Summer is wheat harvest time at Brae Farm.
Every second year or so, we sow a grain crop in our 10-acre top paddock, usually in early winter for harvesting the following summer.
This is an obsession for Brae owner and chef, Dan Hunter, whose aim is the best sourdough bread possible for the restaurant dining room. Always conscious of improving soil fertility and water retention, a grain crop isn't grown every year, but when it is a good crop can yield up to 6 tonnes of grain.
To achieve this, grain is cycled into a multi-year rotation of intensive grazing, multi-species grasses and legumes, cover crops and compost. This has proven successful with wheat on several occasions, as well as spelt, barley and rye.
This season, rain delayed sowing until September. So, instead of the usual slow-growing wheat varieties, Dan, with the help of wheat guru, Jason Cotter at Tuerong Farm, found a spring wheat variety called Raider. Raider was developed to be sown in winter in the warmer climates of Queensland and NSW and is an Australian Prime Hard wheat variety with exceptional milling quality and a minimum protein level of 13% - the top bread-making wheat class.
Following Jason’s advice, Raider was sown in early spring with the aim of achieving a high-protein crop in the shortest time possible, reducing disease risk and helping to avoid weeds and competition. The shorter growing window improves grain quality, as soil nutrition goes into the protein/grain package, instead of keeping the plant alive over winter.
This new wheat crop was cut this week. In a process called windrowing, it was left on the ground in the paddock to dry for a week or so before the heads were harvested. This traditional process is now really only used in organic and biodynamic wheat farming, where multi-species crops are grown alongside the wheat to aid nutrient availability and assist with soil moisture retention. Windrowing helps to separate these green plants away from the grain by cutting and sun drying them before they’re put through the header.
This organically-grown high quality wheat grain will be used for our sourdough bread – grown, stone milled, naturally fermented and baked within 100 metres of the dining room. Some of this harvest will also be heading to our neighbours and friends at Prickly Moses Brewery and Furneaux Distillery for some very special beverage collaborations to be announced later this year!
Stay tuned for details!