2020 #Ryevolution Review

It’s been a quiet year on the doughies blog. And suddenly two posts fired into the digital ether in the space of a few hours (this is the second, here is the first).

If you have been evaluating doughies output purely on blogposts this year, you might think we had disappeared (alas trading this year will have inevitably winked out many a micro food producer’s twinkling light). But doughies is not one of them, and besides we are about more than just producing bread.

In contrast, if you had been evaluating doughies blog traffic, then you may conclude it was a busy year. In 2019 we had 2,998 unique visitors, whereas in 2020 we had 5,762 unique visitors – the highest on blog record. I have a strong hunch this was #Lockdown1 related, with a peak in March 2020 – where the culture changed and mainstream culture started to both seek out local food and make their own bread. Covid-19 has been a culture changer – and many revolutions have been accelerated this year (home working and travel reduction to name but two).

Alongside these fast pandemic fuelled revolutions, other slow cultural changes have been creeping along the cultural consciousness – including the one at the heart of doughies – food provenance and carbon reduction. So how is the quiet doughies revolution (our #rye-volution) going? Here’s a quick review of some 2020 momentum:-

Sourdough – doughies has consistently shown up for weekly bakes throughout 2020, albeit with a brief pause and restart around Lockdown1 where we found our Covid secure feet. 2020 was though perhaps inevitably a quiet year for doughies on the baking front, with the Covid-19 dip in tourism and hospitality knocking on to small food producers like ourselves. In terms of statistics, throughout the year we hefted 966kg of flour (that is about 39 large 25kg sacks), mixed and shaped 1.8tonnes of dough, and over 107 oven loads baked that into the equivalent of 1932 large loaves of bread. This is about 40% of 2019 values, where it was 2436kg of flour mixed, 4.7tonnes of dough, 271 oven loads and 4873 large loaves of bread. But albeit less volume than 2019, every loaf in 2020 remained real bread sourdough, made slowly with good flour & good salt, and every loaf was pre-ordered by a business or subscriber. The result – a lot of local food nutrition and very little local food waste.

In 2020 we also got a second ROFCO B40 oven and a second spiral mixer bowl – which upped our bake day capacity and provided some redundancy in case of equipment failure. Installed just before pandemic hit, we have not seen the full fruits of this yet, but it was a decent upgrade to report.

Growing Grain

During the early part of 2020 we finished our participation in the SCF Crofters Diversity Pays! project. We will share the results of this project as soon as its publicly available (Covid-19 again slowing the cogs of government), but it was a great thing to be part of and included a number of croft grown rye breads. Although this project has officially ended, some elements have continued. Notably six winter cereal rye trial plots sown in 2019 were harvested in autumn of 2020. This precious Lochaber grain, originating from six different countries, is now safely stored in the cow byre ready for processing and re-sowing in 2021.

Reviving Grain Machinery

2020 saw the start of a new grain machinery project within the larger Seed Sovereighty project. This is a multistage project looking at “What were the historic crofting tools/equipment used to process grain at small scale?”. The first stage was some historical research at am Fasgadh, and this is shortly to be published and presented to the wider grain community. Stage 2 will be a community led selection process at an event early 2021– asking the specific question what equipment do the small grain growing groups nurtured by the seed sovereignty project want to develop further? Stage 3 and the last stage of this project will be to prototype a selected piece of grain processing equipment and test on samples of real grain grown in 2021.

2021 Looking ahead

Reflecting on 2020 happenings, here’s five things we are hoping to continue in 2021:-

  1. Make and use some small scale grain processing equipment – some or all of this will be encapsulated in the Seed Sovereignty machinery project.
  2. Thrash, sort, review, select and ultimately re-plant some winter rye – this is continuing on the path of creating a Highland/Lochaber rye landrace.
  3. Make a croft grown rye loaf with 2019 rye harvest – we should have spare grain from the 2020 harvest, and once our seed is in the ground I think a celebratory rye loaf or two should make it into the mix.
  4. Keep the grain chats going – we want to continue the conversational #grainchats within the Scottish and International community.
  5. Ponder the steps required to map out a highland grain revival – crucially how to overcome the tri-lema of barriers to more widespread crofter grain practice in the highlands 1) access to biodiverse local seed, 2) access to small scale grain knowledge, and 3) access to small scale grain processing equipment.

Want to support us? Locals can of course support us by buying our sourdough, but for ye non-locals you can now support doughies and our highland grain revival by buying a #Ryevolution tee-shirt – we have been quietly working with Lucy Joy artist and Rapuni to release a campaign tee for our work reviving grain growing in the crofting territories. This is now live – go check it out here and thanks for the support if you are able.

Tìoradh an dràsta.

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