A review by Grown in Totnes volunteer Regina Kohlmeyer.
On Wednesday, 29th August, 2018, “Grown in Totnes” hosted a film screening at The Almond Thief Bakery, an organic bakery and cafe in Dartington. On screen was “In Our Hands”, a documentary on food sovereignty, which sounds quite serious. However, the film night was far from dry. It started with a delicious soup with very tasty bread served by the dedicated Almond Thief baker Dan Mifsud and his team.
With everybody satisfied and full and the room packed, the film started with very personal statements of farmers and food workers who follow their own ways and callings and not that of mainstream agriculture and food industries. The local audience silently cheered when they recognised that Holly Tiffen and farmer Mike Rogers from the TTT initiative “Grown in Totnes” were featured in the film, explaining their personal motivation for their commitment to locally grown and healthy food.
Created by Black Bark Films and the Landworkers’ Alliance, In Our Hands debunks the myth of the industrial food system providing some basic facts on patented plants, the decline in the number of small farmers in the UK, and the power of the food industry. But, what is more, it showcased some positive and encouraging cases of farmers growing ancient varieties of grain and vegetables, operating their farms without pesticides and distributing their produce locally.
However, the film was not limited to the new and caring ways to cultivate the land, but also discussed the political dimension, i.e. the common agricultural policy of the European Union. The film raised a gentle hope that Brexit might open a window of opportunity for local farming growing healthy food and for more resilience.
Against the background of the encouraging cases presented in the film, the audience wanted to get deeper into the issue, in particular, into the local food projects in Totnes and Dartington. Holly Tiffen and Emily Reed were pleased to provide the latest information about their project “Grown in Totnes”. The project has been successfully running for more than three years and is now standing at a crossroads.
In cooperation with several committed farmers, they managed to close a fundamental gap in the local food supply, primarily grain, from grain growing on the farm right to bagged flour themselves. As the funding will come to an end, new scenarios are being developed, discussed and negotiated at present to exploit and continue the achievements, two of them very realistic and close to implementation. If you’d like to convince yourself first hand of the practical achievements of “Grown in Totnes” you can get yourself a bag of truly locally grown rolled oats or wholemeal wheat flour.
Following the film, the farmer from Old Parsonage Farm, Jon Perkin, gave some insights into this year’s thriving wheat crop. Spring started anything but benevolent. It had rained a lot, and Jon feared for the harvest. Subsequently, the weather changed fundamentally during the summer months when the grain suffered from a long drought, again a reason to worry. However, the ancient wheat varieties with their deep roots turned out to be really resistant to the adverse weather conditions and, thus, Jon brought in a decent harvest. Finally, the Almond Thief baker Dan Mifsud disclosed the secret of the bread which had been served with the soup: it got its perfect taste and crispy, but light consistency, from the truly locally grown wheat.