John Turner

As part of our YQ coming home project, we are growing this alley of YQ which John has been nurturing for the last few years.

If you’re interested in helping us with a bit of ‘citizen science’ click here.

John has kindly shared the history and his experience with us:

YQ at The Grange, Little Bytham

When planning our cropping at The Grange, we usually set aside time for a meeting in late June or early July with Paul from Tuxford Mill, who takes the majority of the specialist wheats that we grow. In 2017, he suggested that Kim from Small Food Bakery in Nottingham might join us and it was at that meeting that she asked whether we were “up for” growing some YQ wheat for Paul to Mill and for her to bake.

I had briefly met with Martin in 2004 (I think?) when I was involved with FARM and we had arranged a meeting with Donal Murphy-Bokern  who was at the time head of Sustainable Food, Farming and Fisheries Development at DEFRA. We had argued the case that BBSRC were skewing the use of public funding in food and farming far too much towards high-tech science, to the exclusion of more practical solutions. I was working with John Sanderson (South Elmham Hall) who knew Martin and his work and felt that it would be a useful case study to press home our case. Donal was sympathetic to our case but said that ultimately it was the Treasury that decided policy however, my abiding memories was that of him speaking to Martin towards the end of our meeting when Martin was asking about funding his project and Donal said that he recognised its value and although it didn’t fit in to any of the existing funding streams that were set up (exactly the point we were making), to rest assured that he would find some way of supporting it, even if it came from what he described as his general “slush fund”! . Donal also jokingly referred to the populations that Martin was developing as “Wolfe Packs”, (and quickly reflected   “that’s probably not a very PC thing to call them”!)

I had hoped to follow that meeting with a trip to Wakelyns to see the work on populations for myself but finding time to get away from the farm was increasingly difficult. Therefore, when Kim mentioned YQ, it seemed a perfect opportunity to make contact once again and I was of course sufficiently familiar with Martin’s work to have confidence in taking what was going to be a departure from our normal cropping.

I contacted Martin in August 2017 having identified a field (of 3.7ha or so) that we felt was suitable.  We ordered 2 x 500kg of seed through John Bardwell, which we paid £630/t (at the time, wheat prices were around £400/t, so again a bit of a step into the unknown for us!). That first crop yielded 16t, so at 4.3 t/ha was certainly respectable in an organic system.

With limited markets, we had sufficient stock for there to not be any need to plant any YQ in 2018, so our next planting was in 2019 (5.9ha) using Farm Saved Seed from the 2018 harvest. From that point, both Kim and Paul (Tuxford Mill) have helped to develop a good, solid demand for YQ flour from both commercial and home bakers.

Having grown YQ in 2020 and 2021, this year’s planting (2022) now represents the 5th generation here at The Grange. It has proved to be a great “all-rounder” in terms of its baking quality and from a grower’s point of view, it always performs strongly compared with most of the single varieties that we have on the farm.

The “coming home” trial is a really interesting one for us to be part of and we are particularly looking forward to seeing if there are any significant differences in the way our YQ has evolved compared with those from other parts of the country.

More about the Turner family farm here. Another part of our collaboration with them is that they supply much of the flour, including YQ flour, for the Wakelyns Bakery.