Part 2: Preparing the way (custodians of the harvest)
Preparing the way
(custodians of the harvest)
There is a Native American proverb which says: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” This is also a beautiful description of the role of the growers of the non-GMO wheat used to create Gideon Milling’s authentic stone ground flour. The earth which gives life to the wheat does not belong to any single generation. Rather, it is held in trust by the current growers who nurture and protect it so it can produce its bounty.
And what a bounty it is! An important part of the journey from farm to kitchen is when the wheat, nurtured by our growers, arrive at Gideon Milling’s factory in Bellville in the Western Cape. Here the wheat is stone ground, slowly and at a low temperature, to create unique cake, bread, and unsifted whole wheat flour. Because the wheat is milled slowly, the wheatgerm is not exposed to extremely high temperatures. High heat causes the natural oils in the wheatgerm to oxidize and become rancid, and a lot of vitamins are lost in the process. This does not happen when wheat is stone ground and as a result, flour made this way has a characteristic texture, sweet and nutty taste, and higher concentration of nutrients.
This delicious flour is used by families to create truly South African delicacies. Just think of piping hot pancakes made by loving hands on a cold winter’s day, or fresh bread baked with care, and heritage dishes like souskluitjies made with whole wheat flour nestling on top of a hearty stew to fill up hungry bellies. When you use natural, stone ground flour in your baking and cooking, you can rest assured that you are giving your family the absolute best.
To make sure you can mix that pancake batter or knead that dough, the growers of our wheat must roll up their sleeves each year just before winter and get planting. The soil itself is where it all begins. This is literally where the roots lie of Gideon Milling’s premium quality, affordable products. The second phase in Gideon Milling’s Growers’ Journey is the plant season. This is not a season to take lightly, and because our growers practice biological farming, they must approach this season with their eyes firmly on the future. To ensure a farming process that is as natural as possible, the focus is on minimum tillage. This means no ploughing – the top layer of the soil does not get turned over. This also reduces soil erosion whilst simultaneously increasing the amount and variety of life in and on the soil, including organisms which help to naturally fight and suppress crop diseases.
Crop rotation allows for greater soil nutrition and aids in biological farming processes. In the West Coast, Southern Cape, and Swartland areas the farmers plant a variety of crops on different fields – canola in year one, lupins (a legume) in year two, and wheat only in year three. This process rotates amongst the different fields and repeats itself with the soil given a chance to rest and breathe in year seven. The purpose of the tall-growing canola is to create a canopy above the soil. This hampers the growth of weeds and the production of their seeds, which means less chemicals. The lupins in the second year are a natural source of nitrogen for the soil, so less fertilizer is needed.
Lupins bind atmospheric nitrogen in the soil to help prepare it for the current and future seasons. This crop also adds protein to the soil which improves its natural nutrient level. Tillage radishes helps to curb diseases affecting roots and they break open the soil as they grow to naturally introduce oxygen to the seed bed. Radishes also absorb, store, and release nutrients into the soil which leads to a decreased dependence on fertilizer in the spring.
Oats are also a part of the team – this crop is excellent for grazing and has a lot of long term ecological and productivity benefits. A big benefit is that it fills the soil with plentiful living roots which helps keep in nutrients and moisture, as well as help combat root diseases. Finally, rye is planted to not only provide excellent grazing, but also to help curb weeds and soil erosion. It is an excellent ground cover in winter because it grows quickly and protects the soil from the twin powers of wind and water. Our growers on the West and South Coasts especially love rye because it is not put off by infertile or sandy soil or even drought.
Chicken manure is also commonly used by our growers – this rich mixture is spread over the land before planting season, thus decreasing the fertilizer application during the season. When the field is ready in year three, the wheat is planted in a clean seed bed and healthy soil.
Cattle and sheep also play their part in the big circle of life that is biological farming. These animals eat the specific crops used as ground cover. Usually, cattle are sent into the fields first as they do not eat the radishes. This crop needs time to grow so that it can play its part with maximum efficiency. Sheep will happily eat the radishes prematurely thus cancelling their important role. Thus, cattle graze early in the season to keep the grasses at bay. The radishes have time to grow and when it is time for the sheep to munch on them, they are also at their best to be beneficial for the animals eating them.
This intricate, well-managed process is done with the aim of achieving no-tillage. The soil is not disturbed, but rather enriched in a focused way by our growers. The main benefit of this is that the soil’s biological fertility improves, which leads to soil which is more resilient. This in turn leads to a thumbs up from Mother Nature – farming operations are more efficient, sowing time happens faster and fewer fossil fuels are used.
Growers who practice biological farming truly have a passion for the earth in their keeping. Their passion and dedication mean that Gideon Milling can create a product that consumers can trust. When you choose a Gideon Milling product, you choose to become part of a family who honours the earth which sustains all of us. And not just us here and now, but this process looks to the future, to keep in mind generations to come, and to give them a sustainable, healthy inheritance.