Farmers Mill

October 2017

A grower owned and operated flourmill in Canterbury.

The Farmers Mill was opened in June 2013. At the time the mill was said to secure the future of the local cropping industry after the control of the milling industry moved off shore and arable farming came under increasing pressure from alternative land use. 

In 2013 the mill started off with 28 grain suppliers from the local region. Twelve of the mill’s 13 founder shareholders are growers. Between them they invested $10m to create the mill. The mill produced its first commercial run of flour on April 20 2013. It was scheduled to produce 28,000 tonnes a year. 

At time of opening, early customers for the mill included Griffins, who were attracted to a secured supply of NZ grown flour, and Couplands. Customers were also attracted to traceability from paddock at a time when food safety and security were very important. 

Another point of difference for Griffins and Couplands was provenance – using New Zealand flour from New Zealand wheat, grown by New Zealand farmers. 

Plantings of milling wheat in Canterbury rose by 24% in the season following the opening of the mill.

Demand for locally produced milling wheat was likely to rise according to industry commentators, because of rising international demand for Australian wheat as markets in Asia become more Western in their food choices.

In 2014 Farmer’s Mill received an AgMARDT grant to assist with in-market development of a nutritional product range using specific grain and flour based products, including a gluten-free premix. The project was expected to deliver flours and pre-mixes which have a low score on the glycaemic index (GI). It is well established that low GI foods can keep blood sugar levels steady and even help metabolise fat more efficiently. The programme represents an investment by Farmers Mill of over $200,000 in the coming 12 months with total development costs expected to exceed $300,000.

Flour is mostly derived from wheat but can be milled from corn, rice, nuts, legumes and some fruits and vegetables. A wheat kernel is divided into three parts:  bran, endosperm, and germ. Bran is the outside, germ is the inside, endosperm is the mass.

Protein content is the primary differentiator in flours. High-protein wheat varieties (10 to 14 percent protein) are classed as "hard wheat." Low-protein wheats (5 to 10 percent) are known as "soft wheat." Simply put: more protein equals more gluten equals more strength. More strength translates into more volume and a chewier texture. Doughs made from high-protein flours are both more elastic (stretch further) and more extensible (hold their shape better). These are desirable qualities in bread and many other yeasted products where a firm structure is paramount, but undesirable in pastries and cakes, where the goal is flakiness or tenderness.

Unless labelled "whole-wheat", all flour is white flour; that is, milled from the starchy, innermost part of the wheat kernel, known as the endosperm.

All-Purpose Flour: If a recipe calls simply for "flour," it's calling for all-purpose flour. Milled from a mixture of soft and hard wheat, with a moderate protein content in the 10 to 12 percent range, all-purpose flour is a staple among staples. While not necessarily good for all purposes, it is the most versatile of flours, capable of producing flaky pie crusts, fluffy biscuits and chewy breads. A-P flour is sold bleached or unbleached; the two are largely interchangeable, but it's always best to match your flour to your recipe.

Cake Flour: The flour with the lowest protein content (5 to 8 percent). The relative lack of gluten-forming proteins makes cake flour ideal for tender baked goods, such as cakes (of course), but also biscuits, muffins and scones. Cake flour is generally chlorinated, a bleaching process that further weakens the gluten proteins and, just as important, alters the flour's starch to increase its capacity to absorb more liquid and sugar, and thus ensure a moist cake.

Pastry Flour: An unbleached flour made from soft wheat, with protein levels somewhere between cake flour and all-purpose flour (8 to 9 percent). Pastry flour strikes the ideal balance between flakiness and tenderness, making it perfect for pies, tarts and many cookies. To make your own pastry flour, mix together 1 1/3 cups A-P flour and 2/3 cup cake flour.

Bread Flour: With a protein content of 12 to 14 percent, bread flour is the strongest of all flours, providing the most structural support. This is especially important in yeasted breads, where a strong gluten network is required to contain the CO2 gases produced during fermentation. The extra protein doesn't just make for better volume and a chewier crumb; it also results in more browning in the crust. Bread flour can be found in white or whole wheat, bleached or unbleached. Unbleached all-purpose flour can generally be substituted for bread flour with good results.