Last week we got to see the malting barley harvest in action at Ludow Farm in Otane, in the Hawke’s Bay. We were treated to a tour of the farm to see first-hand where our malt starts its life. Having nearly completed their yearly harvest, Simon and his family were able to join us for a shared lunch, prepared by his sister Anna.

After our tour of the farm, we sat down in a cleared patch in the middle of a ripe barley paddock, with some fantastic Hawke’s Bay scenery in the background, and celebrated the end of a great season by savouring some specially brewed beers on this hot summer’s day.

We were joined by Simon’s parents Neil and Gwen, his wife Lou and their baby Oscar, as well as some of the lovely people from Giant Brewing, Zeelandt, Roosters, Godsown, Peak Brewery, Trinity Hill and Home Brew West.

Giant Brewing brewed a Pale Ale especially for the occasion, containing 100% malt from barley grown in the North Island, and we also got to try a batch brewed for us by Garage Project of their brand new ‘433’, a Golden Ale inspired by football team the Wellington Phoenix, which is also brewed using a 100% North Island grown base malt plus a small amount of imported specialty malt.

Simon White came home about seven years ago to run the family farm in the Hawke’s Bay. He and his wife Lou now live on Ludlow Farm with their three young children Millie, George and Oscar. But it’s a collaborative family effort, with parents Neil and Gwen still involved in running the farm. They have been growing malting barley for almost 10 years. It was around this time that there was a move to grown more malting barley in the lower North Island, to be close to Malteurop New Zealand’s Marton malting plant, in Marton. Previously most of the plant’s barley was transported from the South Island. The opportunity came up for Ludlow Farm to grow malting barley for Malteurop New Zealand, destined for New Zealand’s local breweries.

The barley harvested this summer was planted mostly in late autumn last year, with a few more hectares put in the ground in early spring. This meant a total of about 80 hectares of malting barley, with the last of the harvest being brought in this week. Simon told us he was very happy with how the harvest went this year, with the nice hot weather making it easy and quick.[

In addition to malting barley, Ludlow Farm grows feed barley and feed wheat for stock and poultry, peas, beans, sweetcorn for McCain’s, Hemp seed for their own branded products (mainly oil), squash for the Japanese market and they will be planting a range of small seed crops this coming season, such as grass and carrot seed. They also finish prime lamb and beef for export markets and have an 800 tonne storage facility for feed barley and wheat.

The family farm has a long history. Simon’s great-great-grandfather won a cup in 1890 for growing wheat on the same land, not long after the town of Otane was established. Then for a long time the family grew exclusively feed barley. Simon’s grandfather purchased his own harvester in the 1950s and they have kept upgrading and operating their own harvesting equipment ever since. Purchased in 1960 by Simon’s grandfather, Ludlow Farm was one of many blocks owned by the family at one point.

It was a thrill for Cryermalt to be able to facilitate this meet-up of brewers and growers. For some of the brewers it was a real eye opener to see for themselves where the malt comes from and learn a bit more about how it’s grown, and even see some of the barley being harvested while we were there.

The family were very welcoming and gracious. Simon said also learnt more about the brewing process and really enjoyed being able to chat with the people using his end product and discuss the specifics of their respective work. He was glad to have a chance to show them around the farm, not to mention sampling the beer brewed specially for the day, showcasing the malted barley grown in the area.

We’ll be visiting another North Island barley grower next summer during harvest time, so keep an eye out for our next farm visit.