The various 'Four Leaf' business activities have been developed
and are managed by Gavin & Rosemary Dunn and their children,
Russell and wife Chris (farms), Phillip (Milling) and Helen
From Left to Right
Rosemary, Gavin, Chris, Russell, Phillip and Helen Dunn
The enterprises have expanded into a unique unit encompassing
sound and sustainable agricultural practices on the farming
division and through ‘vertical integration’
maximizing the quality and wholesomeness of 'The Four Leaf'
FOUR LEAF FARMS
This unique enterprise operates three properties in the
Tarlee, Kapunda Region, being 80kms North of Adelaide and
totaling some 1150 hectares. The land types consist of rangelands
through to river flats with a wide range of soil types in
a 4.5 – 5mm rainfall area. The land in this area was
taken up in the early days after copper was found and mined
at Kapunda (This was the first mining operation in Australia).
There have been changes of emphasis in the agricultural
pursuits at Four Leaf over the years. Currently the production
of grain is the main undertaking because of the opportunity
to 'value add' through Four Leaf Milling Pty Ltd. This opportunity
to market through our associated companies allows us to
grow a much wider range of crops, some of which are quite
unique, with 1000 acres under cultivation annually. Also
2000 plus sheep are run for wool and meat production.
The Four Leaf properties are unique. Because of modern
farming practices virtually all farming soils in Australia
are now very contaminated with chemicals. Four Leaf Farms
has been managed without the use of conventional water soluble
fertilisers, weedicides, pesticides, etc. In fact the only
chemical use was many, many years ago with the very occasional
dipping of sheep and that was done off the
As the Dunn's have been looking to maximise the very important
Biological activities in the soil, the Biodynamic method
of agriculture has been implemented over a long period.
This advanced organic method was developed from suggestions
by Austrian philosopher Dr Rudolf Steiner in 1924.
Some of the Four Leaf 1994 wool clip was processed under
BFA certification requirements, made into beautiful ECO
Sweaters and sold in Sydney by the David Jones Store.
The farming operation has been looked at as one ecological
unit right from the biological activity in the soil through
to a tree planting program. The 'Four Leaf' property is
fronted with two miles of planted trees with various other
plantations throughout the property. These change the property
outlook, but more importantly impact upon the environmental
conditions. Many years ago two ecology areas were fenced
off to allow the regeneration of native flora. This was
long before it became fashionable to fence off areas of
nature vegetation. These are now delightful areas with native
vegetation regrowth and wildlife, particularly kangaroos
and some echidnas. On the second property 'South Gums' work
has been done on extensive planting’s of 1200 River
Red Gums for woodlot production. Russell who now operates
the ‘home’ farm has developed an intriguing
operation using Cell Grazing techniques to produce prime
organic lamb. He has also developed a plantation of nut
trees. Particularly pine nuts, on drip irrigation. It will
be interesting to see how these perform. All the farming
is certified with ACO.
We see cell grazing as the most environmentally friendly
and efficient princple of managing grazing livestock.
This offshoot of Four Leaf Farms has allowed the development
of a considerable amount of equipment, some very innovative.
From a well-equipped workshop many different machines have
On the farming side there has been considerable innovation,
which includes specialised equipment to practice Biodynamic
farming, cultivation machinery for special purposes, deep
ripping, etc. Nowadays most of the work is for the 'Ridge
Till' program where even a specialised tractor has been
On the grain processing
division practically all equipment has been built
in the workshop to Gavin's design. This includes basic
grain cleaning equipment, the specialised stone mills
that grind the grain into flour, the machine that
pearls barley and mung beans and equipment that dehusks
oats, sunflower, millet seed, and much more.
The mills that grind the flour are a unique design
with the grain being ground between two precision
cut and dressed sienna granite stones. These mills
have been sold around Australia and to New Zealand
and have caused considerable interest from overseas,
but due to servicing the market and workload, these
orders have been declined. To produce the millstones,
the workshop is fully set up to cut and precision
dress the granite stones. Outside contract stonework
is occasionally undertaken.
The innovative mill designs have become
a standard by which other traditional stone milling
operations are judged.
The New Mill Head
At an early age Gavin had a keen interest in nature. When
a young boy, his family lived in range country on a principally
grazing property. Together with his brother the boys continually
walked the property as an activity or often in pursuit of
rabbits which were in plentiful supply. More importantly
Gavin developed a certain intimacy with nature and an understanding
of the different characteristics of soils and plant growth.
On leaving school at the age of 16, Gavin worked at home
on the family properties. His education really began with
his initial interest in agriculture, grain processing and
precision engineering and began reading thoroughly on these
three subjects. No formal courses were undertaken, but as
much information as possible was sourced.
The study on agriculture later tended to lead more towards
Biological farming principles. An understanding gleaned
that because of the climatic conditions it should be possible
to farm in this area without the accepted applications of
artificial fertilisers and the developing use of pesticides.
After considerable experimentation this view was reinforced
and put into practice, not in a dogmatic manner, but he
was prepared to 'give it a fair go'. This method has been
pursued successfully for more than 40 years.
FOUR LEAF MILLING PTY LTD
In 1968 it was realised the quality of the wheat grown
by Four Leaf Farms was far superior to the wheat which produced
the flour which was normally consumed. Conventional white
flour has the wheat germ and bran removed which is where
the majority of the natural vitamins and minerals are stored.
Also of concern were the additives that were allowed into
flour, let alone the residues of chemicals used in the growing
of the grain as well as in storage.
With the knowledge Gavin had on grain processing and the
advantages of whole-wheat flour for their then young family,
a small mill was built to grind their grain into flour.
This mill ground the whole grain into flour between two
natural granite stones producing a whole-wheat flour.
The flour was then made into bread, which proved to be
very successful and nutritious. Word spread to neighbours
who purchased the flour for bread making, then to Adelaide
where marketing began in 1968 in a very small way. As demand
grew better mills were developed with improved milling qualities
and production. The milling was done on the home property,
but the limitations of location and lack of 3-phase electricity
soon became obvious. In 1987 the operation relocated to
its present premises on the southern outskirts of Tarlee
adjacent the main highway.
Development has been continual. In the early days the production
was limited to wheat flour but it became apparent that to
succeed in such a business there was a need to supply a
wider range of grain products. The range has grown and now
most grains/seeds are processed.
Aware of the superior quality oats produced in the district,
development began on an oat processing plant. This has proved
to be very successful with their unique flavour and has
become a major part of the business. The rolled oats are
continually in strong demand. Independent tests have revealed
that 'Four Leaf' rolled oats contain an exceptionally high
level of vitamin E, a vital element in boosting energy and
slowing the human ageing process. 'Four Leaf' rolled oats
contain 100% of their natural oat bran.
The mill is unique in many ways. The grain storage silos
are especially designed and built so that natural airflow
can occur, a prime requisite for the sound storage of grains
and seeds. The silos are simply sealed and filled with carbon
dioxide if any insect infestation is detected. However insect
infestation is rare, there is a belief that this aspect
is a result of how the grain is grown.
A new building has recently been erected for packaging.
Complete with cool room facilities, it brings Four Leaf
up to a well equipped modern processing plant. The engineering
ability and the workshop have allowed the development of
the milling operation. Only two pieces of equipment (gravity
tables), have been purchased. The rest has been built in
the ‘Four Leaf’ engineering facility.
'Four Leaf' products are sold nationally through a distribution
network in each state except South Australia where the distribution
is handled by 'Four Leaf'. The direct contact with these
retailers is an important aspect of business. Mill door
sales are conducted from the Tarlee complex which serves
a regular cliental. The emphasis is now on producing the
grain products in smaller newly designed reseal able bags.
This gives the consumer confidence in selecting a brand
name for quality and integrity.
While there are considerable export opportunities available
and a certain amount is done, the feeling is that the home
market is much more important.
The Dunn's are confident a sound future exists for this
enterprise with a new range of equipment being produced
that will further enhance the 'Four Leaf' range. Recently
new equipment has been installed, (also built in the workshop)
to steam, roll and dry various grains. These “Flaked”
products include oats, wheat, spelt, pearl barley, rye,
millet and rice.
Four Leaf Milling Pty Ltd is certified by ACO and DEMETER.
FOUR LEAF OILS PTY LTD
Four Leaf Oils is a joint company with Melrose Laboratories
of Melbourne, Victoria, whose principal, Geoff Steinicke,
is a food chemist and has a deep interest in vegetable oils.
As Four Leaf Farms was producing certified Biodynamic safflower
and mustard, together with Geoff Steinicke a decision was
taken that we should install a small expeller. Melrose distributes
“Four Leaf” product in Victoria.
Four Leaf Oils originally installed a German expeller this
allowed us to learn and understand the requirements of the
specialised oil extracting industry. In 1998, another similar
expeller was installed. Both machines worked on a 24-hour,
7 days a week principal. As we developed further into oil
extraction it became clear that we should change to and
install the Swedish ‘Taby’ expellers. We now
operate three of these machines on a continual basis, and
are switched off only for service or clean down.
The meal which is the by-product from oil expelling finds
various uses, being in the main livestock feed supplements.
An increasing amount of meal is used in specialty areas
such as pet food supplements. Some is put back into the
food industry. Mustard meal can be used for making mustards
as well as snail bait.
As well as the safflower seed from Four Leaf Farms, other
seeds are bought in and expelled. Although it is intended
to process a wide range of oils from, safflower, sunflower,
linseed, sesame, canola and mustard. The major seed used
at present is linseed.
The expellers have been modified considerably so that oil
is expelled in an inert gas environment and without light.
Further the expeller has controlled refrigerated cooling
on the oil expelling area. These three points are extremely
important in cold optimum quality pressed oil extraction.
The process has now been registered as 'OmegaCare'.
Four Leaf Oils is a bulk supplier of oils with most sales
in 200 or 1000 litre containers, with the majority going
to Melrose Health Supplies. Four Leaf Milling wholesales
some oil in 20 litre containers. The Dunn's see great opportunities
with the oil operation in the future. Cold pressed oils
are really beginning to be appreciated for their natural
health advantages. This is further enhanced with the oils
being sold as certified organic. Four Leaf Oils is certified
by ACO and DEMETER.
RIDGE TILL (AUST) PTY LTD
Gavin has always kept foremost in his mind the need for
a better agricultural system; one that works on a natural
biological system with all the advantages this can accomplish.
There are many shortcomings in the conventional grain growing
procedures, one being the high costs and escalating degree
of outside 'inputs' and the reliance on cheap crude oil.
There are also the large unseen costs such as soil compaction.
Some farmers are compacting up to 50% of a paddock with
wheel marks when land is worked. The energy efficiency that
is a developing ‘bench mark’ for sustainable
agriculture must be considered when next time over all this
compaction needs to be dug up again and so the cycle continues
which tests show, can absorb up to 45% of available tractor
horse power. This is all without consideration for the air
factor in soils, which is so important for maintaining the
biological life. "Just how often do we hear of Australian
agriculturists speak of air in soils" Gavin asks, "Never,
yet it is just so important".
The Organic grain growing industry also has so many problems.
which must be overcome if it is to have a long term economical
future. Being able to plant early in the season and control
weed effectively virtually at any stage of growth without
chemicals is so important.
While in Nebraska USA in 1991 Gavin saw the Ridge Till
system of agriculture in action. He found this system intriguing
and it has resulted in a continuing search for information,
literature, scientific results, etc. Much of the 3.5 million
acres in USA worked this way is with corn (maize) and soya
bean production, some of which is irrigated.
Ridge Till is an exacting principle of production which
requires specialised equipment. After extensive consideration,
it was thought that because of the soil type and climate,
possibilities exist to operate Ridge Till on the 'Four Leaf'
properties. Again because of Gavin's design and manufacturing
abilities, they are now into a program of incorporating
The system briefly; the land is formed in a permanent ridge
and valley formation with the grain being sown on the ridges.
Once harvested, the residue straw is cut and laid in the
valleys. The valleys are utilised to create the ideal conditions
for biological life with the straw residue acting as mulch.
This benefit is grossly overlooked in today’s conventional
farming scene. The following year the top of the ridge is
cut off and again seed is planted in the center of the ridge.
It is unbelievable what can be accomplished by this approach.
Weed control as well as the managed breakdown of mulch
is accomplished by inter row cultivation by specialised
equipment. As large horsepower is not required, narrow section
tyres are used and these run in the permanent tracks, certainly
not on the soil that is used for production. This inter
row work can be carried out with sophisticated guidance
systems which simplifies the task. The wheels of all the
land working and harvesting equipment are confined to the
same track each time the land is worked, through this approach
a compaction factor of 5% has been achieved. It is surprising
how little horsepower is required when soil is not compacted.
Ridge Till is a system that allows a much wider range of
crops to be grown, a welcome change from monoculture. Work
to date has vindicated the change that can quickly occur
in soil development if given the right conditions. There
is much scientific data coming from the USA which supports
Ridge Till. It is a very efficient system that cuts costs
dramatically with good production performances. As well
as being ecologically sound and Gavin believes, completely
sustainable for continual grain production without chemicals.
He is encouraged by the interest generating from both farmers
and scientists. An article in the USA Ridge Till Hotline
Magazine has acknowledged the Dunn’s development of
Ridge Till in Australia.
The Ridge Till project is a huge undertaking for a private
family; all work to date is highly encouraging. The Dunns
now have very specialized equipment which will allow real
development in this field. It is virtually impossible to
give a real idea of what can be achieved by the ‘Ridge
Till’ program in a brief outline such as this. A small
booklet is being compiled which will go into most aspects
in more detail. Gavin accepts that recognition by the general
farming community will be limited, but feels that within
a few years the scene could well be different as the grain
industry becomes much more scrutinized.
Gavin has a natural engineering
ability, which has allowed the development of equipment
in many different areas, as necessity has required.
His knowledge of the grain processing
industry has seen Gavin offered several large advisory
positions, but declined due to work commitments in
the family business operations.
In February 1987 Gavin called a meeting
at Dubbo, New South Wales which developed into the
formation of the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA).
This body has expanded into the major organic certifying
organization in Australia.
Gavin held the position of Chairman of Directors for 7
years from the inaugural meeting, until September 1994 then
retired as a Board member some six months later in 1995.
At that time the organization had a membership of near 1000.
The certifying arm of the BFA is now known as Australian
Certified Organic (ACO).
In 1988 the then Federal Minister of Primary Industry the
Hon John Kerrin invited representatives from organic organisations,
various Departments of Agriculture and consumer organisations
to form a body to advise Government. The body known as the
Organic Producers Advisory Committee (OPAC) was eventually
formed. Gavin served for many years on this committee in
Canberra and on various other OPAC sub committees.
Gavin was appointed Deputy Director for Australia for the
World Sustainable Agricultural Association (WSAA) which
is based in Hawaii and was a guest in Japan as part of his
work with this organisation.
The Roseworthy Campus of the University of Adelaide conducted
Alternate Farming Trials managed by Chris Penfold. Gavin
was a member of the governing committee responsible for
the trials for 10 years and managed the Bio Dynamic section
of these trials.
Gavin accepted an invitation to contribute to an in-depth
resume on his farming practices for 'Australian Grains -
The Complete Reference Book on the Grain Industry'.
Gavin has traveled extensively throughout Australia. He
has also travelled to Europe (twice), USA (twice), New Zealand
(three times), Japan, and Hong Kong.