When a young farmer wanted to go hunting with his beloved gun dogs, he planted wheat to attract quail. Today, writes Richard Cornish, he is one of the leaders of the new wave of grain growers changing the way Australian bakers view wheat.

What is it?
Tuerong Farm is an experimental crucible where old grain varieties are resurrected from seed banks planted, bred and cross bred, harvested, and milled to make flour – flour with exceptional taste and nutrition. On the farm is a sourdough bakery and, soon, a farm gate from which flour and bread will be sold and from which farm and mill tours will begin.

Who’s producing it?
The farm is also home to Jason Cotter, his partner Emma Hicks and their children. “We have this perception that wheat needs to be grown in drier, warmer parts of the country, but grains have been grown successfully in cool climates for millennia,” says Cotter. “Over the years, the grain industry has selected wheat varieties for yield, disease resistance, and bakery performance at the expense of digestibility, nutrition absorption, and even something as basic as flavour,” he says. He believes the old varieties and the new cross-bred grains bring those basic attributes back to his flour. His on-farm bakers run a test kitchen to make sure the varieties he is growing function in the field and behave well in the bakery.

Where is it?
Tuerong Farm sits on 65 hectares of gently undulating country on a secluded part of the Mornington Peninsula at Tuerong, which is near Moorooduc. To allow traditional fallow periods, Cotter leases property at nearby Balnarring and Corinella at the head of Western Port.

Why is it different?
The grains are grown regeneratively using mixed species cover crops, livestock manuring, minimal tillage and crop rotation. The flour is milled to retain a high ratio of bran and germ removed in highly processed flour to the starchy endosperm. Single-variety flours bear names such as Rouge de Bordeaux and Reynard. Cotter also harvests perennial wheat called Perennial 11955. Grains are almost exclusively annual crops, but wheat that can be sown once and harvested for years on end has massive implications for fuel use, labour costs, soil health and water use. Perennial wheat could be a game changer in a changing climate.

Who’s a fan?
“We absolutely love it,” says Brigitte Hafner of Tedesca in Main Ridge. “We bake a Pugliese-style focaccia blending whatever Tuerong Farm flour is in season with cooked potato. The potato brings lightness and the flour brings flavour and chewiness,” she says. Fermentation of the dough takes two-to-five days, with the bread developing greater flavour the longer the ferment.” Jason is 15 minutes away from us in such a beautiful part of the world.”

“The exciting thing about Jason is that he is introducing new grains to chefs and bakers, new flavours,” says Maaryasha Werdiger from Zelda Bakery in Elsternwick. “The flours can’t be compared with flours from big millers who may blend scores of different grains to achieve uniformity and consistency,” says the sourdough baker. “Instead, you have single origin flours that have variability that changes from batch to batch, season to season. And that can be a challenge. You have to test the flour and adapt to its character. The reward is depth of flavour, sweetness, a beautiful range of hues and colours and breads that make you feel good,” says Werdiger. “Breads made with Tuerong Farm flour also connect customers to the people who grow their food. That sense of community is essential.”

Where can I get it?
Torello Farm in Dromana; Cellar and Pantry in Red Hill; Morning Market in Prahran; Scicluna’s in Mentone, Tooronga and Sorrento; or buy online at tuerongfarm.com.au/shop

By Richard Cornish