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Growing chia

Lifestyle — Posted 19/12/13

With its name meaning ‘strength’ in Mayan, chia is one powerful wholegrain you want to keep within arm’s reach.

Deep in the Kimberley region of Western Australia lies the world’s largest producer of chia seeds. When flowering, a sea of purple and green blankets the landscape as the crops flourish in the region’s warm, dry climate.

The Chia Co came about when founder John Foss was awarded the Nuffield Farming Scholarship in 2001, enabling him to travel and research natural solutions to modern diet-related diseases. Discovering the nutritional benefits of the chia seed, he established The Chia Co to make a positive contribution to the health and wellness of communities globally.

Originating in the fertile soil of central Mexico, chia seeds have been part of the diet of the Mayans and Aztecs for centuries and were used in a variety of ways. Eaten whole, ground into flour, pressed for oil and soaked in water, they are an incredibly rich source of omega-3, dietary fibre, protein and antioxidants.

Working in harmony with the environment, The Chia Co practises sustainable methods of farming and produces chia that is 100% chemical-free, sun-ripened and fed by the waters of Lake Argyle, East Kimberley. We asked them about their process for growing chia seeds and how they create the perfect environment for their crops to flourish.  

What is the farm like?

Our farms are located in the Ord Valley in Western Australia. The region has an abundance of water and sunlight perfect for growing chia. As it grows, the chia plant flowers and creates a beautiful sea of purple and green.

Do you grow all year round?

Chia is grown during the dry season. We rotate our chia plants with legume crops to ensure the soil contains just the right amount of nitrogen for our chia.

What conditions are required for chia seeds to grow?

The latitude, water source, day length, climate, soil and harvesting methods all play an important part in developing nutrition in the seed. The Chia Co Chia is grown in the Kimberley Region because it provides the ideal growing conditions for chia including latitude, soil type, ample water from Lake Argyle and a distinct dry season for growing chia.

What have you learnt from the journey?

We have learned the importance of connecting with the end customer. Building a supply chain that we manage from farm to consumer has been essential to guaranteeing the quality and nutrition of The Chia Co’s products.

Are there many chia growers in Australia? 

The Chia Co is the world’s largest producer of chia and we are the only Australian grown chia.

Share some of your methods for sustainable chia farming. 

Unlike many chia growers, we use an innovative method to allow our chia seeds to sun ripen rather than using chemicals to ripen them artificially. We also monitor all the levels of our surroundings in real-time to make sure our seeds are growing in a harmonious and nutritious environment. Our chia is watered by gravity-fed irrigation, using hoses fed by Lake Argyle.

Some of the health benefits of Chia seeds

  • Chia contains a type of omega-3 fatty acid known as ALA. This kind of omega-3 may play a role in helping to lower cholesterol and maintain the function of your arteries.
  • They are gluten-free.
  • Chia seeds are the only wholegrain that you can eat exactly as they grow. No need to mill, process, cook or remove the husk.
  • High in soluble and non-soluble dietary fibre, chia seeds are an excellent addition to your diet and may lower colon cancer risk and moderate blood glucose levels.
  • Chia seeds are a great ‘food’ for healthy skin, hair and nails.
  • Chia seeds are also a rich source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Sprinkled on breakfast cereal, tossed through salads or blitzed in smoothies, chia seeds are an easy addition to your diet that brings along so much goodness.
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