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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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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CBH Group wipes 2 million tonnes off WA’s expected grain harvest

Frost damage is continuing to wipe millions of tonnes off Western Australia’s expected grain harvest.

The state’s main grain handler and marketer the CBH Group has revised its harvest estimate from 15–17 million tonnes down to 13–14 million tonnes.

CBH Group general manager of operations David Capper said feedback from grower meetings and agronomists had pushed the expected tonnes down.

“But in reality, even the sources of information that we’re getting won’t really know what their estimates are going to be, or what their crops are going to be before the header goes in,” he said.

“Growers can only give us the best information that they’ve got based on what they’re seeing in their paddocks. The header will be the deciding factor.”

A harvest of 13–14 million tonnes is still well above the average harvest of 10.2 million tonnes.

“It’s on par with the past couple of years, but unfortunately not the larger crop that we were anticipating earlier in the year,” Mr Capper said.

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He said the frost damage was widespread across the state and as harvest began, frost damage was appearing in areas where it was not anticipated.

He said CBH was introducing new segregations for barley, which was badly affected, and was looking at introducing lower weight segregations for wheat.

“Prices are depressed as it is, and lower quality grain is going to be more so,” Mr Capper said.

“It just makes that challenge of ensuring that we don’t force growers to downgrade grain that doesn’t need to be downgraded by not having the right services available.

Mr Capper said frost was one of the hardest seasonal conditions to deal with.

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Farming disaster ‘a matter of dam timing’

Flooded farmers along the Murray River have accused the ­national water management authority of making a natural disaster worse by delaying releases from the giant Hume Dam ­upstream of Albury-Wodonga, despite warnings of a looming ­deluge, The Australian reports.

Richard Sargood, chairman of the Murray River Action Group, said the Murray-Darling Basin Authority promised farmers downstream of the Hume Dam at an August 18 meeting that it would soon start gradual water releases from the vast dam once storage levels reached 83 per cent.

Rob Locke in a flooded livestock paddock on his property near Tocumwal. Picture: Aaron Francis

Rob Locke in a flooded livestock paddock on his property near Tocumwal. Picture: Aaron Francis

The promise of bigger releases came after Bureau of Meteorology predictions of a wet August and September ahead and sudden increases in water levels in Lake Hume of 10 per cent a week.

“But they didn’t,’’ Mr Sargood said. “Everyone knew it was going to be a very wet spring but they didn’t make any pre-releases in August to create the air space (in the dam) in case of big sudden inflows.

“So when we had our (first) big rains (September 14), the ground everywhere was sodden already, the dam was nearly full at 97 per cent and there was nowhere for the water to go except for the gates to be opened in a rush.

“They didn’t make room early enough; it’s no wonder you have talk of class actions and compensation from those who have been hit by these big floods downstream that didn’t have to have been as bad as they were; management could certainly be improved.”

The filled Hume Dam has been spilling water from massive concrete gates for most of the past month. Its biggest releases — 70,000-80,000 megalitres per day for six days from October 3 — caused a “wall of water” to swamp the downriver towns of Corowa and Tocumwal a few days later.

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Bill to add fair price label to milk in Queensland

Queensland consumers could soon be able to check their bottle of milk to see if the farmer who produced it was paid a fair price.

Katter’s Australian Party MP Shane Knuth has tabled a private members bill in state parliament which would set up a series of region-specific labels to indicate a fair price has been paid.

Mr Knuth says the scheme will make it simple for consumers to support farmers by buying milk which has been paid for at a reasonable rate.

The labelling scheme would be voluntary, but Mr Knuth says he believes people power will see a “domino effect” to get big supermarket chains on board.

Mr Knuth submitted a similar bill to parliament in 2013 under the previous Liberal National Party government, but it was defeated.

He believed public and political sentiment now appeared to be on the side of the farmers.

“Back in 2000 there were 1500 dairy farmers, right at this present moment there is 430,” he said.

“It’s an average of one dairy farmer a week that is leaving the industry.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has stopped short of endorsing the bill.

Ms Palaszczuk says she’ll wait until she reads the proposal before deciding whether to support it.

“At the moment the reality is milk producers in Queensland already have the ability to label their milk,” the Premier said.

“But I’ll have a look at the bill, I don’t really want to make any further comment until I’ve seen the detail of that proposal.”

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