Taking grain from field to table (Belleville Telescope)

RCED assisted the Hansen’s with their initial USDA grant application, if your business would like to look into additional resources for a business idea or start-up contact Luke Mahin at 785-374-3047 or rcedc@nckcn.com.

Belleville native gets USDA grant to study feasibility of locally-grown flour production

By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor – www.thebellevilletelescope.com

A Belleville company is among seven Kansas businesses awarded USDA grants to develop value added agricultural products. Belleville native Kevin Hansen and his wife, Lauren, Lawrence, pursued the $30,000 grant to determine the feasibility of producing flour from wheat and sorghum to be marketed as a locally produced food product.

The grant was awarded to Agriculture Mechanization Co., Belleville, a farm corporation that the Hansens are involved with along with his brothers, Nick, Belleville, and Chris, Weston MO. “We think there may be a demand for flour from this type of operation because we have noticed a growing trend of people wanting to know where their food comes from,” says Kevin Hansen, who is a mechanical engineer in Olathe. “Farmers markets are getting more popular, and restaurants and grocery stores are offering more produce and meat options that are marketed as locally grown. But so far, there doesn’t seem to be many options for local flour.” Hansen said hard red winter wheat is considered ideal for baking because of its high protein content.

The idea for sorghum flour is to fill the needs of people who want gluten-free options for baking, he said. Hansen and his wife have been experimenting with milling and baking local wheat, as well as researching the demand for locally-produced flour, commercial equipment needs and marketing, he said. “My Grandma had a hand crank burr mill that she would occasionally use to make her own flour,” he says. “She would, of course, enlist the labor of eager grandchildren to crank that mill and help in the kitchen. So in a way, I’ve been experimenting with local flour for about 25 years.

“The grant from the USDA will provide matching funds that we can use to take our research and planning activities to the next step,” he said. Value-added program The grant to the Hansens is among $400,000 distributed through the US Department of Agriculture’s Value-Added Producer Grant. Purpose of the grants are to help provide financial capital to small businesses and agricultural producers in rural areas that are looking to expand or create a new value-added agricultural product, says Patty Clark, USDA Rural Development state director. “The investment made by the federal government is helping to create new products and jobs in small towns across the state,” she said.

Another local recipient of grant funds is AgMark, Beloit, which received $75,000 to develop a business and marketing plan for developing renewable chemicals and animal feed products derived from grain sorghum. The company is exploring the prospect of producing renewable chemicals and high protein animal feed products from grain sorghum. The company is comprised of three cooperatives (Cloud County, Farmway and Randall Farmers) and hopes to create an opportunity that expands the revenues and market for the grain sorghum produced by its members.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded 863 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $108 million. Twenty percent of the grants and 16 percent of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers. The 2014 Farm Bill increases mandatory funding for the program from $15 million to $63 million over five years (while also reauthorizing an additional $40 million in discretionary funding). Value-Added Producer Grants are an element of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which coordinates USDA’s work to support local and regional food systems.