[Photo: Broadening the business: Steven and Suzanne Woods. Photo by Susan Hall]
Growing wheat in the future, and some would argue the present, goes beyond producing a crop, trucking it to the receival point and forgetting about it until the cheque arrives in the roadside mailbox. A procession of experts is saying longevity in the industry will entail much more than sustaining current industry standards and ideas.
Calingiri wheat growers Steven and Suzanne Woods decided to face this issue of long-term survival as individuals and as members of a community. Rather than buying more land to do more of the same, they decided to broaden the business; to value-add by producing soft wheat flour at a time when no soft wheat was being milled in WA. They marketed their new value-added product as Emdavale Farm Flour, using the farm name.
The path the Woods have taken is very much in line with the Grains Industry Strategic Plan, which urges growers to look, wherever possible, beyond their core grain production business for ways to contribute to additional enterprises as a way of halting or reversing declining rural populations.
The Woods" vision was to offer a marketing option for fellow growers in the form of valueadded speciality grain products selling into niche markets. "By maintaining ownership beyond the farm gate, we"re adding value to the land and the produce that we already have," says Suzanne.
With the establishment of the brand in WA markets, the Woods are now looking to expand with new products and new markets. The couple have received help from Curtin University"s Muresk Institute of Agriculture, where Bachelor of Agribusiness students have been working with growers on practical options for expanding farm businesses.
Final-year students worked with Steven and Suzanne to produce a market feasibility study for Emdavale Farm Flour products. The project made the students consider all facets of the industry, from production to markets and to consumers.
"Value-adding by milling flour was a strategy to decrease reliance on traditional agricultural output and diversify our economic base without increasing land holdings," Suzanne says. "You have to understand your product and consider consumers. Most growers don"t think of what happens to their grain once it"s delivered, but we have to think about processing, packaging and marketing."
Steven and Suzanne Woods" story is told in the special Value Chain Supplement included with this issue of Ground Cover - contact Ground Cover Direct.