This February we are turning our Sustainability Spotlight on Hylsten Bakery, a sourdough bakery and school in Buckfastleigh using organic, stoneground flours to create delicious, nutritious bread.
Owned by Kate Marton, Hylsten bakes for the community, to support local growers and millers and to work towards a more resilient local food system.
We’ll let owner Kate tell you more…
The intention for Hylsten Bakery has always been very clear – to produce bread that is better for the planet in its production and more nourishing for our customers than many of the alternatives out there.
For us this means only using grain that has been grown in the UK from organic or regeneratively-managed farms. The grain should only be stonemilled as close to the bakery as possible and the resulting bread produced using a long, slow sourdough fermentation.
Who do you work with?
We are incredibly lucky to get at least half of all the flour that we use from Fresh Flour Co. who have their operation in the same building as us. Our two businesses share similar mission statements and over the years we have built a very close relationship with Andrew, having daily conversations about the grain he is milling and the farms from which that grain has come. This also enables us to use the flour at its freshest – straight off the mill.
Having these self-imposed rules around the flour we use helps us to keep our food miles to a minimum, which is particularly important as grain and flour are very weighty products meaning a higher carbon footprint on their transport.
Another recent and exciting development is a collaboration with Tim Williams from Crocadon Farm and Earth Barton. Tim has been farming regeneratively his whole life and is on a mission to restore and regenerate the land he is currently a custodian of back into the beautiful healthy and abundant soil it once was.
We are so pleased to be working with Tim as he grows a variety of modern and heritage crops for us. We have set up monthly phone calls that enable us to learn more about the farming process and connect the bakery and our team back to the land. As we move through the season we will also organise field trips to see the wheat in the field and better understand all the factors that farmers are dealing with when growing in an ever changing climate.
Looking forward we have already spoken of developing our own populations wheats that are best suited to Tim’s soils and our baking production.
Any other sustainable initiatives?
Sustainability runs at the core of Hylsten. We have only ever used electric vehicles to deliver our bread. We have always used recycled and compostable packaging and do our best to reduce, reuse and recycle at all times, for example all our delivery notes are printed on the reverse of the used sticker paper used in our packaging.
Hylsten has always been about our mission and ethics over profit. Every decision we make is informed first by its environmental / sustainability impact. We could of course have a much more profitable business if we were to use conventional flour that is part of the commodity market – traded all over the world.
However, we feel that system doesn’t have a sustainable future and so we are dedicated to only using UK stoneground flour in our all bread.
How do you involve your team?
We have always strived to pay our staff the best possible wage and we are very pleased to say that this year, in our second year of trading we are now paying all staff the Living Wage. Staff welfare is of the upmost importance to us. As well as their Living Wage they also have access to both staff breakfast and lunch, alongside unlimited hot drinks and of course loaves to take home each week.
We hold bi-monthly staff meetings/pizza/beer nights where we practice an open book accounting policy with all our staff. We go through the balance sheets and P&L for the month so that everyone has full transparency on how the business is performing. This is directly correlated to the bonus structure we have in place, where all our staff have equal opportunity to a quarterly bonus.
…and the community?
Since the bakery’s inception we have donated weekly to local food banks. This started with Buckfastleigh Food bank during lockdown.
Unfortunately there was a period when we were told the recipients of the food bank were struggling as the bread wasn’t sliced and that it wasn’t as familiar as the supermarket loaves they were used to.
In that time we started to work with Food in Community in Totnes. Luckily once we had worked with the Buckfastleigh team to understand how they could communicate better about the type of bread we make, we soon got up and running with them again so now make two weekly donations to people in need.
Do you share your sustainable message to inspire others?
We have a strong social media presence. Our Instagram account in particular is a record of issues that are close to our heart. We use social media to share or passion and knowledge of sourdough baking and the importance of working with fresh flour from local organic / regenerative farms.
We also run monthly bread classes where we talk with participants about the importance of localised food systems and try and encourage everyone to think about where their food comes from and how it is produced.
Everyone leaves fully equipped to continue to make sourdough bread knowing they can source their flour locally from Andrew at Fresh Flour Co.