fourleaflogo wheat

Lot 120 Main Road
(PO Box 83)
Tarlee, South Australia

Monday - Friday: 8:30am to 5:00pm

The Four Leaf Story


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 (Finances).

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' products.

Enterprises Include;


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 been produced.

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 constructed.

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.


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 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.


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 this system.

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 Dunn

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 Dunn

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.

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