmill, in the extensive programme of talks, workshops, learning skills, sharing strategies, to bake and eat together and to talk about the future.
Formed in 2017, and co-curated by the amazing Kimberly Bell, Small Food Bakery and Isabel Kelly, the UK Grain Lab continues to bring together players, to focus on a common ground. It continues to inspire offshoot projects, in the development and ways of organising working together, such as the UK and Ireland grain alliances.
On reflection, what we learnt was however small scale or challenging we might find milling in our heritage setting in the heart of London, it is essential our flour production remains relevant to our people and place, part of which is sharing our stories.
Milling as part of Brixton Windmill’s living heritage
Thanks to Brixton Windmill Trustees, for recognising the value of millers and milling, with the recent strategic objectives 2022–2027. We’re delighted for the support and look forward to the years ahead. Comment on our future plans – Brixton Windmill & Education Centre
Continue to operate Milling as part of the Windmill’s living heritage, which enables us to:
- offer a unique volunteer experience
- keep the windmill maintained and operating safely
- provide flour to local people and businesses
In memory of our dear friend Jeff Thomas (1967 -2022)
Celebrating the life of Jeff Thomas – Brixton Windmill & Education Centre