HOME­GROWN TAL­ENT

FARMER JAMES CLIFTON IS FOL­LOW­ING IN HIS FA­THER’S FOOT­STEPS — BUT IN A DIF­FER­ENT WAY.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS BAR­BARA SWEENEY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BRIGID ARNOTT

James and Sarah Clifton show us around their mixed farm at the foot of Wed­din Moun­tains in cen­tral NSW.

JAMES AND SARAH CLIFTON LIVE west of Gren­fell at the foot of the Wed­din Moun­tains in cen­tral NSW with their brood of four — Phoebe, 12, Kate, 11, Henry, nine, and four-year-old Emma — and a menagerie of horses and dogs. This is crop­ping and live­stock coun­try — it’s where James grew up and, like his fa­ther be­fore him, he runs a mixed farm, grow­ing a range of win­ter crops, in­clud­ing wheat, canola, bar­ley, oats, lupins and chick­peas, as well as rais­ing lambs and pro­duc­ing wool. Like most farm­ing cou­ples, James and Sarah share the load of their busi­ness equally. Although, it may be James who’s out in the pad­dock more, with Sarah jug­gling the fi­nances, day-to-day op­er­a­tions and chil­dren’s pony club com­mit­ments. But ap­par­ently there are more hours in the week for other ac­tiv­i­ties. Sarah — with her friend Gabrielle Capra of Art of Es­presso in Young — started Break­fast Ta­ble in Gren­fell, a quar­terly mar­ket held in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions that’s de­signed to show off the town, its mak­ers and pro­duc­ers. The cou­ple also runs the self-con­tained Wheat­field Cot­tage farm­house as ac­com­mo­da­tion for rent. Back when James started out his farm­ing life, he thought that the fu­ture lay in growth and achiev­ing un­der­ly­ing ef­fi­cien­cies, but go­ing through a decade-long drought and the chal­lenges pre­sented by ex­pan­sion taught him oth­er­wise. It was a timely ques­tion from Sarah — “Why don’t we eat what we grow?” — that set the cou­ple off in a new di­rec­tion, sell­ing their food di­rect from the farm to con­sumers. “We reck­oned that we were do­ing a pretty good job of pro­duc­ing food and were get­ting pretty good prices, but that was it,” says James. “There’s no dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.” Sarah be­lieved the time was right for a change. “Peo­ple’s per­cep­tions around food have changed,” she says. “They’re con­nect­ing more with where their food comes from. We fig­ured, if we en­joy eat­ing our own food, oth­ers will too.” The cou­ple talked about the pro­posed new di­rec­tion for a long time be­fore tak­ing the plunge. They needed to weigh up all the pros and cons, as well as work out how it would be done. The lamb proved straight­for­ward and is han­dled by Gary’s Gourmet Meats in nearby Young. Stone grind­ing the farm’s wheat was an ex­per­i­men­tal process that, with the help of a Skippy Grain Mill, de­liv­ers nutty, just-ground wheat from farm to kitchen within 24 hours. The de­sire to sell rolled oats is there, too, but the equip­ment needed to de-hull the grain isn’t. More ex­per­i­men­ta­tion fol­lows as the cou­ple grows their pro­duce list. When James re­turns from the city af­ter a de­liv­ery run — to Syd­ney, Can­berra and the NSW South­ern High­lands — it is with a spring in his step. “I come back from Syd­ney on a high,” he says. “It’s the con­nec­tion with peo­ple who are eat­ing the food you grow and their thanks and en­thu­si­asm. They love it.”

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