Close menu

Yorkshire Grain Alliance

Grain plays a crucial role in our food system, but the current methods of its production, processing, and consumption have significant adverse effects on the environment, food security, and efficient land use. However, a different way is possible.

The Yorkshire Grain Alliance is a collective of farmers, bakers, millers, traders, researchers, and community members committed to transforming the food system through a fundamentally different approach to grain production and consumption. By growing, processing, and supplying locally to customers, they showcase an alternative path. While Yorkshire communities already enjoy their products in various places across the country, the initiative is still in its early stages.

Follow and get in touch with the Yorkshire Grain Alliance on Instagram @yorkshiregrainalliance

Yorkshire farmers are growing grains and other crops for bakeries and households across the region without reliance on environmentally damaging inputs.

More details

While many Yorkshire farmers currently grow wheat, much of this relies on high inputs and very little of what they harvest stays in the region. Instead, farmers feel at the mercy of the global market, having to ride along with fluctuating fuel and fertilizer prices and selling their grains on to an untransparent global market. In the Yorkshire Grain Alliance, millers and bakers join up with farmers to support them to grow high-quality grains with low external inputs, which are then processed locally and turned into delicious goods and meals for communities across the county. Working together across the supply chain, we work out the prices together, taking into account also production difficulties and the farm average, rather than only specific crops, ensuring fair and pricing throughout the supply chain – and keeping the value in the region, from farm to fork. Through personal relationships and shared learning, we explore and utilise the specific qualities of different wheat and other grain varieties.

In a future food system, aided with substantial investment in local processing, storage and distribution infrastructure, local farmers produce the bulk of the grains that are the basis for the freshly baked goods eaten by our communities.

Our landscape is thriving with native birds and pollinators as part of a resilient ecosystem.

More details

Since the agricultural and industrial revolutions, the UK lot almost half of its biodiversity. The mechanisation to extract from nature, with commercial farming playing a major role, has led to this drastic decrease of plants and animals. Most of the country’s land, about 70%, is now being used for agriculture. We know that organically farmed land, has on average about 30% more life, but currently only a tiny proportion of UK’s farms are organic – 3% overall, and only 1% in Yorkshire.

The Alliance’s farmers establish practices that do not rely on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which does not only make our food production less dependent on external inputs, but, paired with diverse crop rotations and reduced tillage, these practices make farms homes to many birds and pollinators. Walking through the fields, it can be witnessed how they thrive together. With more people joining us on this journey, we can help our countryside thrive again, while producing delicious food for our communities.”

People in Yorkshire are employed in meaningful work, including milling local grains.

More details

In a rush to produce food cheaply, farms are often amalgamated in order to build more viable total acreages. This is the result of economic conditions showing a minimal understanding of what it takes to grow good food sustainably, especially under the unpredictable droughts and floods brought about by a changing climate. Sadly, farming has now become one of the most lonely jobs in the UK. Just like people in other professions, people who work in food production need the help and stimulus of people to work alongside them. One way of achieving this is to start milling the grain produced on your farm (and district), and then distribute it as locally as possible.

Yorkshire Organic Millers, who operate as pivots in the Yorkshire Grain Alliance supply chain, operate four special granite mills as an integral part of the farm business, run by four people, producing an annual output of 350 + tons per year, supplying for the needs of 13-14000 people. With the demand for organic flour on the rise, we can see a future emerging where similar mills are spread across the country, producing high quality flour from grains grown on Yorkshire fields for the rural and urban communities alike.

Yorkshire’s cereal production feeds more people than livestock, with our local resources being reflected on our plates.

More details

Whether sold locally or to the global market, a large proportion of the domestically grown grain does not become an ingredient in food for people. Despite 72% of UK agricultural production being dedicated to grassland, the livestock sector heavily relies on the grain sector, utilising over 60% of the UK’s grain production for feed. Furthermore, a significant portion of livestock feed used in the UK’s food industry is imported, contributing to a net dependency of 25%. The high cost of animal feed is a considerable financial burden, constituting the most expensive input across the entire agricultural sector and being the single largest cost for UK agriculture in 2020, amounting to £5.6 billion. This focus on large-scale, “yield-efficient” grain production contributes to disproportionate land use in the UK and poses a risk to both farming economies and food security.

Given the current markets and infrastructures, farmers often find themselves having no choice but to sell their grains for processing into biofuels or animal feed, inadvertently contributing to ineffective and unsustainable land use. However, many Yorkshire farmers cultivate crops on clay or silt-rich soils, ideal for producing quality milling wheats. On lighter land, careful soil management combined with a suitable choice of seed can yield excellent crops.

A local milling infrastructure, as run and supported by the Yorkshire Grain Alliance, encourages and enables farmers to grow quality grains to feed our communities. The Alliance’s farmers are also dedicated to raising the practice of intercropping. Growing legumes alongside wheat, especially beans thriving in Yorkshire’s soil, creates a harmonious interaction with atmospheric nitrogen. This cooperative process enhances the strength and size of neighbouring wheat plants more effectively than if these crops were planted individually.

Envisioning a future where the grains grown on our fields feed people rather than vehicles and intensive livestock production, the Yorkshire Grain Alliance aims to reduce the reliance on unsustainable food production practices. This shift creates space for a more diverse and truly local supply of various foods, contributing to a sustainable and resilient food system.

Daily bread made with local grains is a staple and Yorkshire celebrates its regional ingredients throughout the year, from dal with rhubarb pickles in February to strawberry tart in June.

More details

Over the past decades we got used to finding all types of fresh produce all around the year in supermarkets as well as in restaurant menus. To enable this, fruit and vegetables are grown in systems that are highly reliant on heat, light and fertiliser inputs and have not only a negative impact on the environment but have also led to very limited choices of varieties being available to consumers.

The work and impact of the Yorkshire Grain Alliance reaches far beyond the growing, processing and consumption of grains. The Alliance’s bakers produce delicious baked goods- and snacks with much more ingredients than flour, and have made a commitment to source fresh produce when it is available in abundance and to preserve it for the colder months of the year, helping to transform our food culture to one that is more aligned with the natural cycle of the year.

Seeded rye loaf is a proud West Yorkshire classic.

More details

Food traditions around the world reflect something important—local communities adapt to their environments, creating foods unique to their surroundings. Take the French Baguette, known for its satisfying crunch, or the Italian Focaccia with its distinct chewiness. These creations are a result of communities having traditionally worked with the crops that flourish in local natural and climatic conditions provided.

When it comes to bread, rather than exploring and celebrating the uniqueness of farming and nature, the UK can claim fame for the invention of the Chorleywood bread process. It came into play after World War II, and allowed bread production to become much quicker and cheaper, which was crucial at the time. Today, about 80% of British bread follows this method, which has also been adopted by industrial bread factories around the globe. But there’s more to the story. The CBP relies on additives and uses a lot of energy. It led to the decline of local bakeries and produces bread with low nutritional value. Today, nearly half of the bread made in the UK goes to waste. What was once a symbol of sustenance, now is considered “empty calories” and often ends up in the bin.

Looking ahead, there is a chance to appreciate what our local resources offer, with the varied land and climatic conditions we find across our county. In Yorkshire’s East, a dry and relatively warm climate has nurtured wheat cultivation for generations, allowing bakers to provide specialities such as tasty croissants and white cheese and chilli loaves, while the West, with more abundant rainfall, can hold potential for different varieties of crops. Rye has a prolific root system, which equips it to endure drought, while thriving in moist environments. Even in soils where other grains struggle, rye can flourish. The Alliance’s bakers notice their community’s growing appetite for Yorkshire rye loafs – with more farmers, millers and bakers joining the journey to sustainable and local food, a future where our local resources are reflected on our plates lies ahead of us.

Meeting up with a friend for a bite is exciting – what specialties are on the menu this week?

More details

As we walk into our regular local shops, cafés, and restaurants, we’re often looking forward to indulging in the treats we love the most. These places hold a special charm for us, and they’re closely tied to our sense of comfort and connection.

Growing varied and multiple crops and enhancing the nutritional benefits and flavours available for our communities does not only lead to a more diverse look of the countryside and our plates, but is necessary to build economic and environmental resilience and food security. The Alliance’s dedicated farmers are eager to explore and experiment with the crops that best suit our land’s climatic conditions while benefiting the local environment and people. This commitment is driven by the desire to make a positive impact. Equally enthusiastic are the Alliance’s bakers about supporting such agroecological practices and taking the challenge of working with ever changing flours and diverse ingredients to create delicious products.

Drawing inspiration from the revolutionary changes seen in the brewing industry, it is possible for cafés, restaurants, and pubs to embark on a similar journey, experimenting with diverse techniques and ingredients for unique flavours. By joining initiatives like ours, they can contribute to a local food scene that surprises visitors with something unexpected during every visit. While beloved classics like pain au chocolat remain reliable fixtures on counters, we can also look forward to discovering fresh, innovative offerings that reflect the changing seasons. Just as a coffee outing holds its charm, supporting diverse agroecological practices in our local food production promises an enriched culinary future for all.

FixOurFood is collaborating with the Alliance to enable methods, principles, and values which can help transform the food system. Together, we have explored what the future food system and daily life in Yorkshire could look like if all grain production and consumption were adapted to the sustainable practices that the members of the Alliance already embrace today.

The Alliance operates on an equal partnership model, and responsibilities are shared among all members. The FixOurFood contact in the Yorkshire Grain Alliance is Ulrike Ehgartner

Follow and get in touch with the Yorkshire Grain Alliance on Instagram @yorkshiregrainalliance