As obvious as the horizon-long fields of oil seed rape, but equally unnoticed because of the familiarity… wheat! Tons of the stuff. All around us. Loving our fertile soils.
From wheat comes our flour. The question for me is: is anyone out there processing the crops or are we losing it all to other users? Thankfully the answer is ‘Mungoswells are’. Based a few miles away from us near Haddington, I believe Mungoswells are the only farm in East Lothian that grow and mill their own wheat.
I think the last time I was at a mill would have been primary school. I had forgotten what a slow and laborious process the flour making process can be. Angus and Alison described to us what appeared to be a really complicated process. Tubes and pumps and silos and conveyors tailor-made to fit into the barns to allow a process to flow. There is clearly no kit on eBay that can be snapped up and slotted into place. Piece by piece and with some ingenious ‘a la minute’ designing taking place, the machinery has been squeezed and moulded into shape to cope with each part of the flour making and malting too (that’s another story).
We spent about 3 hours getting the grand tour of fields and farmyard buildings and during that time I have to admit to more than once thinking “Jeezo…could you be bothered? Why would ya?” And then I’d get a jolt back to reality listening to the passion of the producer: “Because it’s our life.”
I like that they are in control of everything they do. Total responsibility at all times. No one to blame and no excuses. They plant the seeds and nurture the plants as they grow. They take care of the land. They don’t smother the crops in chemicals to increase and protect the yield. They rely on and trust in their farming methods and our climate (very, very brave). Depend on our warming Scots sunshine (probably the biggest gamble of them all) to fatten the minute grains. A hardworking and highly motivated tiny team take care of the whole process.
It feels like everything is a risk. Every step seems to have to potential for things to fail. The sowing and the growing. The harvesting and of course the weather. The storing, the drying, the pumping, the grinding, the sieving, the packing. Holding the finished goods and finally having the energy to sell it and distribute it! Simple business lesson at the end – if you don’t shift it then there’s nothing coming in to pay for the next rev of the cycle.
At Mungoswells they have a belief that they are doing something worthwhile, continuing a process that has been done for thousands of years. What does a bag of flour cost at the end of the line? Really, next to nothing – but the satisfaction in hand-packing every bag of this life-valuable white dust is just oozing from every pore.
At Hickory we are fervent advocates of promoting food and drink that is local, sustainable, and decidedly Scottish. Find out more here about our trusted local suppliers.