As part of the CERERE project, (Cereal Renaissance in Rural Europe), a three-day meeting Let’s Cultivate Diversity was held at Hayon Farm, in the Wallonia region of Belgium, from 22-24th June.
The meeting gathered farmers, millers and researchers on diverse cereal varieties in Europe and beyond, including Belgium, France, Italy, the UK, Hungary, Luxembourg and Denmark, to share experiences.
A key focus of discussions was around breeding and preservation of local and heritage varieties of cereals; this covered areas of practical and legislative challenges of participatory breeding, and the role of ‘peasant farmers’ and farmer collectives in sustaining genetic and cultural heritage.
There was also much interest in connecting farmers to processors (millers especially) and markets, through decentralised and alternative marketing strategies, and the balancing of multi-stakeholder requirements along value chains of diverse crops.
The second day included a presentation on the importance of local and artisanal mills, both for maintaining traditional knowledge and skills of milling, as well as their role for enabling processing and marketing of diverse cereal varieties. There was also a practical demonstration on making sourdough, linking to workshop discussions on quality management, of seeds, flour and final products, such as bread.
Throughout the event were tours of the crop trial site, which explaining the story of their breeding programmes, and the characteristics of diversity in their heritage and modern varieties of wheat, as well as a rye population.
In addition to cereals, Hayon Farm includes legumes and cattle grazing within their rotations, and produced goats cheese which is sold at local farmers markets.
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