Conwy Valley farmer celebrates growing wheat, milling to flour and tasting the final produce bread and biscuits!

15 November 2013

Exactly a year ago, an innovative Conwy Valley farmer planted a wheat crop for the very first time, and is now celebrating by tasting wholemeal bread and digestive biscuits made by his local bakery using his own wheat grain milled flour.

As the tasty products are launched, Cywain*, a Menter a Busnes added product value project, is working with the team to market and promote the locally produced wheat products.

“Because of the area’s climate, wheat isn’t traditionally grown in the Conwy Valley,” Cywain Development Manager, Alwen Eidda explains.

“Here at Cywain we’ve certainly not heard of a farmer who’s followed the whole process from beginning to end. The farmer has succeeded to successfully grow a high standard wheat grain, milled the grain to produce local flour and then sold the flour to his local bakery to produce delicious products to be sold in the bakery shop – it’s quite an achievement! It’s a very unusual venture and we are pleased to be able to assist the team to further market the produce.”

This is the first time, farmer Emyr Hughes, 47, from Cae Melwr, Llanrwst ventured to growing wheat at the family’s farm in the Conwy Valley. He’s delighted that he succeeded in growing the wheat and followed the production process from field to fork. The products, wholemeal bread and digestive type biscuits are produced and sold at a family bakery, Scilicorns, Llanrwst.

Cywain will assist the process of expanding the market for the produce, identifying new markets and further developing the biscuits customer base, currently on sale outside of Llanrwst at Farmer’s Markets in Conwy and Anglesey. 

The wheat field stands on one side of Llanrwst with the bakery on the other side of the market town. Therefore, food miles plays no part whatsoever in the products and can certainly be labelled ‘local food’. 

Back in October 2012, Emyr planted his wheat. He had originally planned to sow spring wheat, but due to an administrative error by the seed company, winter wheat was delivered to his farm yard. Emyr was forced to plant the seeds quickly, before the weather turned. The error proved a blessing in disguise!

“It was a personal venture in the begining, as I was unsure if the crop would succeed or not,” explains Emyr, who with his family farms 600 acres split between Llanrwst and Capel Garmon. “Although the crop was very slow due to the harsh winter conditions, once the warmer weather arrived, the buds broke through the soil. The unusually warm weather then assisted the crops growth and development.”

Once the crop was harvested in August, and subsequently dried, samples were sent to a specialist company to test its quality. A specific quality is needed for bread flour compared to wheat flour usually grown and used to feed farm animals over the winter months. A good level of protein and gluten is needed in the grain to make bread flour.

Once confirmation of its quality was received, Emyr travelled to Melin Llynnon in Llanddeusant, Anglesey to mill the grain into flour. This is the only mill in north Wales to produce stone ground wholemeal flour.

“It was quite a feeling travelling home from Llanddeusant with the flour,” Emyr explains. During the course of the year, 4 tonnes of flour will be produced from the three acres of wheat planted in the field. The flour is distributed in 25kg sacks.

Alwen Eidda from Cywain said: “Emyr is fortunate that a traditional family bakery continues its production in the market town of Llanrwst. The well respected Griffiths family has been producing bread, cakes and pasties in the town for over 40 years; therefore expertise was available on his doorstep.

“In addition the local brand, ‘Conwy Valley Natural’ is already established and fits well with the image and provenance of the produce. Selling these biscuits and wholemeal bread under this banner, offers customers a true sense of place - eating locally produced food, enjoying the culture and hearing the Welsh language used in the Conwy Valley. Our work at Cywain means we can advise the team, free of charge, on how to develop the brand and market the produce further,” Alwen explains.

Cywain project was spearheaded by Menter a Busnes set up to bring added value to primary produce within the agriculture sector.  The project has received funding through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013 which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Baker, Anthony Griffiths, 37, and his family at Scilicorns have been working with Emyr to develop appropriate recipes for the new produce.

“It was great to receive the call from Emyr and to receive the first sample of flour to see how well it worked in the oven. We traditionally import flour, as large scale wheat production is difficult in our climate.  

“We experimented with the ingredients and decided to include some white flour into the wholemeal flour mix to ensure a perfect dough. The taste is second to none, and takes us back to the traditional form of bread making using natural ingredients. Nothing is added to the 5 main ingredients, and the bread tastes lovely, fresh from the oven spread with homemade butter.

“It’s artisan bread and takes us back to the traditional way of eating bread. It may not be to everyone’s taste as it needs to be eaten quickly, but it gives customers great satisfaction as they enjoy eating it due to the wheat’s provenance. I sincerely hope that Emyr and other farmers in the area can sow more seeds so we can use it in the bakery!” Anthony added. 

For further information and advice from Cywain, go to www.cywain.com or call or email 01970 636565 / bwyd@menterabusnes.co.uk

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