When the wheat turns golden as it surely will in late summer, wheat producers in North Dakota will always have their state mill to sell their high-quality wheat to.
It helps wheat growers to be able to sell at home, and not have to worry about trade disputes overseas.
“We’re the only state mill in the nation, as well as the largest single site wheat flour mill in the U.S., and the seventh largest wheat milling company in the U.S.,” said Vance Taylor, manager of the North Dakota Mill and Elevator in Grand Forks, N.D.
In 1922, the state mill was formed to helped North Dakota farmers meet the local demand for wheat.
“We still do that today. By being here in North Dakota, we create additional local demand,” Taylor said. “We buy and grind 33 million bushels of wheat every year into flour from about 1,000 farmers, as well as from elevators.”
Producers sell their wheat to the State Mill through contracts or on the cash spot market when they sell their wheat to their local elevator.
“The mill buys wheat based on protein and quality,” he said.
The mill has expanded several times over the decades to handle different products, especially flour.
In the year 2000, the mill manufactured about 2.7 million pounds of wheat flour.
“Over the last few years, we’ve nearly doubled that and are now manufacturing 5 million pounds of flour every day at the mill,” Taylor said. Of that, 90 percent is hard red spring wheat (HRSW), a small amount is hard white spring wheat (HWSW), and 10 percent is durum.
Much of that wheat goes to the many products the mill produces and sells retail in central North Dakota and the 11 states surrounding it.
“About 3 percent of our mill is retail, with the majority of our products being made from HRSW,” Taylor said.
On the retail side, the mill manufactures delectable pancake mixes, both buttermilk and blueberry.
But some of the newest and most exciting products from the mill are bread mixes.
The mixes are white (whole wheat) bread, multigrain bread and whole wheat bread.
Their bread mixes are packaged by Dakota Specialty Milling in Fargo.
When Dakota Milling had a packaging line change, it was the perfect opportunity for the state mill to change the bread mixes into the larger size and create more attractive packaging and larger boxes for consumers.
“We’ve repackaged the bread mixes into 32-ounce mixes,” he said. “It works well for bread machines or to bake a loaf of bread in the oven.”
Taylor said each box contains two mixes to make two loaves of bread.
“We’re excited about the new packaging. The new boxes have been well received, and we’re still working to get them out on the shelves,” he said.
HWSW is also milled and packaged in 5-and 10-pound bags.
The white whole wheat makes great whole wheat white bread, designed especially for those who want to eat whole wheat products, but prefer a white bread.
Producers across the state now grow the white spring wheat, which is a change from the beginning of the program.
“As the white whole wheat flour and bread project has grown, producers from all across the state grow HWSW for us now,” Taylor said. “We have some 12,000 acres of white wheat.”
The mill also contracts with some organic wheat growers, and the mill manufacturers that organic HRSW into 5-and 10-pound bags.
While the retail side of the mill is 2 percent, and less than 1 percent is export, some 97 percent of the wheat goes into large packages and bulk flour for larger customers.
“Most of our customers are in the east, the Ohio River Valley and on the East Coast, and about 10 percent of shipments stay in the local area,” he said.
The state mill packages the flour in 50-pound, 100-pound bags or bulk sizes for rail shipment.
“Altogether, we have about 250 different SKUs (stock keeping units) of spring wheat and durum products in different sizes, different packages and protein levels,” he said.
The mill’s elevator does “a lot of wheat blending” to meet their customers’ specifications, before the wheat comes over to the mill side.
One customer may need a low protein blend of wheat, while another needs a high protein blend of wheat. The wheat protein ranges from 12-15 percent.
Their highest protein flour is ‘State,’ and the lowest protein flour is ‘Miller’s Choice.’
“Some customers need high protein wheat for products like bagels and hard rolls, while other customers would need a lower protein wheat for making products like white pan bread or pastries,” he said.
Most of the wheat for the mill comes from North Dakota wheat growers, although small amounts come from nearby states. The mill receives no wheat from Canada.
The State Mill has been consistently profitable over the last few years.
“Demand for our flour has been good, and our dedicated employees provide excellent customer service,” Taylor added.