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HERITAGE GRAIN

TOAD, the only distillery in the world using ancient populations of heritage grain to create spirits!

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John Letts is an archaeo-botanist and leading voice in the resurgence of ancient yet sustainable farming methods. John has spent over 25 years researching, sourcing and farming these ancient grains explains:

“Modern hybrids grown as monocultures are genetically uniform crops where every plant in the field is a clone of its neighbour. They can’t adapt to climatic change and every plant responds to growing conditions in exactly the same way.  They are vulnerable to disease, pests and drought and, because they are all short, they can’t compete with weeds.  Yields can be enormous in a good year if the fields are dosed with nitrogen fertilizer and dowsed regularly with fungicides, pesticides and herbicides but they will fail or underperform if conditions aren’t perfect.  In contrast, the land races which were grown in the past are genetically diverse, resilient and adaptable.  Each plant in the field is different, creating a crop which is more vigorous, healthy and hardy – without the need for chemicals”

The result is a crop which is not just ‘organic’.  It is part of a new super-sustainable movement and the pinnacle of current eco-agriculture.  It is a living, breathing genetically diverse crop, actively responding to and enriching its environment.  Letts continues “Unlike modern, short stemmed hybrid varieties with their shallow roots and constant need for chemical inputs, land races contain a huge variety of plant types. Most of these are tall with deep roots which creates a leaf canopy that is untroubled by shorter weeds and supports a lively ecosystem. It’s a little like having an Amazon rainforest in an English field! Every part of a land race sustains the agro-ecosystem – from micro-organisms in the soil, to insects buzzing and birds flying above. Unlike monocultures, these crops can respond to the challenges of natural selection and adapt to environmental shifts.  They are natural, vigorous plants and the crop gains strength through its diversity!”

Commenting on the importance of this grain, distillery founder Tom Nicolson says “Intensive farming has had a catastrophic effect on wildlife, it depletes the soil and contributes to global warming. Scientists are also linking pesticides to illnesses like cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. There has never been a more urgent need to explore less toxic and more nurturing ways of growing our food.”

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