Bread Matters – the company – was started in 2003 by Andrew Whitley to champion the cause of Real Bread. Andrew had founded The Village Bakery Melmerby in 1976 and, according to the BBC Food & Farming Award judges in 2011, had over the years ‘changed the way we think about bread’ with his baking, teaching and writing and especially with his book Bread Matters (Fourth Estate 2006, 2009).
Andrew was joined in Bread Matters in 2008 by his wife and fellow director Veronica Burke, working collaboratively with local, sustainable businesses and with agencies, educators, policy makers and campaigns in pursuit of a fairer, healthier food system. Veronica’s death in April 2018 catalysed major changes in the running of both organisations; her legacy of quiet revolution continues to inspire day-to-day activities and long-term aims.
The momentum that kick-started Bread Matters has only gathered pace since its inception. Ordinary people are reclaiming control of a key part of their diet. Along the way, many discover that you can trust the words ‘freshly baked’ only when you open the oven door yourself, that better bread is made with fewer ingredients and more time to rise, and that sharing what you’ve baked with family, friends and neighbours brings joy and fulfilment.
The company became known across the UK for the most authoritative breadmaking courses in the UK, designed for bakers of all levels of experience. Fledgling bread enthusiasts could get started with Daily Bread or the popular Bread Matters Fundamental course. They could then move on to DO Sourdough or Baking with Heritage Grains.
These courses were run from the studio kitchen in Macbiehill Farmhouse, the heart of Andrew and Veronica’s five-acre organic agro-forestry project in the Scottish Borders. This home embodied the considered approach to teaching, living, working and growing that tried to create the right conditions for the fermentation of Real Bread and good ideas. Read more about the development of the farm.
Powered entirely by renewable energy and with beautiful views from the kitchen windows over to the Broughton Hills, the heart of the house is a wood-fired bread oven. This was the launch pad for a number of Real Bread and community baking ventures over the years, notably Breadshare Community Bakery (now in Edinburgh) and, of course, Scotland The Bread.
‘Can I say how much I enjoyed the course in August. It has been the absolute highlight of my year…the knowledge gained is so marvellous, and my family and friends are all benefitting, as I am, from the pleasure of baking more varied and better bread…’
‘I think your teaching is excellent, and your knowledge and feeling for the whole subject is inspirational. The location is a triumph as well. Everywhere you look – the kitchen, the oven and the whole space – is a ‘thing of beauty’, including the view.’
The final course, Baking with Heritage Grains, was added as Andrew and Veronica began setting up Bread for Good Community Benefit Society which is now growing more nutrient-dense grains and milling wholemeal flour at a new food hub in Fife. Scotland The Bread began as a Bread Matters project in 2012. The idea was, and remains, to bring together plant breeders, farmers, millers, bakers, nutritionists and citizens with the common purpose of producing nutritious grain, milling it close to home and using it to make wholesome, slowly-fermented bread that everyone can enjoy.
In 2016, a Community Share Offer raised £36,000 (£6k over target) to launch Bread For Good Community Benefit Society which trades as Scotland The Bread. It belongs to 221 shareholders (and counting) aged from 6 to 75. More information about our heritage grains can be found here.
We had as usual planned a full schedule of breadmaking courses for 2017, including some that would come under the Baking for Community banner within Scotland The Bread. However, in May 2017 Veronica’s unexpected illness prompted significant changes to what we could do at Bread Matters and her death less than a year later left both an unfillable gap and a fount of inspiration to find new ways of bringing better food to everyone, as of right.
Bread Matters no longer offers courses at Macbiehill. We have thoroughly enjoyed the lively companionship, the people and their stories, and being able to share the sense of change and possibility that was so often in the air. The focus has now moved to developing Scotland The Bread’s flour production and promoting the benefits of making bread with nutrient-dense, biodiverse grain, grown and milled in the region, using slow fermentation and human-scale production. Alongside this, Andrew continues his Bread Matters work providing advice to bakers, bakeries and communities and, just maybe, thinking about another book…
Bread Matters’ online shop will, at some point in 2019, move over to Scotland The Bread’s website, bringing our careful selection of specialist baking equipment under the same roof as the flour.