Our Story

We, Peter and Brittany, come from a long line of farmers. We can both trace back to our great grandparents and even a few great-great grandparents as being farmers!

This family history, along with our individual beliefs of nourishing others and learning as a life-long experience that connects us to others and the world around us has lead to what we now know as Sandhill Mill!

 

 How Sandhill Mill Came To Be:

“Wheat can be grown on every continent except Antarctica.” That’s what my (Peter's) dad would always tell me in relation to trying to make money growing wheat. The point he was getting at, is that it isn’t anything special that I can grow wheat in Western Minnesota. A great crop or a poor crop it didn’t really matter, the price wouldn’t move much. For this reason, most farmers will try to grow the most bushels they can by spraying multiple times for weeds and fungicides along with applying commercial fertilizer. When the wheat is almost ready for harvest, it is not uncommon for that farmer to then spray his wheat to kill everything in the field, weeds and wheat, for an even drydown to be able to straight combine it. That means, instead of using a swather to cut the wheat and put it in windrows for harvesting later after it dries, they can use a bigger head on the combine and harvest it all in one pass. This saves time, fuel, labor, and reduces potential for harvest losses. I get it, but I don’t agree with it. When I grow wheat, I NEVER spray anything just before harvest.

“People gotta eat that ya know.” When my dad was young, he worked for a neighbor scooping harvested wheat into a granary for storage. A month later, that neighbor would have him come back and scoop it all back out and into the truck to haul to town. The neighbor wanted to get it out of there before the mice eat it or bugs get into it, saying, "people gotta eat that ya know". That always stuck with me about wheat. After harvest, there is no processing of the wheat other than getting the weeds and other materials separated before milling. My yields are lower than conventional wheat harvests because of the practices I use to grow it. I've always had good quality, getting a small premium at the local elevator because of it. The premium was never enough to equal the income that was lost in the lower yield. To boot, my high quality wheat got dumped into the same bin as the guy in front of me and the guy behind me no matter the quality of their wheat. My higher quality, ethically grown wheat got mixed in and shipped out - not benefitting anyone other than my conscience.

“We should just mill our own flour with all the baking you do.”  Brittany loves to experiment in the kitchen with new recipes. She considers it relaxing to have that mixer going in front of her. When we got married, I had joked that we should just mill our own wheat instead of buying flour at the store. But I figured it didn’t really matter, because all flour is the same. After years experimenting with some different crop rotations to keep wheat on the farm, I decided to try something else and stopped growing wheat. In the summer of 2019, everything changed. That spring was really wet and we had a lot of acres that didn’t get planted. I saw it as an opportunity to transition some of those acres to organic practices. As a bonus, a nearby elevator became a buyer of organic corn and soybeans. This began the journey into our organic certification. In 2021, we had an opportunity to purchase some land from a neighbor and fortunately it was able to be certified as organic right away. That winter, as I was sitting down trying to do the math on which crops would be most profitable on the different soil types, I determined some ground was best suited for wheat. When I called the seed company to inquire about varieties and prices, I was introduced to Einkorn wheat. I had never heard of it before, and my knowledge of flour was about to explode.

“Dates back to Moses and the Israelites fleeing Egypt.” The seed advisor on the other end of the phone told me Einkorn is the oldest known wheat variety in the world. It is hardly grown and not widely known about. My curiosity was piqued.  I like trying new things, especially if it is rare and not widely known. I wanted to try it on a small field and see how it went. The company didn’t have enough seed for all of my acres, so I was advised to also try Emmer. Emmer is a direct descendant of Einkorn, being crossed with a wild grass. I knew it would be tough to find a buyer for this wheat, so I asked Brittany what she thought of milling it ourselves and having our own supply of flour. She was apprehensive at first, but I had already ordered a stone mill. There was no turning back now! We started our milling flour research, then researched ancient grains (Einkorn and Emmer). When this journey began, we didn’t know what all-purpose flour consisted of or what was so special about whole wheat flour other than it is healthier. After realizing that Einkorn and Emmer are low in gluten and even healthier than whole wheat flour off the store shelves, we were hooked. Not that either of us have gluten sensitivities, but we are all about eating healthier if we can. Through the research process, we also realized that not all milling processes are the same. A stone mill will keep the temperature of the wheat lower, preserving the nutrients, than the widely used gristmill and also keep all the parts of the wheat berry together, for a whole wheat flour that is more nutritious than what can be purchased at the store. The shelf life of our stone-milled flour is shorter than store-purchased flour because all the “good” stuff is kept in it. The nutrients start to break down as soon as it is milled, so it is better to mill less flour more often, to make sure it is always fresh. We felt that if we were just learning all of this there might be others interested as well, and the response we got was astounding. Many friends and acquaintances had actually heard of Einkorn wheat and had purchased the flour off the internet. Their complaints were that it was costly to get shipped in and they would prefer to source it locally. Hence, Sandhill Mill was born.

 Haugen Family

Photography by Laura's Photography