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Our producers stories

Where there's a will

Where there's a will

A symbol of prosperity and blessing since the beginning of human civilizations, the grain that gives our Wheatbelt its name has been the backbone of our agricultural region since the 1950’s. And while the 8 million tonnes of wheat grown in our region is worth an approximate $2.5 billion to our economy, the question begs to be asked – can it feed us if push comes to shove?

With threats to wheat supply looming globally, fuel prices rocketing and labour shortages plaguing our growers, the way our food system works is ripe for change and perhaps, as Shakespeare suggests, we must tarry the grinding of our wheat if we wish to have cake.

It’s a philosophy embraced by grower Valken de Villiers, whose mission to create a secure supply chain which ensures a 100% local product has led him to growing and milling his own flour – stopping just short of baking his own bread (although he admits that’s not entirely off the cards).

Growing up in South Africa on a cattle farm, Valken maintained an interest in growing crops under irrigation, and when he took over the 220-acre farm in Gingin 7 years ago, he utilised the 105 acres under centre pivot to grow lucerne, a successful crop which he chaffs himself.

When the time came to rotate the soil, he decided to try something different. Encouraged by friend and former farmer Pat Grant, Valken decided to experiment with growing a wheat specifically for baking bread. Keeping overheads low, and food miles even lower, the pair set out to create a product rich in both provenance and protein.

“Pat and I share a common view of the future, where food security is going to become more important,” says Valken. “We’ve taken our food for granted and we believe that people will find that, with inflation, convenience is not enough. We need to bring the goodness back.”

Pat, whose experience in milling and home baking has been fundamental to the project, says, “Current wheat crops are designed for mass production, and the average acceptable protein level is around 9-10%. In Europe 15 or 16% is normal, and what is required to make a quality bread.”

Currently, WA wheat production is focused on producing noodle wheat for the Japanese, a million-tonne market which requires a 9.5-11.5% protein. A very small percentage of WA grain is being used for bread, where 12% protein is an acceptable Australian standard. To make such wheat into bread, additives and further processing are required.

Looking after the soil is what separates the wheat from the chaff (so to speak!), and Valken has invested heavily in building up his soil quality to increase the nutrient value of his grain. Using manure from a local piggery, worm juice from extensive earthworm beds, irrigation when required, and a unique recipe of minerals and soil biology has reaped healthy rewards.

“We set out to grow quality not quantity,” says Valken. “We tested the first crop at harvest and we’re pretty pleased to have achieved a 13% protein and a yield averaging over 7.5 tonnes per hectare.”

“And the quality is there!” adds Pat, “It’s been 30 years since I handled wheat this good!”

Choosing the right mill was the next step, and their commitment to a long-term quality product is evident in the choice of a beautifully crafted timber mill brought from Austria. “It mills really well – the flour is very fine. Most bakers were surprised it was stone milled,” says Pat.

Marketing the final product under the name Willgrow, Pat and Valken have begun sharing the product with local bakers and boutique shops.

“Our ultimate plan is to supply local people and increase local food security. We have no plans for mass production. This flour is to make bread for people who live in the region!”

Both Pat and Slow Food chef Vincenzo Villetri will be baking samples using this uniquely local flour at this year’s Taste of Chittering taking place on 28 August 2022 in Binda Place, Bindoon, outside the Northern Valleys Locavore Store – be sure to come and sample some!

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Farming with compassion

Farming with compassion

When Eddie Sprigg set out to custom build this modest family-owned piggery, he always planned to do things a little differently. Guided by acknowledgement of the five freedoms of animal welfare, he is committed to demonstrating both compassion and good provenance in his farming practice. Fortunately for local pork-lovers, happy pigs produce excellent pork – and we can indulge in good conscience.

Our pigs are bred with care, are born in “Compassion in World Farming” spaces and live in freedom. We are family owned and operated with a true passion for our animal’s welfare. This resonates right through to our consumers – a happier pig always provides a superior culinary experience.

From our custom built freedom farrowing pens to our straw and sun filled eco shelters, our facilities ensure we are able to rear each pig in a stress-free environment, bringing you the best pork in Western Australia. Located in Dalwallinu we are in a prime spot to make the most of what our land has to offer! Every year we grow approx. three quarters of the grain we’ll need for feed... and support the local economy by purchasing the rest from farmers within the community.

The sows are group housed in small stable groups, in roomy conditions and sheds built to the standards recommended by Compassion in World Farming.

Our piglets are born in custom built free farrowing huts, the first of their type in Australia, but used extensively in agricultural colleges and progressive private piggeries throughout the UK. These huts provide a stall free and natural environment whilst allowing us to maintain climate control, essential for comfort in rural WA. To allow natural behaviour and in keeping with our beliefs, at Kusha Hill all our pigs are reared in straw filled eco shelters. Growers love to play and here we encourage them to.

Shaun, Job, Ash and Cain, the boars, lead happy lives in their individual areas with loads of room, loads of straw and everything else needed to keep them in top form.





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Meet our Chittering chandler

Meet our Chittering chandler

Just when you thought we had just about everything in Chittering, a genuine candlestick-maker has jumped in the tub – joining the local butcher and baker and elevating the shire’s assets to true rub-a-dub status!

Rod Mullineux certainly never set out to become a candlemaker – or relive a centuries-old nursery rhyme – but the mining engineer couldn’t go past the challenge when he discovered common candles not only contain synthetics and petrochemicals, but are more often than not are manufactured unsustainably – usually in China.

Rod was building some cabinetry for Urban Revolution in Victoria Park, when the owner mentioned how difficult it was to source pure beeswax candles, without chemicals or other nasties. With an already established interest in living a more sustainable, low impact lifestyle, the idea ignited Rod’s curiosity and with the help of YouTube, he embarked on learning the art of candle making. “I never realised it was so technical,” says Rod. “I thought a wick was just a wick!”

As turns out, neither candles nor wicks are created equal – far from it in fact.

“My research led me to a fully sustainable wick maker in South Australia. You see most wicks are laced with synthetics to help them burn, and those plastics are released into the air,” explains Rod. “The wicks I use are made with 100% cotton and are also square in shape. They draw really well.”

His mission to use locally-made ingredients led Rod to a Fremantle-based company to source his beeswax. “The guy who runs it is really passionate and he only uses WA beeswax with no pesticides or chemicals – it’s some of the purest beeswax in the world. He uses a specialised machine which presses the wax into sheets which makes them easier to work with.”

“We didn’t want to use soy, because of the negative impact growing soybeans has on the environment,” he says.

Although soy is a natural, renewable product, and soy candles are light in chemical additives (preferable to paraffin wax), soybean cultivation is responsible for massive deforestation and displacement of Indigenous populations in places like Argentina and Brazil, where soybean production operates on an industrial scale. In contrast, beeswax has a very small environmental impact – not to mention its delicious by-product!

While Rod’s wife Lina helps with sales and marketing of their sustainable side hustle, she is quick to confirm the candle quest was all Rod’s idea – and it’s his skills and attention to detail that make Chittering Candles so special.

Each candle is hand-rolled by Rod, and although he describes them as rustic, they are as meticulously made as they are researched and it’s hard to believe they are not machine-hewn. “They don’t look like that if I roll them!” says Lina.

Lina loves burning the beautiful candles in the house – especially for yoga and meditation. “The beauty of a beeswax candle is a clean burn – it’s purifying and antibacterial,” she explains. “They also smell great as they are naturally scented by the honey and floral nectar from within the honeycomb itself.”

It was the clean burning of beeswax candles that saw them used as far back as the Middle Ages, when they were the illumination of choice in churches and wealthy homes. They were preferable to the smoky, smelly tallow or animal fat-based candles commonly made and sold door-to-door by candlemakers, or chandlers (yes friends – that’s where that name comes from!).

Beeswax was hard to come by then, and beeswax candles were reserved for the lucky few who could afford them. The majority of candles were still made with animal fats until the 1850’s, when chemists learned how to efficiently separate the naturally-occurring waxy substance from petroleum and refine it into the paraffin wax we know today. Petroleum-based wax (made mainly in China) now forms the majority of standard manufactured candles on the market, along with vegetable-based soy wax made from the oil of soybeans (grown primarily in North and South America) – a softer and slower burning wax which, unlike paraffin, is renewable, but with its own set of environmental drawbacks already mentioned.

For Rod and Lina (an environmental scientist), beeswax candle making fits well with their journey to live a low-impact life on their pretty 5-acre block in Chittering. Here they are also researching ways to return their parcel of former farmland to its natural bush state, by improving the soil and water retention as well as planting and protecting the endemic species.

“We are an environmentally conscious company aimed at minimising our environmental footprint where ever possible. Our candles and packaging are compostable, leaving no trace when they return to the soil at the end of their life,” explains Lina.

Their passion to create a genuinely sustainable and uniquely Chittering product is still burning brightly, and plans to expand the business continue, with scented and citronella candles on the horizon. For now, their hand-crafted candles are available from selected shops, including the Northern Valleys Locavore Store

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It's Only Natural

It's Only Natural

Amidst the chaotic realm of personal care products on the supermarket shelves it is a challenge to find those that are both good for you and good for the planet. Emma de Leeuw, founder of Whipped Earth offers a worthy solution, creating a simple range of products that are sustainable, safe, and free of nasties – and with an underlying ethos that nurturing your inner self is more important than outward beauty.

A renewed focus on health when Emma and her husband Jaan were trying to conceive their first child led to them evaluating the ingredients in their cleaning and skin care products, trying to remove any potential barriers that might be blocking their chances of conception. Of particular concern in Emma’s case were the endocrine disrupting chemicals — suspected to alter the way hormones work inside the body. These chemicals include phthalates, parabens and phenols and have been linked to reproductive issues, early onset puberty, obesity and diabetes. Scientific research in this field is ongoing and can appear conflicting when investigating online. Nevertheless, erring on the side of caution is a wise option, as the Danish government has done by banning the use of some parabens in products for children up to three-years old as a precautionary measure.

Choosing natural body products is sometimes met with a sceptical side eye, as if you had perhaps suggested bloodletting as a genuine cure for disease. The irony being that the amount of scientific knowledge and practice to combine all the elements necessary to make a workable product with a decent shelf life is considerable, as Emma discovered.

“I employed a whole host of resources when I started making my own products,” says Emma. “Courses to get a better understanding of the chemistry behind it – while wishing I paid more attention in high school to these things – to lots of trial and error and consulting with formulators when things didn’t go right.”

After four years of making products for herself, the transition to creating a business was initiated by the early arrival of December baby Ruby.

“Ruby was four weeks early, so that time I had planned for Christmas shopping didn’t happen!” explains Emma. “My brother and sister-in-law were visiting and I had nothing to give them – my mum suggested I gift them one of my body creams, which they loved and encouraged me to sell.”

Embracing creating a start-up business, Emma found herself on another learning journey tackling pricing, marketing and business administration to develop a saleable range that includes shampoo and conditioner bars, exfoliating and moisturising bars, deodorant bars, lip balms, bath bombs and more.

Absent but certainly not missed from Whipped Earth’s products are petroleum and mineral oils, replaced with plant-based oils; and sodium laureth sulphate — used for its foaming ability but fast gaining notoriety as an irritant and potential carcinogen. Emma achieves her bubbles by using a combination of five safer surfactants. Synthetic fragrances, one of the most triggering ingredients, causing skin irritation to headaches, is replaced with essential oils.

“I use essential oils for fragrance for two reasons — they smell great and they have therapeutic benefits,” explains Emma.

“I also don’t use a group of chemical compounds known as thanolamines, which have been linked to liver tumours. They are used to help water based and oil-based products blend together. Instead, I used plant-based alternatives, such as cetyl alcohol.”

And while preservative-free is an attractive phrase, it’s not necessarily best practice. Rather, Emma gives careful consideration to the type of preservative used, preferring Vitamin E or an eco-certified preservative.

“You do need a preservative, regardless of what people may say. You really don’t want your products going mouldy — these sit in your shower, in humid, damp areas and they last a long time — you need a preservative.”

Emma is a regular at markets in the region, enjoying the opportunity to showcase her products to the public.

“Trying to convince people to buy it can be challenging. People are creatures of habit and it seems bizarre to run a solid bar through your hair rather than squeeze from a bottle,” she said.

“I think they know that it works, but they are not sure how to use it or are aware how long they last, which can make the products seem expensive.”

The same not-so-good-for-you ingredients also tend to be not so great for the environment, particularly marine life. It is a pleasant consequence that by being more selective with the products you put on your body, you benefit the planet as a whole. Emma has also adapted her range so the packaging is minimal and sustainable.

“One of the reasons I switched to making the products as solid bars was because I couldn’t find any packaging that was durable and ecofriendly. I was also trying to manage a refill program and it was doing my head in – I just thought I will eliminate the packaging all together!”

In a world where we are bombarded with messages to be prettier, cleaner, brighter versions of ourselves —particularly as a new year ticks over — finding companies and products that do as they claim without a negative pay off is hard. Whether it’s the environment, your wallet or your self-image that takes a hit, navigating this landscape can be tricky. Whipped Earth’s wholistic approach is reflective of Emma’s own personal values.

“I brush my hair and that’s about the limit of my beauty routine. You don’t need all these things that we are told to use to be beautiful, you just need to take care of what’s inside.

“I care more about my customers than my bottom line – I’d rather sell my stuff for less, knowing that it’s a better product for that person, if that means they won’t go buy the cheap and nasty alternative.

“Our planet is a fragile ecosystem. Even if you can just take one step in the right direction, eliminating something is better than doing nothing. One less plastic bottle being used is one less that needs to be manufactured.”

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Brewing Up A Storm

Brewing Up A Storm

Making their public debut with their bespoke soft drink blends at the Taste of Chittering in 2016, Araluen and Craig Hagan from 14K Brewery are familiar and popular faces around the region, with people eager to sample their bush tucker infused softies.

Their product is certainly refreshing, and so is their approach to the business – a zero-waste, off grid microbrewery with a steampunk theme.

Having worked professionally as an industrial chemist, Araluen developed an interest in natural therapies, and studied permaculture; although she found the job opportunities in the latter didn’t align with her ideals. “Permaculture embodies education, science, the natural therapies – everything that I’ve studied. I wanted to apply that in a much more practical way,” she says.

Brewing her own line of soft drinks became a way Araluen could apply her knowledge while she and Craig worked through the extensive bureaucratic process of setting up the microbrewery.

It also kept Araluen’s interest piqued as she, by her own admission, tends to get bored of projects quite easily. “I’ve always worked in research and I have the attention span of a gnat! I’ve always got to experiment,” she laughed.
This drive to experiment has resulted in some wonderful, niche flavours utilising ingredients such as grimuchama, anise myrtle and Geraldton wax. 14K soft drinks have a low sugar content, around 2-5%, compared to other commercial brands which sit at more than 10%.

“Sugar is a fabulous flavour enhancer, so without that you need to put a bit more thought in,” says Araluen. “I put bush tucker in all of my drinks, that I find naturally in the bush around here, or I have friends that grow it. I have also sourced some bush tucker from Dale Tilbrook from Maaliunp Gallery in the Swan Valley. It really helps to create those layers of flavour.

“I source all my fruit locally — everything comes from within a 15-20kms radius of the property. Most of it, I trade drinks for fruit, embracing the circular economy,” said Araluen.
The circular economy is a principle which, in part, aims to extract the maximum value out of resources, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of its service life. It’s a principle Araluen and Craig put into practice in the construction of their building, which is still in progress. It also lead to the unique 14K name.

“The wall panels are made from bales of tyres. Each bale is comprised of 100 tyres bound together with tungsten. They are then embedded in concrete and slot together like Lego,” explains Araluen.

There are more than 14,000 (14K!) tyres that have been diverted from landfill as a result of this construction. “We’re the first commercial building to use them as a structure,” said Craig.

Craig’s background as an electrician is helping 14K go off-grid, but not in the way you might expect. “Large power transformers are full of oil which has a finite useful life, as it has to be very clean,” explains Craig. “Getting rid of the waste oil is an energy-intensive process. However, you can put that oil directly into a diesel engine and it runs! So that is what will be running our back-up generators,” he said.

“Also, the boiler that is going to be running the brewery itself will run on natural gas to start with, then switch over to waste oil. There are no emissions as it is used at such a high temperature. The carbon left behind is actual, solid material, which can be composted.”

The steampunk theme that 14K uses in their market stalls and that is represented in the labels that adorn the soft drink bottles (a collaboration between local artist Billie Peka and Hills graphic designer Melinda Brezmen) holds special significance. “Steampunk era is the Victorian industrial age. In the same 50-year period, concrete and tyres were both patented, and beer was first brewed commercially. A lot of steampunk design involves repurposing and recycling, so it all ties in with our vision,” says Araluen.
While some are eagerly awaiting Craig’s beer to be ready for sale (and with over 30-years experience in brewing and self-described purist when it comes to the amber ale, it will certainly be worth the wait), the 14K softies will continue to look after the non-drinking fraternity.

Araluen explains, “Most people want to drink something other than water when they go out, and let’s face it, most non-alcoholic offerings are not great. I wanted to make something that’s really special for the non-drinkers, so they feel like they are still part of the party!”

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Hemp It Pain Balm owners

Healing With Hemp

An almost fatal accident five years ago has led Shay Harris and husband Clint to develop a unique product that beautifully blends both their passions. Since perfecting the recipe, their HEMPiT Pain Balm and Save Your Skin products have brought huge relief and amazing transformations to many grateful customers – including Shay herself.

After the freak car crash on Beermullah West Road, near the couple’s family farm, Shay was left with a giant wound almost splitting her skull in half, and permanent nerve damage. She was in constant pain and drugged up on prescription pain medication.

“I thought, there’s no point being here if I’m not present, I felt like a zombie!” she explains. Desperate for a natural solution, she weaned herself off the pain medication and tried whatever she could to heal herself and be there for Clint and their six shared children.

Already interested in growing hemp himself, Clint had tried a few crops with varied success at the Beermullah property. He was fascinated with the potential of this ancient crop, which is enjoying a revival due to its versatility and medicinal properties.
“After going back and forth for a few years, I finally got a license to grow up to two hectares to make hemp seed or hemp seed oil. It’s been a bit of a learning curve – all the varieties are from France and the UK and not for Australian conditions,” says Clint.

Five years ago, landmark legal changes made medicinal cannabis legal, which has gradually changed the way consumers view both cannabis and hemp products. As more markets open up, it is expected that better agricultural knowledge will become available.
“I’m planning another winter crop next year,” says Clint. At approximately $100 per litre – he’s hoping it succeeds.

Although the hemp and the cannabis plant belong to the same plant family, Cannabis sativa L, they are two quite separate plants compositionally – the main difference being the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in each plant. THC being the chemical that causes a “high”.

While the cannabis plant has high THC levels (up to 28%), the hemp plant’s THC concentration does not exceed 0.3%. So while products derived from the hemp plant are unlikely to create a “high” they have many health benefits – mainly due to the high content of three polyunsaturated fatty acids: linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, and gamma-linolenic acid.

Hemp seed oil is made by cold-pressing the hemp seeds into an oil, in the same way olives or canola seeds are pressed to make oils. The resulting liquid has a rich profile of nutrients, fatty acids, and useful bioactive compounds which, as Shay discovered, help with pain management, particularly in reducing inflammation, as well as being effective in treating acne, eczema and psoriasis.
Shay said, “With Clint already having the hemp license, he then went out and bought a lot of natural products, including hemp seed oil, and I started experimenting.”

Shay admits to going a bit overboard mixing potions and developing her own concoctions using hemp oil and essential oils such as sandalwood, eucalyptus and peppermint. She even made candles and soaps – investigating and learning along the way. Using a base of shea butter, she mixed a skin cream specifically to treat her daughter Mikayla’s eczema, and to her amazement it worked.

“We were just gobsmacked. We’d been spending so much on steroids! And the amazing thing was that it wasn’t coming back. When you find something like that you just want to share it with the world!” she says.

She worked to fine tune the recipes into the two products they focus on now – Pain Balm and Save Your Skin. Each has special qualities and Shay says she tweaked and tweaked to get the mixes right.

Save Your Skin is a moisturising cream that works wonders on eczema, dry skin, insect bites, cracked heels, and is a general skin healer. It has helped me heaps with my scar, and given me that confidence,” says Shay.

Pain Balm is a blend of hemp seed oil, beeswax, coconut oil and a special mix of essential oils which work together to relieve pain. Hemp oil gets right into the joints and sore muscles,” explains Shay. “It’s given me huge relief from inflammation.”

“Many people have had success with it and there are so many stories, it’s just wonderful. A friend who helped me with testing the product suffers from chronic arthritis and couldn’t even hold a coffee cup before she started using it, and now she can fully close her grip.”

The sky is the limit for Shay and Clint’s next stage of the business, but they are committed to making sure they look after their existing customers first. At the moment they supply quite a range – from nursing homes to tattoo shops, as well as local businesses like the Lancelin Surf shop, West Coast Honey, CU@Park, Gingin CRC and the Northern Valleys Locavore Store.

“We want to make sure we can deliver on our promise and make the products in higher volumes. I give away one free tin every week, and I get 10 more sales. Once people use it, they want more – so I’m looking into a machine that can pump out 100 at a time,” says Shay. “I’d really like to thank everyone who has supported my products. It’s very therapeutic for me – I’m helping people which is important.”

Naturally, the ultimate goal is to make a full range of products, and to make them from their own home-grown and locally pressed hemp oil – a dream that is growing a little closer each year, and looking every bit more like reality with each sale of HEMPiT’s special products.

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Sweet spot

Sweet spot

The Oversby family of Bindoon are expecting a bumper harvest of their magnificent mandarins this season after a disappointing year in 2019 yielded them just 10% of their usual crop.

If you frequent the Great Northern Hwy north of Bindoon, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the iconic green VW Kombi which marks the Oversby’s roadside stall – where folklore has it that best mandarins in the country can be found.

“For some reason or another, God bless, we are always being told our fruit is the best!” Says Chris Oversby, patriarch of the Oversby clan.

“It’s the good soil of course, but as well our fruit is always picked ripe and sold within a day of picking – that accounts for the sweet taste,” he explains.

200 young mandarin trees were already established in the 2 Ha orchard when Chris and his wife Margaret bought the Bindoon property 22 years ago, making the move up from Katanning to find a farm closer to Perth as the eldest of their 10 children started moving out of home.

“The biggest joy is getting someone to taste a mandarin, who doesn’t usually like mandarins, and they love the taste!” says Chris, who also sells the popular citrus at Mt Claremont Farmers’ Market.

Chris estimates about half of the trees have been replaced over the years, usually because the rootstock overtakes the grafted, fruit bearing tree trunk. Apart from that, he says the trees require very little work, and with 18 grandchildren to help there’s no need for backpackers at picking time!

The Oversby family outside the well-known VW Kombi on Great Northern Hwy

“Its a good opportunity for the young ones to learn how to work, and see how hard work turns into rewards,” he says.
“If you learn how to work, and how to enjoy your work you’re set for life!”

Over the long weekend the family were hard at work with everyone pitching in to fill the crates and bag the fruit for the stall.

Son Alister and his wife Amanda also own the orchard next door, and together the two farms can produce up to 5 tonnes of citrus a year, which they market all together under the name Redlands Farm Produce.

You can find these delicious mandarins for sale from June to October at the roadside stall marked by the famous Kombi (which by the way is not for sale despite numerous requests!) as well as at the Northern Valleys Locavore Store in Bindoon.

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Back to the future

Back to the future

Throughout the West Australian grainbelt shimmering crops of wheat, barley, canola and oats stretch as far as the eye can see – glowing liquid gold under the outback sun.
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