Developing a Historical Community-Based Wheat Milling Cooperative

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $83,965.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Federal Funds: $50,603.00
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Edgar Hicks
Kansas Black Farmers Assoc.


  • Agronomic: corn, millet, sorghum (milo), soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, marketing management, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, wildlife
  • Pest Management: precision herbicide use
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks, social psychological indicators, sustainability measures


    An education and research project to develop a wheat mill cooperative for Kansas Black Farmers to pursue value added products and diversification of wheat production methods, appears to have succeeded in developing the cooperative’s value added Promised Land flour and pancake mix and growing a variety of white wheat. Although, no substantial income generated, the project garnered local and larger community recognition and continues to gain income from sales of flour and pancake mixes. This project led to a successful USDA 2501 grant to determine if teff (an Ethiopian grain low in gluten) will grow in Kansas.


    Background of the Organization and Community

    Initially, the project formed out of the organizing for the Kansas Black Farmers Association (KBFA) on March 27, 1999 in Nicodemus, Kansas around concerns for the litigation associated with the USDA class action lawsuit. From that original group of thirty farmers, a smaller group of wheat farmers was organized. The farmers involved in the program were interested in diversifying their wheat production methods, developing their cooperative, and creating income for themselves and their communities; the majority of this group were farmers from Nicodemus.

    Nicodemus has a unique distinction of being one of the first places to be settled predominantly by blacks and one of the last to survive; it is the only remaining all African American resident community west of the Mississippi. The all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas has resisted the kind of extinction that happens to a place reduced from 200 residents to less than twenty-five residents. Each summer to celebrate its continued existence, each Homecoming Celebration, hundreds of descendants of the first settlers come back knowing that the place continues to manifest life. Nicodemus, Kansas shares the same name with a biblical character and the first slave in the U.S. to purchase his own freedom. Nicodemus represents that resiliency and hope. The philosophy of the initiative rests upon the principles of resiliency, hope and sustainable communities.

    For the farmers and residents of Nicodemus, the hope lies with their offspring and others who continue to come home each year to celebrate their ancestors who struggled to keep the land. In 1877 people came to Nicodemus believing in themselves and their right to raise crops and build a community. In 1887, the wheat farmers made an effort to establish a wheat mill in Nicodemus however, the mill never materialized. Today there are four remaining wheat farming families from the original African American settlers. The Nicodemus wheat farmers continue to hold onto to the spirit of Nicodemus, their land, and their dreams of sustaining their own community. They came to Nicodemus to become self-sufficient.

    Project objectives:

    1) Grow a variety of hard white wheat.
    2) Develop a flour Mill for Nicodemus Flour Cooperative and establish suitable, legal Afronic standards and trademark with nutritional analysis.
    3) Explore and develop direct marketing channels for products.
    4) Develop and implement an educational program and use distance learning technology.
    5) Develop farmers’ grain marketing knowledge and practices.
    6) Open dialogue with USDA Commodity Credit Corporation(CCC) on the need for underserved producer cooperatives doing donation program business with sub-Saharan Africa.
    7) Farmers diversity wheat production method

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.