Back to the future for wheat crop

LISA COOKAlbany Advertiser
Farm manager Mike Harvey uses traditional methods to separate the chaff from the grain at the Old Farm at Strawberry Hill.
Camera IconFarm manager Mike Harvey uses traditional methods to separate the chaff from the grain at the Old Farm at Strawberry Hill. Credit: Albany Advertiser

It was an historic day at Old Farm Strawberry Hill on Monday, December 16, as crops were harvested on the same site they were first grown in the 1830s.

Farm manager Mike Harvey said Sir Richard Spencer planted a wheat crop in 1833 after emigrating from England.

“Between 1830 and 1835 the Spencers grew grain on the property,” he said.

“They would have put a decent sized crop in to last a year of feeding their farm animals and themselves, as they wouldn’t have known when the next ship was coming.”

Now, 186 years later, history is being repeated on WA’s oldest farm.

On July 3, traditional varieties of wheat, rye, barley and oats were hand sown in 20 plots, after the NSW Department of Primary Industries Australian Winter Cereals Collection provided seeds that were grown in Australia between 1830 and 1850.

A healthy crop has grown over the past six months and Monday heralded the first harvest of what Mr Harvey said was the only place in WA to be growing heritage grain.

In keeping with tradition, the crop was harvested using an authentic hand scythe and tied into bundles before being threshed.

Mr Harvey and garden volunteer Stewart S’Vryaan created a replica wooden threshing board that the bundles are beaten against to loosen the grain, which is collected.

The grain is then placed onto a hessian-covered wooden frame and tossed into a light wind to separate the lighter chaff, or husk-like covering.

After six to eight weeks, the grain is expected be hand-ground into flour, made into a damper, cooked in a camp oven and eaten with strawberry jam made from fruit also grown on the farm.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails