Whole Grain Milling, Welcome, Minnesota

Meet Lin and Doug Hilgendorf of Whole Grain Milling
Reprinted by permission from the Mississippi Market Co-op Market Medley newsletter, June/July 2004 edition

Q: Lin, when did you decide to switch to raising your grain crops organically?
A: In the late 70’s we quit using anhydrous ammonia and started getting away from using herbicides. (We had never used any insecticides.) In 1986 we learned about organic certification and started the process. By 1990, we had our whole farm certified organic.

Q: What led you and Doug to stop farming conventionally?
A: My father started farming when conventional farming was naturally organic. He used all the “new” things as they came along, but by the mid-1970’s he could see that something was not right: our ground was harder to plow, we had more weeds than ever, and the vet bills to care for our animals were increasing. We conducted an experiment using a more natural, less harsh fertilizer in half of a field and a conventional NPK fertilizer in the other half: the more naturally fertilized field had much less weed pressure right to the line. This and other observations, such as a higher sugar content indicating a higher food quality in our naturally fertilized crops, led us to go the organic route.

Q: Do you have any regrets?
A: None. Our soil is more mellow, we have fewer weeds and the only vet bill we have is from taking our dog in for annual shots and a heartworm test. We are working with nature, not fighting against it or trying to modify it.

Q: Whole Grain Milling has produced flours, bread and pancake mixes for a good long time, how recently did you add Corn Chips to your product line?
A: Our Organic Tortilla Chips are relatively new… we first began selling them in March 2003.

Q: Many of our shoppers tried your chips at our salsa sampling event on May 8. We got a lot of comments about how great they taste; is there a secret that makes them different than other chips?
A: No secret really- it’s the type of corn we grow and use- Hi Lysine Corn- a corn with a more complete protein than other corn, and a starch which is easier to digest makes our chips more nutritious and better tasting. The chips are all organic, including the oil. Hi-Lysine corn was produced through natural corn breeding methods… it is NOT genetically engineered.

Q: What are your favorite accompaniments with Whole Grain Milling Chips?
A: Mostly we eat them as-is. However, Doug likes his with hot salsa, I like mine with salsa and sour cream mixed, and our son, Ross and his wife like them with melted cheese and salsa.

Q: Do local food co-ops make up a big share of your business?
A: Yes. We really appreciate that the co-ops and their members buy our products, helping to keep our farm viable as a family operation for the next generation. It’s great that our son and his family have joined us in the business!

Whole Grain Milling has just introduced a new blue corn tortilla chip to accompany their yellow corn chips—both are strong co-op staff favorites!