I am not a baker.
In my working week, I am a support to communities and businesses across central Scotland – with the goal of creating more a diverse, thriving, and resilient rural landscape. This is not a baker.
In my volunteering life, I am an advocate for a better food system – with the goal of communicating the alternatives, and supporting innovative practice within food systems. This is not a baker.
In my domestic domain, I am a cyclist, a gardener, an aspiring shepherdess – with the goal of riding in beautiful places, cultivating happiness, and sharing space with wooly creatures. This is not a baker.
For the past six months though, I’ve been baking.
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Scotland has lots of grand and wonderful things – sweeping vistas, ancient castles, moody lochs. Scotland even has some less grand things – deep fried mars bars, indecipherable accents, dreich weather.
But, dear Scotland, I riddle you this – where are all of your CSAs? Those wonderful and innovative pairings of nourishment and community, a structure that allows for transparency and participation in our food system. They seem to be quite rare up here.
Sharing the risks, responsibilities, rewards of the farm
CSA, for the unenlightened, stands for Community Supported Agriculture – a method of organisation for growing food that shares the risks, responsibilities and rewards of farming between producer and consumer.
There are several variations on what can be considered a CSA – many operate on a CSA ‘share’ system. This is when consumers buy a share in a seasons’ farm harvest, paying a lump sum up front at the start of the season. In return, they receive an equal share in each weeks’ harvest, whether that harvest is plentiful or more limited. This spreads the inherent, and numerous, risks of farming over many people, so the farmer isn’t solely saddled with risks of crop failure, weird weather, or low yields.
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Katryn Welch, organiser
The community votes!
Saturday night was the very first “Soup” held in here in Stirling, Scotland – an evening of community empowerment, connection, and (you guessed it) soup!
What is “Soup”?
Soup is a simple and innovative method for community crowd-funding. The idea: people gather at a venue, everyone puts £5 in the pot, and listen to a few different folks pitch their ideas for a community project. Everyone has soup together, and then each person gets one vote to decide which pitch they liked best. Whichever pitch gets the most votes takes home the pot of cash to use for their project.
It’s an idea that originated from Detroit, USA – a simple way to get community projects off the ground – and has had all sorts of success. Now the idea has hopped the pond and is happening all over the UK, with an Edinburgh Soup happening here in Scotland. Stirling’s first Soup didn’t disappoint either, a lively evening of discussion, food, and community.
The inaugural Stirling Soup
When I arrived just before 7pm at the Albert Halls, the queue was out the door. Over 125 people registered their interest to attend, and when the day came, it was standing room only. Good effort, Stirling! I rushed back to the kitchen area, where I found Théo (aka mr.Riverside Bakery) furiously slicing up bread – we’d donated some sourdough loaves to go with the soup. I begged another bread knife off the kind bar staff and got to work slicing the crusty loaves too. Many slices later, we had a mountain of bread to offer the growing crowd.
Standing room only
Slicing for 100+ ppl = sore forearms!
#RealBread #sourdough (photo cred: Picture the Possible)
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Spent a bit of time answering some questions for Anna de Jong, a food researcher at West Highland College UHI, who is promoting local food to enhance sustainability and retain cultural heritage in Scotland. Answered these questions from my Riverside Bakery apprentice-baker perspective!
It would be really helpful to gain a broader understanding of your background – how/why you arrived in Stirling from Canada, via England? Are there specific events/factors you feel have influenced your passion for food politics?
I ended up in the UK all because of a lovely Yorkshireman – we met on the west coast of Canada in 2009, fell in love, and his Canadian immigration visa ran out, so I came back to the UK with him. We lived in the Lake District in Cumbria, only meaning to stay in the UK for maybe a year, tops. For all sorts of reasons we ended up staying in Britain much longer. The Yorkshireman and I aren’t together any more, but I’m still in the UK, now living up in Scotland.
The reason I came to Stirling was very much linked to food politics and opportunities in that realm. I loved living in the Lake District – a great community of folks, fabulous access to wee mountains, and it’s really beautiful countryside. But, I was working in a cafe/pub the entire time I lived there and was desperate to contribute to a different food and farming system in a meaningful way. I felt limited in what I could achieve in the Lakes in this sense, as there isn’t a thriving alternative agriculture ‘scene’ there as of yet, and didn’t have the skills or confidence to forge new paths.
I applied for a job at Stirling University – the FEAST project (Food Education at Stirling uni), which was my dream job at the time. I was supporting the creation of a student-led permaculture garden, an organic/ethical food co-operative, and a series of sustainable food education sessions. To my delight and surprise, I got the job, and have been in Stirling ever since.
In terms of events or factors that influenced my passion for food politics….
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It’s Saturday morning and 13 people are stood round a table with their hands deep in dough. We’re here to make and eat bread – crusty wholesome loaves of sourdough delights. But we’re also here to discuss ideas around accessibility – how do we make good bread and good food accessible to individuals, to communities, and on a systemic level? We’ve all gathered at the Hillview Community Centre, home of Riverside Bakery CIC, in Cultenhove, Stirling to begin the discussion.
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