Developing a Grain Economy for Wales: Workshop Report, Builth Wells

Background
This was the second meeting of the grain group. The first, held in Lampeter in November 2013, was very much a networking opportunity. This meeting was more ‘brass tacks’ in its approach and aimed to plan activities for 2014.

Support for the Group
Up to now the group has been supported by Organic Centre Wales (OCW), through the Better Organic Business Links project (BOBL). Tony Little from OCW explained that he has been working with other organisations to secure support for the future because:

  • BOBL is scaling down from the end of March, and the support that OCW can offer will be reduced.
  • In order to be effective the group needs to expand, and involvement with other organisations will enable us to reach a larger number and a wider range of businesses.
  • Publicly funded projects have very clear boundaries in terms what they can do and who with. Having several organisations on board means that a wider range of activities can be supported.

Lowri Davies (CYWAIN) and Lindsay Davies (Farming Connect) outlined the support that their respective projects could offer.

Communications & Group identity

Group Name:
We have gone under a number of names up to now, including the Welsh Grain Group, Welsh Grain Forum and Welsh Grain Workshop. Welsh Grain Association was also proposed at the meeting. An attempt to arrive at a preferred option by a system of voting wasn’t followed through. The wider group will be consulted on a name, and if there are still no strong views expressed an executive decision will be taken.  (Maybe just Welsh Grain with Forum / Workshop /Association added depending on activity?)

Logo:
We felt that a logo would be useful, both in the public facing work the group might wish to pursue and as a label on products. CYWAIN has some experience in this area. Lowri Davies will send round some key issues we need to think about in developing a logo. Andy Wright’s wife (Andy’s bread), who is a graphic designer, is willing to work on logo design.
(Action: Lowri Davies)

Statement of Intent
We currently describe ourselves as ‘A community of growers, millers, bakers, maltsters, brewers, thatchers and friends committed to promoting Welsh grain.’ We say nothing of our ethos or approach to food and farming and as a group we need to arrive at a statement that describes in more detail what we are about.

Support from OCW and the nature of the businesses involved implies a small scale/ artisan approach to processing underpinned by organic/ low input/ sustainable production systems, but that is not explicitly stated anywhere at present. It would also clarify the situation with respect to organic certification, which is that organic principles and those of sustainable farming systems underpin the group, but that organic certification is not a prerequisite to join the group.
(Action: Tony Little, Anne Parry).

Website
Anne Parry presented the website as a work in progress. The key elements so far are:

  • A home page introducing the group.
  • A page on the inaugural meeting.
  • A ‘Community’ page which members can use to profile their businesses.
  • A forum which members can use to exchange view and ideas. This will replace the now defunct Google group.
  • A ‘Corn Exchange’ page for exchanging supply chain information.

At present the website is coordinated/moderated by Gary Whiteley of Maesyfin Mushrooms. Members should take responsibility for adding their own content, but Gary will help/upload information as necessary. A link to the Website and some basic guidance on using will be sent to the group. If required, we can run a training event for the group on content management.
(Action: Anne Parry, Gary Whiteley)

New pages/ sections to be developed are:

  • A statement of intent as described above.
  • A page for the general public, promoting artisan bread, beer and other products.
  • A history of Welsh grain/flour.
  • A page on using Welsh flours.

(Action: Anne Parry, Gary Whiteley)

Making the market
After some discussion, we agreed that we were not yet in a position to attend food festivals and other food and farming events as a group. For the time being, interaction with the public would be through the website (see above) and the Facebook page and perhaps included in the activities of individual businesses. Jenny Mills, the communications officer for Organic Centre Wales outlined the potential for using Facebook as a marketing/ PR tool drawing on her experience developing the Better Organic Business Links campaign for organic food. All members of the group need to:

  • Contribute to the Facebook page to keep it up to date.
  • ‘Like’ the page to get it noticed.

(Action: Everyone)

Developing the Group
We acknowledged that as a fledgling group we needed to build closer relationships with one another, and that this was essential before we could start to take on bigger projects. Gez Martin, Talgarth Mill and Roger Bufton, Ewan Brook Farm, offered to host the next meeting of the group in late June to further this.
(Action: Tony Little, Gez Martin, Roger Bufton)

Finding New Growers
We need to find ways of bringing new growers into the group. Contacts through CYWAIN and Farming Connect will help us reach these producers. Farming Connect may be able to organise a technical event for producers looking at the farming issues such as growing new species (rye, spelt), varieties, disease engagement and post-harvest issues e.g. cleaning and storage.
(Action: Tony Little, Lowri Davies, Lindsay Davies)

Making Links

  • Roger Bufton, a farmer growing 120 acres of organic cereals near Crickhowell would be interested in growing for millers: Contact 01874 731087.
  • Rupert Dunn, a Baker from St Davids, is looking for flour from traditional/ heritage varieties: Breadofleaven@gmail.com
  • Contact Rhug Estate to see about sourcing Welsh bread.

(Action: Tony Little)

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