Udon wheat crusader uses noodle

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Intergrain chief executive Tress Walmsley samples udon noodles in the laboratory after being named a WA finalist in the RIRDC Rural Women's Award.
Camera IconIntergrain chief executive Tress Walmsley samples udon noodles in the laboratory after being named a WA finalist in the RIRDC Rural Women's Award. Credit: Danella Bevis/Countryman.

WA's Rural Woman of the Year wants to start a food revolution with udon noodle wheat grown almost exclusively in WA.

InterGrain chief executive Tress Walmsley said WA produced about one million tonnes of the wheat a year for export to Japan and Korea.

She wants to grow production worth about $350 million a year by creating local demand for "oodles of noodles".

Mrs Walmsley's role with InterGrain - a joint venture between the State Government, Monsanto and the Grains Research and Development Corporation - involves developing new wheat and barley varieties for grain growers, but the noodle project is a personal crusade.

She said udon noodles provided an opportunity to connect rural and city communities through a passion for food.

Her plan is for udon ambassadors from the farming community to spread the word. They will also work with top chefs to highlight the virtues of WA consumers using their noodle.

The project received a big boost last night when Agriculture Minister Ken Baston named Mrs Walmsley WA's Rural Woman of the Year. The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation award carries a $10,000 bursary for her to pursue "oodles of noodles".

"Ultimately for growers, the choice of planting udon noodles comes down to price and one way to influence price is to increase demand," she said.

Mrs Walmsley said farming was in her blood after growing up in Northam and working as an agronomist with the Department of Agriculture and Food WA.

She put her passion for farming down to two main factors.

"Firstly, a belief that agriculture has the power to influence the world," she said.

"Secondly, the people. Australian grain growers are incredibly innovative and resilient."

Mrs Walmsley said she was inspired to take on a leadership by the example set by her mother.

"Growing up in Northam, my mum was always on every committee getting things done and then later she took on community leadership roles," she said.

Mrs Walmsley said her biggest challenge was juggling her roles as a mother of two and a chief executive, but she managed with the support of her husband and parents.

She said remaining competitive was the No.1 challenge facing the WA grains industry.

"This is going to require both broad industry strategy and individual acumen," she said.

"But hard times often provide opportunities and this is where I see rural women having an increased role.

"Women often bring different thinking and new approaches to identifying and solving issues."

Mr Baston also paid tribute to the other three finalists - Karen Chappel, Julianne Hill and Leonie Noble - who each received a $1000 bursary.

One way to influence price

is to increase demand." Tress Walmsley, Rural Woman of the Year

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