A drizzly day in England. Quite lovely if you ask me!
This morning was when the reality of being back to school set in. We had plenty of time to get ourselves organised (although two of us slept until 9 inadvertently), and then it was presentation time. A large number of the staff of the Organic Research Centre (ORC) gathered to hear us, as students, present our assessment of grain production and bread baking in our respective places of study. We American students presented a little history of grain growing in Maine, a brief synopsis of what we learned at the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, and a few of the external factors - primarily diseases - that are currently affecting grain production. Our German counterparts gave us a glimpse of how the organic market has developed in Germany, how the organic system is organised, some market statistics, and then some data on bread production in particular. It's been fascinating to me throughout the day to learn about and compare organic standards and practices in these three different locations (Maine, UK, and Germany), and then even thinking about specific certification standards that I'm familiar with from Pennsylvania. It's really quite fascinating, for example, that here in England, there are packaging standards for organic produce. I know that some people choose not to buy organic bananas at Hannaford because they are packaged in plastic bags. Here, any packaging of organic produce has to meet certain standards, i.e. compostable plastics, etc. I've run out of energy at the moment to go into greater detail, but the discussion that came out of those presentations had to eventually be shut down in order to eat some lunch before the next session was scheduled to begin. The same trend continued into the afternoon as we heard from Nic Lampkin, the director of the ORC, with some thoughts on "historical perspectives on wheat, settled agriculture, sustainability, and the survival of civilisations." It seems to me we spent most of our time hashing out the definition of "sustainable agriculture" and what that may, may not, or could, look like. The discussion could have gone on far longer, but Nic pulled in the reins and wrapped up with a few variations of sustainable agriculture, many of which I'm not familiar with yet (I've now got some research to do!), and then looked more specifically at the question of what is organic farming and what should be in included in the definition by pointing out what's lacking in the USDA definition.
It's been very engaging and thought-provoking to participate in these discussions today. It's so exciting to be here, talking about these issues, with these people, but I'm exhausted! I'm still a bit tired physically as I adjust to the 5 hour time shift, but I'm also mentally exhausted after the day. It's time for a little fresh air, exercise, dinner, and bed. Tomorrow we're heading to Abbey Home Farm for the day. Check it out at www.theorganicfarmshop.co.uk or stay tuned for a report tomorrow!
Word on the street is that Stonehenge might be in the itinerary for Saturday...?