Meet Gareth, Tonia and little Ida from The Grain Family. This freshly launched enterprise is a small-scale organic Tasmanian farming family growing a range of delicious grains, pulses and seeds. We’re so in love with their grains and their approach to farming we want to tell you about them…
Based in northern Tasmania where the soils are red and black and rainfall abundant, The Grain Family has emerged from the same land where Elgaar Farm is based. Run by Tonia’s parents (Joe and Antonia), Elgaar is Tasmania’s only organic, ethical dairy – The Grain Family have now entered into a share farming arrangement with them and are now venturing out from under Elgaar’s wings to forge their own way as farmers. How awesome.
What do they grow?
They grow everything from oats, linseed, rye, spelt and wheat – plus they’re always doing trial crops to see what else they can grow. As they’re passionate about showing people the potential of grains as truly delicious foods in their own right, they mill grain fresh each week. By milling small batches weekly, they’re ensuring they’re at their absolute freshest and most delicious.
Their approach to farming
Growing grains in Australia is generally linked with unsustainable farming practices. Mainstream grain cropping will often use huge amounts of water, chemical inputs and heavy machinery to guarantee yields.
However over the past decade or so we’ve seen more innovative and sensible approaches to growing grain like Colin Seis from Winona Farm in NSW who co-developed “pasture cropping”.
The Grain Family’s approach is centred on building and maintaining soil health. Heavily inspired by pasture cropping, they’re looking at ways at reducing tillage and are constantly refining their approaches.
We started growing grains three years ago on an existing dairy. The nature of our heavy soils, dry summers and wet winters, and the need for animal feed to make milk, has meant we’ve adopted a ‘double cropping system’. We sow all our grains in spring and harvest in late summer and sow a grass/legume mix that grows over winter and is cut as hay in spring. There is always something growing. All added fertility comes from the grazing animal’s manure which we spread finely over the paddocks each year where it composts.
Farming as a family
Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector. So important are family farmers to the sustainability of our local and global food systems, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) declared 2014 the International Year of the Family Farmer. This is because, as a whole family farms;
- have more diverse crops and better soil health management strategies which contribute to the world’s agro-biodiversity, and
- are generally heavily connected with their local area and economy, meaning money stays in the region leading to more resilient and robust communities.
The Grain Family are a small piece of the puzzle – helping to form a whole picture of what a local, sustainability food system can look like. With these folks on board it’s looking good for Tasmania in particular, as well as the rest of Australia. More of this please.
Where can you buy these delicious grains?
If you live elsewhere you can still get your hands on these grains through the Farmhouse Direct’s online shop. The Grain Family post freshly milled grain to anywhere in Australia every week!