Please note: Images in this article were taken before COVID-19 restrictions and mandatory mask requirements were in place.
Twenty years ago, four brothers arrived in Australia from India. Today they head up a major agricultural enterprise in the Victorian Mallee.
For Kamaljit and his three brothers, Manjinder, Harjas and Agyakar it was a journey that took them to New Zealand first, before finally establishing themselves as farmers in Victoria’s far North-West.
They now run and manage Grewal Farms and Golden Grain Mills.
The family, originally from Punjab in north-western India, are now farming in the Mallee’s Millewa district having come to Australia to grow grapes with their uncle just across the border in Renmark, South Australia.
Migrating to New Zealand in 1988, they ran restaurants and grocery stores before making the move to Australia in 2000.
Family connections to the Riverland in South Australia gave the brothers their first taste of irrigated horticulture before expanding their enterprise across the border.
Grewal Farms has grown to include cereal and horticulture cropping, including wheat, almonds, grapes, citrus and even berries.
The diversity is born from the family’s willingness to look for new opportunities and to trust the science.
The family sought out Agriculture Victoria’s irrigation expertise to measure and manage their water use and help them through an extensive new irrigation development process including identifying what land was suitable for what crops.
As Kamaljit’s son Aman Grewal explains resources are limited in the Mallee so the family has always been open to using technology to guide their decisions.
Soil surveying and new irrigation development approvals enabled them to diversify their interests and grow the right crop on the right soil.
Once a crop is established the family works to ensure it has its irrigation scheduled efficiently and effectively so the right amount of water goes on at the right time.
Constantly updating their skills and knowledge around irrigation systems and maintenance has also played a major part.
“There are various sources that are around. I think you just have to reach out to them,” Aman says.
“Some government bodies, like Department of Primary Industries (NSW) and Agriculture Victoria provide a lot of support and there's funding available and training opportunities as well, for those in the industry.”
Diversification continued in 2009 when the family set up its Golden Grain Mills enterprise.
“This was after the drought. It's always tough for everyone. We came up with the idea of setting up a mill,” Aman says.
“We had our own grain and we needed to value add to it, to get through those tough times.”
Starting with the Indian stone-ground-flour market in mind, the family soon expanded its buyer base to across Australia and into New Zealand.
As well as their own grain, they also mill chickpeas and maize which are gluten-free and have also developed a stockfeed line.
Proud to be using locally grown produce, Aman also says: “The most important part is that we use the traditional method of stone grinding, a process that tries to preserve the natural goodness of the grain within the flour.”
Along with business growth has come personal growth for Aman. Born in New Zealand, he moved to Australia as a one-year-old and has grown up in the Mallee.
Aman – who is working full time in the business – is now also adding a Master of Business Administration (MBA) to his undergraduate degree in agribusiness.
“I think it’s good to work and study at the same time, you get to implement what you're learning into the real world.
“It's great to come back into the family business, to keep it alive, keep it going, especially in regional towns like where we are, young people tend to go to the cities and that's where they get settled.
“So yeah, I think it's good to come back to our roots and grow where we are.”
It has been a story of remarkable growth since the family landed in Australia in 2000 with no sign of the business slowing down.
“The whole family is involved, and the future generations are also getting involved in the family operations,” Aman says.
“The Mallee area has been absolutely great for us. I think there's a long-term future that we see in horticulture and in this area of the world.
“I think there's a bright future ahead.”
You can hear the Grewal Farm story in Aman’s own words by listening to the AgVic Talk podcast ‘Farming the Grewal way, with Aman Grewal’ on the Agriculture Victoria website.