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Lupins a leap of faith for the Kitto clan

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Mullewa farmers Tanya and Rob Kitto.
Camera IconMullewa farmers Tanya and Rob Kitto. Credit: Justine Rowe

Rob and Tanya Kitto gladly waved goodbye to their wheat and canola at CBH’s Mullewa bin in December, knowing its journey to a customer’s plate, bowl, or beer would not be their job.

From the bin, their wheat and barley’s journey to another storage site, port, ship, customer, and eventually a consumer is not something they will think about.

Harvesting their lupin crop was the start of an entirely different story — and one the Kittos will definitely have to put brain power into.

During the next few months, the Kittos will store, mill, and package most of their lupin crop to create products for their homegrown business: My Provincial Kitchen.

Since September, the Kittos have launched seven lupin flour products into Australia’s burgeoning gluten-free market.

This includes self-raising and wholemeal lupin flour, lupin pancakes, lupin muffins, chocolate brownies, raspberry white chocolate loaf and Anzac biscuits.

The products are for sale in 10 stores in Perth, as well as select outlets in Darwin, Melbourne, Geraldton and Denmark.

It has been a big challenge . . . taking a food product to retail is totally foreign, and well out of our comfort zone,

Tanya Kitto.

The Kittos harvested 4000ha of lupins this year, after first planting them in 1980.

They have spent the past year promoting the grain as a healthy food option, by running cooking demonstrations at shows and exhibitions, and boosting their online profile.

Launching the business has not been without its challenges — the pair are already busy with the farm and their children, one of whom has just left home.

Mrs Kitto is the first to admit that creating, marketing and profiting from a food product is a huge contrast to producing it and delivering it to someone else, like CBH.

“It has been a big challenge ... taking a food product to retail is totally foreign, and well out of our comfort zone,” she said.

“It has been a stark learning curve.

“We have gone from dumping a bulk product at the port, saying goodbye, and taking the best price on the day, to processing and taking a product to retail.”

Mullewa farmers Tanya and Rob Kitto.
Camera IconMullewa farmers Tanya and Rob Kitto. Credit: Justine Rowe

A big part of the process has been creating traceability for the business. The Kittos are the face, heart and soul of the product — and they want customers to enjoy it.

“Using our own lupins as a base, it is critical for us to provide traceability to our customers,” Mrs Kitto said.

“It is nice when people get in touch and tell us what a difference our food makes in their life.

“Once or twice a week we get an email saying ‘thanks for doing what you do’.”

Overall, it was a harvest the Kittos were happy to wrap up — a below-average harvest on December 11, after starting on November 4.

Like many growers in WA’s northern grain growing areas, yields across their 11,000ha cropping program were about a third below their long-term average.

The blow was softened by the “really, really good year” they experienced in 2018-19 — when yields were about a third higher than the Kitto’s long-term average.

As well as lupins, the Kittos also harvested 5000ha of Ninja and Sceptre wheat and 2000ha of Hyola 404 canola, which were delivered to CBH.

Three generations of the Kitto family were on header duty this year.

It was the first time their 15-year-old son Thomas had driven the header by himself, after years on the chaser bin.

Mr Kitto’s parents, Ian and Wendy Kitto, are also on the farm with two permanent workers.

While they finished harvest a few days earlier than their December 15-18 average, Mr Kitto said it could have been over a lot sooner.

Short crops meant they took extra care to harvest what they could.

“Harvesting closer to the ground, we went slower and tried to do less damage to the machines and stop our drivers from becoming fatigued,” Mr Kitto said.

“We finished harvest with no damage to the machines and all of our drivers safe.”

Mr Kitto said it had been hard to tell what the crops might yield.

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