Farmer working to make teff the next big thing in ancient grains

Ancient grains have found a place as part of the modern diet, with options like quinoa becoming common on supermarket shelves and cafe menus.

But a southern New South Wales farmer is hoping Australian consumers will develop a taste for another ancient grain: teff.

Wakool farmer Fraser McNaul is growing the crop and working on a system to package and market the product from paddock to plate.

He said he believed consumers would be excited by the grain, if they could be informed about what it was.

“Teff is an ancient grain from Ethiopia, it’s gluten free and its main use over there is in injera bread,” he said.

“We want to develop some products out of it that are more in line with the western palate, so that’s what we are working on at the moment with our paddock to plate process under our own brand.

“We think it’s got great qualities to it, it’s very nutritious.

“The issue that we have to deal with the most is educating the public on what teff is to try and broaden the market for it and also compete with the really cheap imported teff.”

Mr McNaul said farmers are often price takers but he is aiming to gain control of his product and be the middle man.

He said teff had been difficult to grow, but he was hopeful the venture would be a success.

“I want to make farming more economically viable and be a price setter, not a price taker,” he said.

“It takes up a lot of time, every minute that I don’t have to be on the farm I spend in the office or in Melbourne trying to learn things and make contacts.

“We did a lot of trials and a lot of trial work over the last couple of years with different agronomy and sowing techniques.

“And we’ve had some absolute disastrous failures and some good ones as well, so it takes a lot of ground work.”

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Wool Excellence Award winner: Victorian producer Garry Meek

The phone call declaring the superfine wool grown on Garry Meek’s farm in western Victoria to be the best in the world came out of the blue.

Spinning out: Garry Meek in the woolshed on his property Elanora in western Victoria. Picture: David Geraghty

Spinning out: Garry Meek in the woolshed on his property Elanora in western Victoria. Picture: David Geraghty

All Mr Meek had done was to shear his flock of 3000 merino sheep last winter in his humble corrugated-iron shearing shed and sell the resulting 65 bales to the highest bidders, The Australian reports.

But the wool was found to be so good — and the suit fabric so fine when the wool was spun at one of the world’s most celebrated Italian weaving companies, Vitale Barberis Canonico — that the Meek family has been anointed 2016 winners of the global Wool Excellence Award.

Classing and pressing lambs’ wool into bales on his farm near Streatham, Mr Meek said he found it unbelievable his wool was now being used to produce $10,000 Armani and Zegna suits. “Vitale Barberis Canonico has bought some of our fleece wool off-and-on for many years because the style of our wool suits what they are looking for,” said Mr Meek, the third generation of superfine woolgrowers in his ­family.

“I select my sheep for a dense type of wool, which is bright and white and has a well-defined crimp, which bounces back after you compress it; it’s that high compression factor that Barberis really likes because it gives you a fabric that never crinkles or creases.”

Breeding fine-wool merinos is a family tradition; Elanora has been a specialist wool-growing property since it was first selected by Mr Meek’s grandfather in 1911.

Read more at The Australian

What does a farmer look like? Changing the perception of Aussie farmers.

Two women from Eugowra in central-west New South Wales are receiving a lot of interest on social media for their project: What does a farmer look like?

They’ve started a year-long campaign to recreate Australians’ perceptions of farmers and agriculture.

Project founder Kim Storey said she was spurred into action after typing the phrase into Google.

“So I just typed into Google exactly that — What does a farmer look like?” she said.

“The results were of old men with beards and checked shirts, bib and brace overalls, holding a pitchfork.

“For anyone not involved in agriculture, if they do a search to try and get an idea of what farming is about, the perception is totally unrealistic.”

Over the next 12 months, Kim Storey and her graphic designer friend, Cassie Gates want to travel Australia photographing and interviewing farmers from all agricultural industries and put their stories into a hardcover book.

“We have done that so that we can hopefully get around to everybody and get shots while everyone is harvesting,” Ms Storey said.

“At the moment we are focusing on stone fruit and cherries to be followed by grain harvest and so on.”

They have also started building a community on Facebook and Instagram so farmers could recommend themselves or other farmers as subjects.

“We’ve only just put it out there in the last two weeks and the interest has been huge,” Ms Storey said.

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Ms Storey has always been involved in agriculture in some way. She grew up on a fine wool property near Bathurst in central-west New South Wales, went to University at Orange Agricultural College, and worked for Elders for 12 years.

But her other passion is photography.

“I have wanted to do a photographic book for a while so this is the perfect project because I am fulfilling that desire as well as getting the truth about what farmers really do out there,” she said.

Her partner Cassie Gates, was born and bred in Eugowra, where she returned home to after pursuing graphic design studies in Sydney.

“We want to make it a happy book celebrating all those great things about the land.

“I don’t come from a farming background, so I am interested to see what everyone is doing and educate my children as well that you don’t have to be of a certain stereotype to be farmer.”

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Big flows into Menindee Lakes pushes mothballed farm into life

Preparations are underway to move Tandou Farm out of care-and-maintenance mode and back into crop production.

This comes as large water flows continue to fill the Menindee Lakes in far west New South Wales.

The farm, well-known for growing cotton in the region, was mothballed earlier in the year due to low water levels in the storage system.

Joe Robinson, a director at Webster Limited, said the agribusiness, which owns the outback property, expected further flows from upstream will help secure future crops.

“I think by Christmas the lakes will probably be full,” he said.

“There’s still very big flows in the Darling River and around Bourke so those flows will continue for a couple of months.

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Mr Robinson said pre-planting work would need to commence before seeds went into the ground.

Mr Robinson said it will take close to a year before gossypium will flourish on Menindee soil — until then, some other type of grain will go into the ground.

“Cotton won’t go in till September or October next year as water’s come too late for this year,” he said.

“The first thing that will happen is potentially a winter crop and that’ll depend on water availability.

“We’ve got to determine exactly what sort of configuration we’re going to grow our cotton in and we’ll look at the market opportunities for grain crops.

“Obviously, grain prices are pretty depressed at the moment. What the mix will be we’ll determine over time.

“Some sort of cereal, whether it’s a wheat or barley or a durum, will happen. Historically Tandou’s grown a fair bit of durum wheat, so that is one of the likely possibilities.”

In the meantime, there is work to be done on the farm to clear unwanted weeds from paddocks.

“We’ll do a bit of a clean up and commencing pretty shortly,” Mr Robinson said.

“We’ve allowed weeds to grow on the fields and part of that process was about actually getting some ground cover.

“If you keep things spotless and we get the winds, it’ll blow sand and dust all over the place and you can get drifts, which become pretty hard to deal with when you want to get back into cropping.

“We’ve had record rainfall and some of the weeds have persisted longer than I expected.

“But we’ve got no issue in turning these fields around — that was part of the program and we’ll be ready to roll when we need to be.”

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