From fashion to farming - Mulberry founder's warning on UK food security

Standing in a Somerset field with a clear view to the famous Glastonbury Tor is not the sort of place you would expect to hear a farmer quote a Middle Ages German saint, but Roger Saul is no ordinary farmer.

The founder of world-famous brand Mulberry turned his back on fashion 20 years ago and his attention towards agriculture - specifically, growing spelt.

“Hildegard von Bingen said spelt is good for the mind, good for the body and good for the soul,” he says.

“Now, having spent my life marketing with Mulberry - wow! I’ve got three amazing bits here. So spelt became the target.”

Saul was referring to the research he did on spelt after embarking on farming following his departure from Mulberry.

In 2003 he bought the land around his family home and restored what was a run-down dairy farm into an organic mixed economy farm. He created the Sharpham Park brand and set out to bring spelt back into the British diet.

His knowledge of European saints stems from the research he did into spelt, a crop suggested to him by his sister when he was leaning towards growing wheat.

“Sadly, she was suffering from cancer and was trying to balance the alkalinity and the acidity in her body and she said spelt could be great" he said.

“I looked it up on the internet and there was literally one page, but lovely notes like the fact the Roman army used it for their marching bread.

“It was 9000 years old. 3000 years ago it had been discovered in Glastonbury Lake Village. So all these bits came together.”

Roger Saul's farm is due to launch a children's breakfast cereal in late 2022

Fast forward to this summer and Roger’s business is leading the way on spelt products including milk, pasta and breakfast cereals.

The grain is grown at around 20 farms across the country and milled at Sharpham Park. He believes it can help the UK’s food security during difficult times ahead.

He said: “Unless that plant-based diet is followed more closely and we produce less grain for animals and more for humans that is the only way forward. I think if we're going to feed this country we've got to be really saying we must feed humans first. Animals are a vital part of the mix, but it's probably going to be much less.

“But until I think the government starts saying we're going to support and direct our farmers and help them - help them make this change towards producing more plant based food, there's a problem coming up.”

Roger Saul turned his attention towards spelt farming after leaving Mulberry in the early 2000s

As this year’s harvest comes in, thoughts will turn to next year. As an organic farm Roger is determined to protect this land and the soil, despite how challenging that can be financially.

“If I look back to margins in handbags vs margins in farming, one bag of flour vs one handbag - it's terrible in comparison,” he said.

“But that isn't the point. The point has to be farmers historically have been asked to produce and to produce from the land, and with all the chemicals we've been pouring in, that was what we thought was best to get the best yield.

“Now we know differently. Now we know we've got to protect the soil. With global warming unless we change our attitude there's a big problem coming ahead.”

From fashion to farming - Roger Saul hopes that his Somerset fields can go a long way to feeding the country in the years to come.