A couple of weeks ago I headed to Edinburgh, in part to visit Breadshare, a community bakery that I had heard about (and felt inspired by!) on Radio 4’s The Food Programme. I had been meaning to visit for a while; I love Edinburgh & especially the fringe festival, so I’d really hoped to combine the two…. But August is a busy month for foodies; busy markets, food festivals, and covering for holidays. So It’s been niggling me for a few months to get there, and towards the end of March I finally spotted my chance. I emailed Debra – who seems to be the font of all knowledge, operational and otherwise – and was lucky enough to grab some of their precious time the following week.
The bakery’s main site is in the Leith area of Edinburgh, which I had never been to before. I allowed myself plenty of time to get there, which was brilliant because it meant that I had a little extra time to have some lovely breakfast there. I never leave home without breakfast if I can help it (with the exception of the market-day early starts – before 5am, I just prefer the extra 10 minutes in bed…). I had a round of toasted Borodinski… which is very similar to our own Coriander Rye, there’s something enjoyable about seeing such a distinctive loaf but made by someone else.
After finishing, I awkwardly asked if Debra was there. Awkwardly, as Debra & Geoff been sitting in the mostly empty café discussing orders the entire time I’d been eating. I suspected as much but obviously being British I couldn’t just go up to them and ask! Unless I was going to get all Gordon Bennet – “Community bakery legends, I presume!”
Anyway, it was absolutely brilliant to talk to them about their motivations, where they had started and where they were going. Debra seemed to be full of plans, tumbling out like hot loaves off a baking tray. Plans for engaging with local farmers to grow local grain for the breads, expansions plans, cooperative plans with other small bakeries, working together to meet the ever increasing local appetite for delicious real bread, instead of competing with them and knocking small start-ups out of business. Just a really great, generous-spirited, open and engaging attitude towards the world.
They have 5 social objectives, which are essentially;
1. Make and promote real bread
2. Involve the community
3. Help other community bakeries with similar aims
4. Pursue sustainability
5. Actively support the local food chain
What really struck me about Breadshare though, was the honesty. Their slogan – “Real bread for all” really struck a chord with me. They’re not about fancy processes, they’re not about creating a piece of art for people willing to pay, they’re not about creating a perfectly designed chic space for customers to Instagram. They are about creating a real, honest product, made out of simple, sound and sustainable ingredients. There was a strong vibe of inclusivity which I really identified with. The bread is made for the most honest cost, to be accessible to as many people as possible. Profits are put straight back into the bakery, and to make a difference on a wider scale.
They run affordable classes for people looking to improve their own home baking. They give away starters, sending them home with instructions for successful starter care. Classes are run for local children, getting them to make two loaves, then give them the equipment to go home and make two more, one for their family and one to take into school.
The have a sound zero waste policy, following a hierarchy: sell bread the following day for £1, freeze & donate to food banks/Real Junk Food Project (this really excited me as we do exactly the same!), then after that donate to organic pig farmers to fed their pigs. It was refreshing to see how important this was to them, as I feel very strongly about food waste and am always looking to avoid wasting any of our hard-won product!
The key aspect, I felt, was the focus on making real bread, and making it affordable for everyone – making a bread with sound and sustainable ingredients, making waves in locally grown produce, and engaging people & educating them about what real bread really is.
It was really inspirational that the focus is on the substance of the bread and the business, and not just the style and the appearance. There’s a lovely philosophy running throughout the whole outfit – it really does feel like real bread for everyone. I took a lot away from my visit, and it left me full of idea with how to improve our own project!