The Story of Farmer and the Scientist
I get asked this a lot. Specifically, ‘which one is the Farmer, and which one is the Scientist?’ Yep, self-titled and self-explanatory was the aim so we hit the mark there.
Technically Brian is the Farmer and I (Jess) am the Scientist of the family. We find so much of overlap her though. Science is very much a part of the farming and it is impossible to separate the farming from the science of winemaking (it really does all start in the vineyard, alternatively, you can’t turn a sows ear into a silk purse). As you may have guessed, when you farm grapes and make wine you get to do all these roles and many others – even those you are somewhat unqualified for, such as makeshift plumbing or emergency diesel mechanic. Gotta love those farmers – it may not always be pretty and neat but they always find a way to keep things turning, and clanging, and grinding, away!
We had no start-up capital, no property to speak of and nothing to lose when we started so we just got to work and went for it. The only thing we wanted was to put great quality grapes we had grown into a bottle that would be purely ours. So we did just that.
– Jess Dwyer
Brian has been farming since he was a teenager and completed his apprenticeship in Horticulture back in the day. He came to Southcorp wines at around the age of 21. Starting out building the vineyard (fancy way of saying he knocked posts in the ground all day), the new Manager saw something in Brian and took him on as an operator then trained him to become the vineyard supervisor.
It was an awesome time on the property with so much to learn and oversee. Southcorp – now Treasury Wine Estates – were undertaking a massive development in building and planting out the majority of the 850 acre property on the Heathcote Mt Camel range.
It was a quality training ground with cutting edge practices, equipment and research in viticulture. Brian’s Manager and Mentor, George Taylor – ANZ Operations Manager Treasury Wines – encouraged Brian to gain a formal Viticulture qualification and up his skills.
Currently he manages DeBortoli Wines 193 acre Heathcote vineyard as well as Farmer & The Scientist’s 20 acres of vines. Through this career and a love of the region, it was always in the plan to one day farm his own grapes and together create a wine label. I loved working alongside Brian on the vineyards as I completed my Science and Teaching Degree at Uni.
People could never believe we were partners, as we worked so well together but it’s always been ideal for us. I prefer to work alongside Brian where I can. With work a high priority for Brian, it means I get to see him more which suits me just fine. Working in vineyards and wineries was a great way to finance Uni as the work was seasonal and flexible.
Looking back, I learnt so much from all the farm jobs I did. From pruning, fruit-picking and later, vineyard operator and grape-harvester driver. Being a cellar-rat/forkie at a large winery was a huge eye-opener. Winery work really is 5% romance and 95% heavy-lifting, especially at the larger scale. All of this helps us make decisions in the vineyard and business from a totally practical perspective. Having physically done most jobs imaginable in the vineyard and winery, we know the technicalities and constraints, from years of personal experience. I might have grumbled to myself some cold mornings when my hands were sore and stiff from pruning for months in a contract crew – but geez when that sun would come out, and you had a good audiobook going there are few places like it. Those years of experience is completely invaluable to our business now.
A lot of hard work goes on behind closed doors of a winery. Winemaking though, from any angle, is remarkable to me – as it takes a farm product and turns it into something that is so much more than just the sum of its parts.
Eventually I completed my Science Degree and a further qualification to become a primary school teacher. Teaching science was the highlight for me. I love, love, love showing kids all the amazing things about nature and our world. Kids see the magic in it and so often we forget just how cool the world really is. For now though I have left the teaching to others as I get back to my original love of working outside on a property. Nowadays I work in Farmer & The Scientist full-time and outside of that I hang out with the coolest kids I know – Charlie and Bubba Hadleigh!
We had no start-up capital, no property to speak of and technically nothing to lose when we started, so we got to work and went for it. The only thing we wanted was to put great quality grapes we had grown, into a bottle that would be purely us. So we did just that. We chose the varieties we liked, the oak we liked, the style we liked and made it at the price we would be happy to pay. So here we are – presenting our wines that are the culmination of everything so far. We somehow found a way to develop a wine label that represents everything we have come to love about grape-growing and winemaking.
We are Farmer & The Scientist and we love growing grapes and making awesome wines that make people happy. Our rooster Hercules has been immortalised on the bottle and you can read about his story here. Our aim is simple – grow down to earth wines that are approachable and plain good.
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