Growing a local grain economy

Using grain that’s grown locally and milled fresh is good for the farmer, the baker and the customer.

We started Tivoli Road Bakery five years ago, and from day one it was all about using the best local produce around us. It’s taken a while to get to a place where we are happy with the supply and quality of the local produce (for example, using Victorian butter sheets in our puff and croissant dough instead of foreign-owned or imported butter). The most important and largest volume of product that we buy is grain. We are lucky to have Wholegrain Milling and Laucke, with their beautiful organic flours in good volume.

In our first year at Tivoli Road we hosted BreadEd, a gathering of professional and amateur bakers from around Australia and New Zealand, with Ian Lowe from Apiece in Launceston. BreadEd evolved into an annual gathering called grAiNZ, an opportunity to meet farmers, millers and other bakers, and start a conversation and share ideas. At the moment, there is a lot of talk about how to select good grains that not only taste great and make nutritious bread, but also care for the soil in which they’re grown.

Now we have a good open conversation with growers and millers, whereas before it was very closed or unknown. Flour arrived and that was it; we were just another part of the chain with little dialogue or interaction. So many people are avoiding gluten now, ignoring how farming practices and the processing of the foods that they’re eating is impacting their health. We feel a real responsibility to educate people, from our staff to—most importantly—our customers, so they understand what we do, where it all comes from and why organic sourdough bread is good for you.

In the last few months we have been using flour from Ian and Courtney at Woodstock Farm in Berrigan, New South Wales. Their flour is milled in a New American Stone Mill; the flour has this wonderful creamy colour and it’s the best I’ve seen in Australia. It’s so beautifully milled and fine that we now use 30 per cent whole-wheat in our classic house sourdough. They also have rye, khorasan and spelt. It’s milled fresh for us and delivered by Ian and Courtney themselves.

We also use grain from Jason Cotter’s Tuerong Farm in the Mornington Peninsula, which is only an hour from our bakery. He is in the early stages of grain growing but has put in red wheats, which are typically used for cattle feed in Australia but used for bread in Europe, and other varieties of wheat for flavour and diversity. He has also invested in his own mill, and mills the grain before it’s delivered to our bakery in South Yarra. It’s a big gamble for these new grain farmers but we need that diversity and we also need to start giving back to the soil through good rotations and organic farming. We are more than happy to support these farmers.

So we have taken big steps and committed to a new generation of farmers and millers in Australia, and it has definitely changed for the better in the last few years. There is still a long way to go, and perhaps our daughter’s generation will benefit the most from it. Having a choice of wheat that tastes great and performs well in our bread, or a variety of wheat that, when milled fresh, can be used to make the best tasting croissant, is something that we look forward to in the future.

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