Champ de blé

The cereal

Posted by Anne-Astrid Heitz on

Man domesticated cereals 12,000 years ago. They quickly became the basis of the human diet directly and indirectly for meat, they were at the heart of many civilizations, economic and political decisions in the same way as money itself. They were used as payments in Mesopotamia or as taxes in the Middle Ages with the tithe or the champart, paid respectively to the clergy and to the lord. In short, they are at the very heart of any civilization.

Today we cultivate 736 million hectares of cereals industrially and in monoculture for the vast majority. Cereal cultivation occupies 52% of arable land in the world. In 2019, this area produced just over 2.7 million tonnes of cereals, i.e. around 344 kg gross per inhabitant.

Wheat field in monoculture

Despite this massive demand, which may seem surprising, and the fact that we eat cereals in all forms, very often excessively processed, most of us are no longer able to differentiate one cereal from another. We have developed intolerances to gluten and no one tells us that cultivated wheat is increasingly selected or sometimes modified for the sole purpose of profitability per hectare without taking into account either the sustainability of this process or food safety. Corn, wheat, rice, oats, barley, triticale, sorghum, rye, fonio, so many varieties that we think we know from the shelves of our supermarkets.

After wine, vegetables, meat, why explore the world of cereals? Simply because the issues are exactly the same from one sector to another. The logic of current productions is biased by the prism of hyper-productivity in monoculture whereas all these cultures together are not only coherent but interdependent within the framework of the overall project of the domain. I grow cereals to feed my animals and the manure I collect helps fertilize my fields.

Detail of a cereal rye field

How did we come to no longer know what we are eating, to always consume the same ultra-processed cereals without realizing that it was harmful for us and for the planet?

Many of the answers lie in the internationalization of trade. Globalization has pushed to productivism and above all to standardization. In food as elsewhere, everything is easier to manage logistically when it is standard. This therefore involved the selection of certain varieties, then hybridization to perfect the whole productivist logic to the point of forgetting that the natural evolution of all these cereals has a meaning and contributes to the natural balance of the species.

Today, we see the results of these manipulations and global strategies disconnected from reality among many French farmers. Unable to be competitive against the gigantic American, German, Chinese monocultures, etc., they have no solution to survive, the State not helping reasoned and intelligent cultures in any way except with logos and certifications too far removed from the reality on the ground. We are witnessing the abandonment of our campaigns with a bottom-up selection of the biggest, nothing new under the sun you might say.

Photo of a buckwheat field

I decided to turn to cereals to affirm the consistency of the estate's polyculture strategy. Beyond its use to feed animals, cereals feed us and can be transformed in many ways. One of the essential ways to transform it is undoubtedly through the production of flour. Thanks to a partnership with a friend from Corcelles-les-Arts, we offer at Le Cellier à Pommard T55 and T80 wheat flour, as well as buckwheat flour, produced in a reasoned way. They were the basis of the pies that delighted our guests at the Terrasse de Mimande this summer.

At Le Cellier, it is also possible to order Josselin L'enfarineur breads every week, made with natural sourdough and local flours. They are on the breakfast menu for our guests in Mimande . Finally, cereals are of course used in beer… A future production? See you soon.

Armand Heitz

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