We Feed the World explored the extraordinary stories of 50 communities around the world, featuring small-scale farmers and fishers from across the globe who are using regenerative techniques to nurture biocultural diversity. Launched in 2018, We Feed the World brought the efforts of these individuals and communities to light in the context of current challenges – from land-grabbing to deforestation – calling for global support of small-scale, agroecological farming. We are often told by corporations, governments and the media that without a high-tech, chemically intensive industrial food system, we would soon starve. We Feed The World cut through this misinformation to creatively tell the stories of the farmers and fishers who really feed the world. 

Recognising that this is an ongoing journey, and with the imminent launch of We Feed The UK, we recently revisited some of the individuals and communities featured in the original campaign to find out where they are now, and bring you updates on their stories… 


The Isles of Uist lie off the coast of Scotland, on the westernmost fringe of Europe, forming the last stronghold of both the Gaelic language and a crofting tradition that has maintained small-scale farming for generations. Here, the crofting families Macpherson and Macdonald  grow their native landrace ‘Bere’ barley. This landrace has been grown in Scotland for at least a thousand years and was the traditional source of malt for whiskey production, until the 19th century when higher yielding varieties were developed and outcompeted Bere barley. Bere is specially adapted to the harsh cold and wet conditions of the Hebrides and Highlands, and has continued to be cultivated by crofters in remote places like Uist. 

Crofters have always farmed in ways that are conducive to nature flourishing, and Bere barley is no different. On Uist, crofting contributes to creating and maintaining the uniquely biodiverse and coastal habitat Machair. Machair occurs on low lying, calcium-rich sandy grasslands. The abundant calcium is produced by the breakdown of shells from the beaches. Nutrient deficiencies in the soils are made up for by using seaweed as rich fertiliser and cultivating adapted crops like Bere which have low nutrient requirements. This eliminates any desire to use chemical or mineral fertilisers. 

The Bere barley is grown in the same fields as many local species of wildflowers like the ragged robin, the marsh orchid and the Hebridean spotted orchid. The fields also provide habitat for many birds, including the threatened Corncrake. Crofters’ farming practices are aligned so as not to disturb these birds whilst their young are flightless. The Hebridean Isles, with the crofter’s custodianship, are one of the few places in Europe where Corncrakes still flourish. 


As people begin to recognise the value in these locally adapted landraces, there has been somewhat of a revival of Bere barley, and the new North Uist Distillery Co. is one example of its success. The distillery has begun to use local Bere from crofters like the Macphersons, and the trend is growing. Elsewhere, others are looking to these resilient and adapted landraces. In 2021, Uist Bere barley seed was given to farmers in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. Cross-pollinating into the whiskey industry beyond the Hebrides, Simpson’s Malt distillery has now started producing a new Bere whiskey. Ingledew, a Uist local and one of the founders of North Uist Distillery Co., says that Bere barley has “no forfeit to taste” as the higher yielding varieties do. As well as offering resilience and great drinking, it helps facilitate a local circular economy – the harvested barley goes from the crofts to be threshed for the grains and the straw is returned to the crofters for animal feed.

Whiskey distilling and Bere barley holds a special place in Scottish culture and history. After the Jacobite rebellion, the English set out to suppress the Scots, one of their methods being a heavy tax on whiskey. Due to geographic location, highlanders and islanders could evade the English regulation of distilleries much more easily than the lowlands, which led to a booming industry of smuggled Highland whiskey and a long history of cat and mouse evasion of English regulators. Whiskey was a form of local resistance. The North Uist Distillery Co. with its local Bere whiskey can proudly call itself the first legal distillery on the Isles of Uist, but coming from a long lineage of rebellious and illicit Gaelic distillers. 

This story was original photographed for We Feed The World by Sophie Gerrard, and we are thrilled that she is one of ten photographers forming our new campaign, We Feed The UK. Sophie is continuing to capture those breaking ground, focussing on women who are flourishing in Scotland’s male-dominated farming landscape, across rural and urban contexts. We Feed The UK, including Sophie’s work, launches on 8th February.