Bacchus Marsh baker, Jordan Walls, and Trentham baker, John Reid, are working with neighbouring farmers and changing the way we do food by going locally.
Baker and farmer mill their own flour to beat the commodity wheat market
By Jess Davis ABC Rural Posted 7 July 2018 at 7:54 am
Australia produces more than 20 million tonnes of wheat every year, but with most of it sent overseas or mass processed, local bakers struggle to get their hands on it.
Baker Jordan Walls from Bacchus Marsh in western Victoria is trying to change that. He and local farmer Chris Sharkey have teamed up to mill their own wheat.
"There are four products in it and it's the grain, the water, the culture and the salt. There are no E numbers [food additives], just time and skill," Mr Walls said.
But despite the simplicity of the recipe, Mr Walls said learning how to mill the wheat wasn't so easy.
"It's been extremely difficult and testing at the start. I understand why there hasn't been anyone embarking [on the process] or there's a select few," he said.
Mr Sharkey, a fourth generation wheat farmer, said he didn't know where most of his wheat ended up.
"We grow the wheat, put it in the truck, send it into town and it disappears, so it could end up in someone's flour in bread in Melbourne, somewhere overseas, you don't know," he said.
"To be able to see what you produce turned into something so good and taste really nice too, is fantastic.
"At the moment it's just a small percentage [of what we produce] but into the future up to 50 per cent of our wheat production will go through the mill."
Local flour revolution
Trentham baker John Reid said he hoped to turn local milling into a bigger movement, by starting a co-op of farmers and bakers.
"Re-localising grain economies so that bakers get to have direct relationships with millers and farmers, rather than relying on the grain industry," he said.
"I don't want the farmers to take the brunt of market fluctuations on an international level because they have no control."
The growing popularity of local food may have farmers and bakers excited, but market analyst Andrew Whitelaw said it was unlikely projects like this one would make a dent in the commodity market.
"Overall the majority of farmers are still going to be producing what we could say is commodity wheat," he said.
"If suddenly a lot of bigger farmers did switch to these varieties, the market for artisanal wheats would collapse, because there's only so much demand for high cost, high quality bread," Mr Whitelaw said.
But baker Jordan Walls said he believed there was an opportunity to turn bread into a product like wine or cheese, marketed according to the region in which it is produced.
"It'd be really nice to see if we could refine the milling process and then we might be able to purchase wheat from certain areas and make a prospective loaf from that area," he said.
Mr Walls said it could help raise the profile of bread.
"If you think of cheese and ham and all that stuff it's nothing until you put it between two pieces of bread."
Artisan bakers: Old heritage wheat varieties grown for best bread
by SARAH HUDSON, The Weekly Times
January 10, 2017 12:00am
IN A Victorian cropping first, a Trentham baker is sowing trial plots of heritage grains to make the most flavoursome flour for bread.
John Reid from Red Beard Bakery has used grains from the Australian Grains Genebank to plant trial plots on two farms at Trentham and Horsham.
“The idea is to select bread-making heritage wheat, rye and spelt varieties from the Genebank for flavour, which hasn’t been done in a century,” John said.
“For the past 100 years wheat varieties have been selected for disease resistance, yield, and the ability to go through industrial bread machinery to produce factory-made white-sliced bread,” he said.
John also looked to the US for guidance, basing his trials on research by Washington State University’s Bread Lab, which conducts research on thousands of lines of wheat, barley and other grains to identify those that perform well for farmers, and are most suitable for baking.
John said heavy rain ruined his first crop last year but this year he would sow 20 varieties, on his cousin’s Horsham farm, and on land owned by Wombat Forest Organic’s Adam Bremner.
In past years Adam and John collaborated on growing sugar beet, with the aim of producing local sugar, “but it was a bit ambitious”.
“Ultimately the wheat is about re-establishing local grain economies, about changing the way we do food. I’d rather my dollar went to local farmers and local millers than interstate or overseas.”
The only other Australian baker conducting a similar wheat trial is Emily Salkeld in South Australia’s Small World Bakery.
Kevin Murray, senior technical officer at the Horsham-based Australian Grains Genebank, said the AGG had more than 60,000 types of new and old cereal grains in its collection.