This is part of a Cornersmith x Australian Farmers series showcasing Aussie grown foods. It’s a bit like a fork with three prongs. This is the part where you get to meet the farmer who grows wheat. The next prong is where you learn how stale bread might just become your best friend and the third is recipe inspiration. We hope you enjoy the ride!
Brad Jones journey to becoming a farmer in Western Australia’s Central Wheatbelt began growing up on a cotton farm in Queensland, running a business as an agricultural pilot that took him across Australia to finally making his mark when he and his wife Kate took on her family’s farm.
Just like technology has infiltrated our working and personal lives, it’s no different on Brad’s farm. From the outset it looks like any other cropping property, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find they’re using satellite imaging, robotics and a working on a project to sustainably produce aviation fuel.
Tell us about what you grow? We’re producing wheat, barley, canola, and export oaten hay and legumes, either a field pea or a lupin. We harvest just once a year under a cropping program that uses data, soil and plant testing, financial analysis and even satellite imagery to give the plants the best chance.
Tell us about the farm? My wife and I moved to the farm ‘Bungulla’ in 2007 after Kate’s dad retired. We have four kids and are the fourth generation on. We both work on the farm, but we also have a farm manager, three fulltime staff and numerous seasonal staff.
What was your journey into farming? When I left school I played rugby in the UK and Canada (so I’ve had to learn about AFL!) but I always wanted to fly. Being a cotton kid, we had planes on our farm every second day. I became an agricultural pilot and had a business around that, which was sold after we took over the farm and it expanded. We were employing lots of people, the HR side got really involved and we had four kids. I needed to learn and ended up doing a MBA. Before the farm, Kate was a journo for the ABC and now I say she’s the CEO of the farm business. In farming you have to be multi-skilled!
What’s changed on the farm in your time? We stopped running livestock and de-fenced the whole place. The forefathers were quite smart in farming and fencing by soil type, now we do it virtually. We have over 700 soil testing sites on farm and the varying soil types showed there were some limitations. We started retiring paddocks or parts of paddocks, linking remnant vegetation with revegetation. We also brought in a robotic sprayer that has brought our chemical use down to just 5% and it’s drastically reduced our diesel use. We’re now involved in a project to provide 3D imaging of the farm, using the data set to identify pests and diseases and how they will attack different soil types and crop stages.
What’s the best thing about what you do? I just love the land. I was born with the mutant farming gene and can’t shake it! We have a deep love of our land. I love getting out each morning on my mountain bike, just riding tracks out on the farm where I’m free and there’s no traffic!
People talk a lot about the importance of farming sustainably. Is this important to you? Being sustainable is what we care about the most.I don’t know any farmer who goes out and says, “let’s take what we can and leave it a desert.” The land is our lifeblood. Farmers think and act long term and generationally. Being sustainable is the way we think any way, I don’t like to put that title on us as we are always thinking long term, caring for the land we have a deep connection to.
Farmers invest a lot of time and money into planting a crop. What happens when Mother Nature throws a curveball? The next drought could start tomorrow so we have a fallow program to ensure there’s moisture in the soil. But, we do understand Mother Nature has the final say, so we do have to put the acorns away when we can.
Wheat is used for a number of foods, bread, pasta, noodles, pizza dough, cake. What’s in your lunchbox when you’re in the paddock? Depends who’s packed it! I eat lots of fruit, but sometimes sneak out biscuits from my youngest daughter’s lunchbox.
Feeling inspired and enlightened?! Check out our stale bread and bread storage tips straight from the Cornersmith kitchen and try out the breadcrumb recipes. You can also check out our tips and tricks for saving money and doing your bit to reduce food waste with the other foods in this series: Lamb, carrots, leafy greens, oranges and cheese.