Central Milling: Redefining Standards from Seed to Store

Traditionally, farms in the United States have been feeding the world for the last 200 years. But as we become more industrialized, fewer young people are choosing farming as an occupation. The number of family-run farms in the U.S. has been steadily decreasing since its peak at roughly 7 million farms in 1935. Today, less than one percent of the population identifies themselves as a farmer, and, even more alarmingly, over 40 percent of those farmers are aged 55 or higher.
 
Corporate-run farms, often with lax safety and cleanliness standards, have been on the rise. Most recently, a corporate-run farm had to recall half-a-billion potentially tainted eggs. No one is more aware of this fact than Keith Giusto, president of Central Milling – the oldest continuously operating business in Utah, which has been partnering with neighboring farms along the Logan River for almost a century-and-a-half.
 
Promoting Stewardship of the Land
 
“At Central Milling, we are 100-percent devoted towards supporting local farmers,” emphasizes Giusto. “We support most of the farmers in Cache Valley, Utah, where our mill is located. We need more farmers in this country. If you keep putting family-run farms out of business, you’re left with two options: corporate-run farms that don’t care about the land or the crops, or buying your imported crops from other countries like China – do you want to do that? Farming’s not easy, I know that, but we want Central Milling to be the light at the end of the tunnel for young farmers, to prove that farming is a viable option.
 
“Also, you have to learn how to be a good steward of your land, and that’s why Central Milling chooses to produce organic products,” continues Giusto. “We’re not poisoning the Earth. We use sustainable agriculture and make sure that we put back into the ground what we take out of it. It keeps soil healthy for generations. It’s extremely important to support organic farming. Granted, there’s a learning curve for farmers as well. Farmers have to re-learn old time farming methods that have sustained us for hundreds of years.”
 
Giusto and his seven partners at Central Milling run the nation’s only organic milling company, offering well over 100 varieties of premium baking flour and grains that they completely track from the seed to the table. “We track everything back to the farm. When you get a bag of our flour I can tell you what farm it came from and what wheat blend it is,” illustrates Giusto. “We have a seed plant, so we can control every aspect of production. We’re very specialized, we fly under the radar.”
 
Quality Organic Flour on the Rise
 
Central Milling’s products aren’t exactly under the radar, however. As of August 2010 the Culinary Institute of America in New York City only uses Central’s organic products to create breads and pastries. With a distribution warehouse located in California’s Sonoma County, Central Milling provides the foundation for artisan bakeries in many of the country’s culinary hotbeds, offering custom blends.
 
Central Milling signed a deal to roll out its organic flour under Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value house brand, and the Central Milling brand can be found at large volume retailers such as Costco. “I would love to be able to get Central Milling quality flour in every store in the country,” declares Giusto. “When people have the money, they will buy good products for their families to eat. Launching a new product is tough, though. A lot of the big corporate farms got into organic farming for the market share, but they’re not doing it to support local farmers.”
 
Giusto is very passionate about delivering quality products to consumers, believing, “People have no idea where their food is coming from these days. Corporations are dumping pesticides on crops to increase productivity. We have to eat more organically and that’s why we do what we do. It’s not for the money. You’d have to be crazy to think you can open a farm and get rich. You just have to have this in your heart. It’s not for everyone, but it’s very rewarding when someone bites into bread made with your products and says, ‘Wow, this is the best bread I’ve ever tasted.’ That’s your reward.”
 
High-profile food scares have highlighted the fact that corporate farms, with their adherence to the bottom line often at the expense of safety measures in food production, are producing more and more of what we eat in the U.S. As more people become aware of issues in the food supply, companies like Central Milling will flourish by promoting accountability and quality.