Last year we set up an organic press and brewhouse at Haye Farm, 3 miles down the road from Trill Farm, called Gilt & Flint, which produces organic apple juice and two types of beer; a pale ale and an IPA. I wanted this business to fit into our farm’s circular system, so growing barley to produce the beer and to use its by-products on the farm seemed common sense. We didn’t have the land at Haye Farm on which to grow so were delighted when Romy offered us three fields at Trill Farm. 

We selected two varieties of barley; Ducksbill and Golden Pheasant, which we planted over 23 acres. These are both long-strawed heritage varieties which were developed before the use of chemicals, so are much better suited to an organic system. Their height also makes them better competition against weeds so the crop needs less maintenance. In addition, they produce more straw than modern varieties, which is a useful by-product, although not our main reason for growing them.

The majority of the grain we harvest will be malted to make beer. The grains will be floor-malted in the traditional manner by Warminster Maltery. During this process the grains are sprouted on the floor, turned a few times, dried, and then ground and milled to make the malt. After being used to make our beer, the malt will go on to feed our herd of Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, and so will have a dual use. The process of malting actually makes better and more nutritious pig food than the original grain.

The straw will be used for winter bedding for our herd of Devon Red cattle as well as any sheep we bring in this winter when the weather gets bad. Once used, the straw and muck will be collected and spread back onto the fields at Trill Farm for fertility, thus completing the system.

In additional to the beer, a proportion of our grain will be milled to use as a barley component in bread making. Next year we plan to grow a few varieties of wheat for milling to expand on this area as I have joined a group of bakers, millers and farmers based in the southwest who are working with heritage grains.

As ever in a first year, there were a few hurdles to get through. In our rush to harvest before the bad weather we made the straw when it was still a little green and the weeds had not had time to dry out completely. This also meant the moisture content of the grain was slightly high, so we had to dry it out, which was a bit of a challenge. 

However, overall it was a great success. We intend to learn from our experiences this year and grow barley at Trill Farm again in 2020. We will grow on a similar scale, but may try a few different varieties as well as some wheat varieties.

Harry and Emily took over Haye Farm in 2014 aiming to create a sustainable food system of mixed organic pasture, arable and vegetable, soft fruit and herb growing. As well as growing barley at Trill Farm, Harry also grazes sheep and cattle here.