If quality ingredients make all the difference, then grain is among the most important of all. We catch up with wheat farmer Paul Murphy to hear about organic grain with wholesome integrity.
CENTRAL QUEENSLAND IS IN THE MIDST OF A DROUGHT. HOW’S THAT AFFECTING THIS YEAR’S CROP?
To give you some perspective, I’ve got no wheat this year because we haven’t had any rain since February. Usually, this time of year you’d find me on a header or storing and delivering the wheat. It’s a struggle but it’s not unexpected. We live in a very variable climate here, but usually when you miss out on a crop, the next year’s harvest makes up for it.
YOU MUST HAVE A LOT OF EXPERIENCE WITH DROUGHT TO HAVE SUCH A POSITIVE LONG-TERM VIEW.
Dry periods are just part of what we have always had to deal with. As a wheat farmer since 1988 and a certified organic farmer since 1991, I’ve seen it all before.
IS FARMING IN THE MURPHY BLOOD?
It sure is. My father and grandfather were also wheat farmers, and my two kids both take an interest in agriculture.
HOW IS DEMAND FOR ANCIENT GRAINS PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE SECTOR?
As a farmer, keeping up with consumers is hard. Problems occur when industry grows too much of the product. From a marketing perspective it becomes a problem because it affects pricing. But from my angle, if you push your own agricultural system too hard, you end up lowering your quality. I like to think long-term with soils and, while it’s hard for those down the chain, we have to keep the quality of what we are doing strong.
ARE YOU CONCERNED CERTAIN ON-TREND GRAINS WILL LOSE POPULARITY?
Not really, as long as the focus is on quality. We’re doing a lot of work with what we call ‘historic wheats’ because there is a market for wheat with a strong nutritional profile since the incidences of coeliac disease have increased. We’ve got about 70 varieties of spelt and 60 varieties of historic wheat at the moment.
WHY DOES TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY WHEAT HAVE SO MUCH APPEAL?
In about 1960 there was a jump in the wheat breeding world where farmers started crossing the Mexican Dwarf variety into the old European and Middle Eastern varieties. With a faster and higher yield, it was certainly popular. But coincidently, since then, the number of people with gluten intolerance has risen dramatically. I don’t want to grow something that makes people sick. That’s why we’re – and this is where Wholegrain Milling, organic grain comes in – hunting around to pick those old varieties that do the job for the consumer, as well as the baker and the farmer. At the moment we’re putting the farmer first, but that model has got to change.
CAN YOU TASTE THE DIFFERENCE?
Of course! There’s something really special about eating the same bread as your grandparents and great parents would have eaten.