Faces of Tamworth: durum wheat breeder Dr Ray Hare

PASTA MASTER: Calala man Ray Hare was partly responsible for durum wheat varieties commonly found in pasta products. Photo: Gareth Gardner 220317GGC04
PASTA MASTER: Calala man Ray Hare was partly responsible for durum wheat varieties commonly found in pasta products. Photo: Gareth Gardner 220317GGC04

Ray Hare is a doctor in his field of agriculture, but the title is nothing more to him than a “ticket to do a job”. It’s just another understated achievement for the Tamworth man whose work as a wheat breeder for more than three decades saw his durum varieties contributing to more than 70 billion pasta-based meals across the globe. He’s a regular judge of the pasta making competition at the Royal Easter Show where he’s been named a champion of the Royal Agricultural Society. What pasta does Dr Hare eat at home? It’s probably more understated than you think.

IF YOU’VE eaten a piece of Australian pasta, you probably need to thank Dr Ray Hare.

Based in Calala –  a quiet suburb just outside Tamworth –  Dr Hare is about to be named a Champion of the Royal Agricultural Society for his efforts establishing the Sydney Royal Pasta Competition.

It’s just another achievement for a man who helped create about “70 billion meals” worldwide.

But Dr Hare has barely dabbled in pasta-making and his pantry is stocked with homebrand varieties found in countless Australian households.

Dr Hare was a wheat breeder for more than 32 years.

“For 31 of those years, I bred durum wheat, which is used almost exclusively in making pasta, here in Australia and overseas,” Dr Hare said.

“When I started it was only a small industry, like about 10,000 tonnes annual production, now it’s at least half a million and we did spike over 800,000 at one stage.”

There’s a very good chance you’ve eaten pasta containing Dr Hare’s variety of durum, by his estimation.

“There is another breeding program in South Australian that produces other varieties, but the majority of durum wheat grown, particularly in this part of the world is from varieties bred at Tamworth.

“Any variety with “aroi” on the end of it, I’m responsible for.

“For good or bad.

“Being basically the only breeding program for this part of the world, it’s got to be ours.”

In the last 30 years, our varieties would have gone into 70 billion meals.

Dr Ray Hare

The Calala man has seen his durum varieties shipped out all over the world, including research bases in the Antarctic.

“We’ve sold wheat into South America, North America, a lot into Europe, Africa and east Asia,” he said.

“We sit down and calculate the number of meals, Tamworth products have probably gone into, conservatively estimated, in the last 30 years, our varieties would have gone into 70 billion meals.

“That’s a bloody lot of meals.”

A doctor in his field, the Calala man said his title is merely “a ticket to do a job”, but he said he does get a kick out of seeing fields of durum around the region.

And he was chuffed to hear he was being recognised for his work with the Royal Easter Show, where he has contributed to the pasta competition as a judge.

RAS President, Robert Ryan, said Dr Hare epitomised the true spirit of the Show.

“Champions of the RAS Award is an excellent opportunity to showcase the achievements of individuals from a broad cross section of communities from across NSW,” Mr Ryan said.

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