12 Dec Our Story: Whispering Pines Organics – Rob and Betina Walker
A European tourist sitting on a milk crate in Hall Street, Bondi whilst being served Greek lemon yoghurt cake would have spared little thought to the journey of its key ingredient being an ancient grain known as spelt. If they had, their road to intellectual discovery may have led them to Rob and Betina Walker near a small rural town called Barellan, 517km West of Sydney. This is where the story really begins.
Catching up with Rob and Betina on farm, they are clearly very “proud 4th generation farmers from the Riverina NSW”, where they grow certified organic wheat and oats.
Their story, as is their character, is full of life when true grit collides with passion. They are also one of the many pioneers in survival when harsh seasonal conditions eventually pivoted their focus from production to value adding.
“In 2011 we commenced adding value to our crops on our farm by purchasing our first stone ground mill to produce flour. We took this mill to farmers markets where queues would form as people waited sometimes for over an hour to get this warm fresh flour.”
Betina, 2015 runner up winner “Women in Business” Australian Women’s Weekly said it all started when they met business people travelling who kept asking, “so what do you do with the wheat once you have done all the hard work of growing it?”. Just selling it without value adding the product seemed quite foreign for the non-farming business community.
An Untapped & Growing Market
To take charge of opportunity, Rob and Betina noted that in 2013 they imported a very large Austrian stone ground mill which would produce 1 tonne of flour per week, but after 12 months they had even out grown this. So, they made the decision to do a massive upgrade in 2016 and build a two-storey mill on their farm to increase capacity dramatically. This allowed them to increase their volume considerably.
Charles Kingsford Smith
They now have coach tours coming out to see these mills and to see the numerous antique aeroplanes, vintage cars and antique engines on display. Rob assured me that a plane flown by Charles Kingsford Smith sits in his shed (in need of love and repair). I didn’t get that far though. I will save that tour for my next farm visit.
Please visit their web site www.whisperingpinesorganics.com.au. Their story continues to be written with each day passing.