I have a diversified farming operation near Hope, ND. In addition to farming 1900 acres I have a ewe herd that I raise from lambing to finish.
Before receiving this grant we were incorporating sustainable practices into our operation. The major practice was our flour milling. We would clean the grain and use the cleanout to feed the ewe flock and to finish the lambs. Then tae the clean wheat and mill it into the whole wheat flour which we sell to local bakeries and individuals. This sustainable practice made a major difference in our ability to remain on the farm and stay in this area that is experiencing tragic out migration.
We have been operating the flour mill for 5 years prior to our selection for a SARE grant.
PROEJCT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
The goal of this project was to create a marketing, engineering and business plan with the objective of developing a much larger milling operation. The 2nd step in this is to enter the organic farming and processing of organic grains into flour.
I composed a plan to develop a larger flour mill. To make this viable we needed detailed engineering plans, identification of markets, and establish a credible business plan for the financing.
The first step May and I did was to identify a qualified engineering firm and consulting engineer. We had them identify the exact equipment and structure we would need for anew flour mill. At the same time we had a consultant working on obtaining new markets for the types of flour we wanted to produce. He also helped in the formal business and marketing plan.
Mary and I at this point were working with NDSU extension service on the organic requirements, in addition to NDSU extension there university of NDSU flour milling department helped with expertise as did the ND Mill and Elevator which is a state owned flour mill and terminal elevator. We also worked with the local power companies and a organic certifying agency.
When the engineers, consultant and Mary and Dennis had there parts done we all met to discuss the results. From this meeting we got exact engineering requirements and costs which with the information we provided were used to construct the business plan with the help and markets found by the consultant. We then submitted the business plan for financing. The Griggs/Steele empowerment zone rejected there part of the financing we were seeking and that ended the process of our first business plan.
We then met with the consultant, told him we now know what we can’t do so let’s rethink this and resubmit a new business plan. After several months of hard work pounding the pavement and re-evaluating our ideas we submitted a second business plan for financing.
We are now in the process of remodeling our existing structure at our present location. New flour milling equipment has been ordered and this will bring our capacities to 900 bu of wheat per week being milled into flour. The project is being financed by Dennis and Mary, Bank of ND and Griss/Steele E-Z.
– Wayne Fetting – Top Taste Bakery, Finely ND, they are a major market for Summers Harvest Flour
– Will Robinson – NDSU Milling Specialist, NDSU cereal science department are helping with this project and lent us the use of there lab and people to help us.
– Jim Swanson – ND State Seed Department – the ND State Seed Department has varieties of grain that they developed that although are not popular varieties have excellent four and bread characteristics. They help with our selection of varieties.
– Duane Hauck – Director of ND Extension Agents, NDSU extension service has a lot of research in sustainable agriculture and in particular organic farming. Duane has been at meetings with us and coordinates his agents in there areas of knowledge to help us.
– Frank Lindholm – Consulting engineer for Contract Engineering and Milling Inc.- engineer who did flows and equipment projections
– Richard A. Van Sickle – Van Sickle and Allen and Associates Inc., engineer from Van Sickle and Allen who did the structure and cost estimates
– Duane Cariveau – Cariveau Consultants, Duane has done the major work on establishing new markets and has worked on the business plans and will continue to work with Summers Harvest as we grow and expand our markets.
We set a goal and with the idea we would get skilled people to identify the needs involved. When we put together the best plan possible and submitted for financing only to see it rejected. Probably this (in retrospect) was the best thing that could have happened to us. We then gathered our advisors powwowed and made the decision to come with a realistic scaled down version. Everyone involved stuck with us and helped with the new business plan.
As a direct result of SARE believing in us with the rest of our participants we now have:
1) Organic farming on this farm and certified organic wheat in the bins.
2) Production capabilities of 900 bu/week of flour milling.
3) New markets for our products
I don’t purposely intend to be vague but look what’s happening in the Great Plains. The out migration of our neighbors is not being stemmed. In the census results published this week ND had the lowest growth of all 50 states. There is little optimism left and people are giving up and leaving their farms.
My neighbors have really been interested in what we are doing and it has given them hope that there is something local that can be done to survive and prosper. Sometimes something isn’t very complicated to people. The simple sentence, if they can do it so can someone else is enough.
All of our meetings were held with people involved in the project. The meetings with area farmers are now set to happen. NDSU extension service has been ready and has made contacts with area organic farmers for us. We agree that this is the way to do it. When we meet with farmers now we will be able to actually contract with them (give them a local market) for there crops. Farmers have heard all the theory there is and want to have results.