I was very fortunate to grow up in rural Lincolnshire, where wheat fields stretch to the horizon. Fifty years ago I was free to roam a poetic countryside, always thrilled at nature’s bounty and even the giant combine harvesters.
In the intervening years I have seen wheat fields get even larger, as the wheat gets shorter – what used to tower over me now barely comes to my knees.
I have also been fortunate to meet many inspirational farmers and bakers, foremost amongst them John Letts, farmer and archeo- botanist, Dan Lepard, baker and food writer. In the early nineties Dan and I set up the first “artisan” bakeries in the UK, Dan at Baker and Spice, me at Carriages.
In 2012 Dan Lepard encouraged me to start baking again after a seven year fallow period in which I thatched ancient buildings with John Letts. John has been collecting ancient wheat varieties from around the world for over twenty years; three years ago John asked me to grow some of his heritage wheat. The final piece of the jigsaw was a chance meeting with local farmers Fred and Chris Wettern, who farm near Lewes in the South Downs National Park. They agreed to grow John’s heritage grain, which is stone milled at Offley Mill, and used at The Hearth in Lewes.
My life has also been influenced by some of the world’s foremost environmentalists, humanitarians and spiritual leaders. Vandana Shiva, Satesh Kumar, most notably Thich Nhat Hahn. His teaching emphasises ecology, compassion and mindfulness. The powerful metaphor of seed and bread, presented a path through which I could give to those less fortunate.