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Forbes is a major wheat production area in Central NSW. The flat land and warmer inland climate makes Forbes more suited to crop production than its eastern neighbours such as Cabonne and Orange. Flat land better accommodates machinery for sowing, fertilizing and harvest.

The total crop value for Forbes at the last ABS study was $138 million, the majority of which is wheat production. There are many other crops in the Forbes region besides wheat. These include: barley, oats, canola, triticale, jojoba, rice and stock feed plus crops such as lupins and field peas.

Forbes is a highly productive wheat producing area and New South Wales is Australia's most prolific wheat growing state. Australia is the largest producer and exporter of white wheat in the world and the fourth largest wheat exporter in the world. Australian wheat farmers export 70% of their wheat production, exporting to over 40 countries including China, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Egypt and Iran.

Farming strategies

Typically, a Forbes wheat farmer will have a mixed farming strategy where wheat is just one of a number of farming practices. Mixed farming strategies allow farmers to switch between cattle and crops by responding to market prices and forecasted climatic conditions. In 2012 lower global wheat prices and greater global demand for Australian beef resulted in a smaller wheat farm footprint than previous years.

Machinery for wheat production continues to become more capital intensive and larger in scale. Machines for sowing, harvesting, bailing hay and transportation for crops, are not typically owned by an individual farmer. The use of such machines are contracted in on a needs basis. The cost of contracting this equipment, such as Headers, mean farmers are often working machinery 24 hours a day until their harvest has been completed.

The use of the land is now down to pin point accuracy as is the timing of activities. GPS technologies provide highly accurate sowing practices allowing strips to lie fallow each year and rejuvenating soil fertility. Precise timing is also critical to optimum wheat production. The Department of Primary Industries, using sophisticated meteorological modeling, recommends an annual sowing guide to minimise frost bite during flowering.

Flood and drought have had a significant impact on wheat farming. Subsoil moisture levels will provide the optimum sowing conditions, while dry conditions during drought adversely impact on the quality of the wheat. Rainfall can also affect weed and nitrogen levels. Weed control is critical to maintain desired nitrogen levels and delays to wet untrafficable paddocks can significantly reduce the quality of wheat production.

Wheat the plant

Wheat originated from Iraq as wild grass before cultivation. Archeological evidence shows wheat was first farmed some time before 10,000 BC. The English first shipped wheat to their colonies in the late 18th century, with wheat being first planted at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens in January 1788.

Wheat grains are formed in the fertilised flower of wheat. The head of the wheat is made up of nodes and shorter internodes. Each node contains spikelets, with 10 florets, holding the flowers where grain is formed. Inside the floret are two protective bracts, which wrap around a carpel. The carpel contains the ovary with stigmas, stamens with pollen sacs, and an ovule. It is the ovule within the wheat flower, which generates grain when fertilised.

Wheat nutrition

Wheat is an important global food source. The fibre of wheat is important for digestion and is rich in carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Wheat is one of the richest forms of vegetable protein in the world. It is second only to rice, as the main crop for human consumption.

Commercialisation of wheat has popularized white flour, which travels well and stores better than wholemeal flour. In recent times nutritionists have come to appreciate the value of the outer layers in wholemeal flour above the nutritional value of white flour. Health enthusiasts have returned back to wholemeal flour as their preferred food source. Vitamins B, A, E and niacin, minerals potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron are all available in wholemeal flour.

Home milling wholemeal wheat

Milling your own wheat grains is a growing health movement for people wanting to access more of the nutrients in wheat. After 72 hours of commercial milling 80% of the vitamins are lost, which can be retained and consumed with self milling. Self milling allows a shorter window between the milling process and consumption.

How to mill your own wheat

After the grain has been cleaned, it must then be tempered (made more resilient), by adding water to the dry grain and allowing it to rest. Tempering can last up to 72 hours. Tempering the grain has two impacts, it toughens the grain making it more resistant to breakage during milling. The second purpose of tempering is to make the grain easier to grind by softening the endosperm.

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Commercial milling

When flour is commercially reduced the germ and out layers of the grain are removed for grinding. This process removes the more nutritious part of the wheat, the endosperm, but has the upside of longer shelf life and the end product of a more refined white flour.

Commercial milling starts when the grain is first cleaned then tempered. Tempered grain is ground through a series of roller mills, which removes the bran and cracks the endosperm. Ground grain is sifted between roller mills and dispersed according to size. Larger grains are sent back to the mill for further milling and smaller material is sent to a purifier before further reduction. The flour is sifted into various types of popular flours. Sifted flours are stored in large bins before commercial distribution.

Artisan bread

A resurgence in artisan bread is sweeping the country as people seek out more creative and natural bread flavours. Artisan bread is bread that is made by a craftsperson who is trained to make bread as an art form. In artisan bread the mix, ferment, hand moulding and baking are all done by hand. The artisan baker is creative by nature, knowing enough about the science of bread making to push it to new limits and reflect their own individual style.

Artisan bread reflects the return to a more healthy bread. Artisan bread is typically preservative free and based on nutritious wholegrain flours. Artisan bread is based on traditional bread making skills, skills that trace back to a time to when every homemaker was a bread baker.

Traditional camp oven damper

Camp oven damper is a traditional drover style artisan bread. It is the perfect compliment to back to the basics style cooking in Forbes.

How to make camp oven damper

Ingredients

Tablespoon of butter

½ teaspoon of salt

2 cups of milk

6 cups of self raising flour

(optional sesame seeds and mixed herbs)

Method

Dig a hole in the ground to hold the camp oven and put embers from the fire at the bottom.

Brush the inside of the camp oven in olive oil.

Add flour, salt and butter to a mixing bowl, adding milk to form a soft dough.

Mix the ingredients and place in the greased camp oven.

Lower the camp oven into the fire for around 15 to 20 minutes or as required.

When cooking in the camp oven allow for a shorter cooking time, around two thirds that of a traditional oven. If you don't have a camp oven you can cook damper on the end of a stick over the fire simply by turning the dough above the fire until the damper slowly cooks.

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