Millet boomed in the 1940s when the Tumut community started growing the crop commercially. “There was probably about 1,000 tonnes of broom millet grown in this district, from Blowering Dam through to Gundagai on either side of the Tumut River,” Mr Wortes said.
“It was more or less a cash crop they grew to complement their dairy farms which were all over the valley.”
Mr Wortes took over the broom factory in its prime in the 1970s, and was joined by Mr Richards almost 20 years later. By that point, Mr Richards could comfortably make more than 120 brooms a day.
Millet was a crop that took experience to grow, Mr Wortes said, suggesting that was why it was no longer locally available. The process started almost 10 years ago, buying offshore millet to complement the dwindling local crop. “It’s probably twice the price of local millet, but when it comes in it’s been pre-graded and ready to make the brooms,” Mr Wortes said.
“The gamble is that it doesn’t fall off the side of a shipping container in a rough sea.” And at $500 a bale you can understand why — Tumut’s broom factory churns through up to five tonnes of imported millet every year.
“We just have to pass those costs on, and hopefully people will appreciate that we make the best premium-quality brooms in Australia.”