This weekend, we drove out of Brussels to the village of Meix-devant-Virton, near Belgium's border with France, to visit the Ferme du Hayon. For several years we've been buying Marc's excellent flour (not to mention his beef and potatoes) but this was the first time we had visited the farm. It's a lovely, quiet spot, set in rolling countryside. The farmyard was full of children, with swallows darting in and out of open doorways and windows and dogs sleeping in the shade under benches.
We'd been invited to a guided tour of the farm's experimental field, where Marc and his colleagues are growing small test plots of around 50 ancient varieties of wheat and rye. Cultivation is entirely organic and highly labour-intensive, with weeding done by hand. As part of the Li Mistère network, the Ferme du Hayon aims to select the varieties best adapted to the local soil and climate and to reintroduce them, developing techniques such as wide-spaced planting to optimise resistance to disease and 'laying', and thus yields.
It was wonderful to see a whole field of wheat as tall as me – something I remember from my childhood. I am hoping that I'll be able to go back for the harvest in a few weeks' time.