Virginia wheat growers have new marketing option

Virginia wheat growers have new marketing option
CULPEPER—Virginia wheat growers pride themselves on raising a top-quality crop, and now they have a new buyer.

Ardent Mills’ Culpeper Mill has been producing a wide variety of flour products from hard winter wheat since 1970. As this year’s soft winter wheat harvest begins in June, the mill will begin purchasing the variety most commonly raised by Virginia farmers.

“Our relationships with Virginia farmers and the grains they provide give us the opportunity to be successful,” explained Plant Manager Kyle Robson. “We have recently added to our milling capabilities and capacity. The Culpeper team is eager to work with local growers of both hard and soft wheat.”

Soft winter wheat is used to produce biscuit, cake and cookie flours, while hard wheat is more commonly milled for use in baking bread and other higher-gluten products. Virginia growers raise wheat over the winter months to give them another rotation crop and to keep their farms in production almost year-round.

“We’ve been growing wheat for a long time, and our wheat is intensively managed,” noted P.J. Haynie, a Northumberland County farmer.

“With the number of applications that we make, and the time and effort we put into it, we’re fortunate to see a company like Ardent Mills looking for quality. That’s where some of the returns on investment in our wheat crop will be shown. Good test weight, high protein levels, all those make a quality wheat crop, and we’re fortunate to see a company interested in that.”

Because wheat quality can change right up to harvest, most Virginia growers don’t market their crop in advance. Ardent Mills’ purchase of soft winter wheat means growers now have a new local buyer for their best quality wheat. Lower-grade wheat typically is sold at a lower price for animal feed.

“We are always going to grow wheat. Dad loves growing wheat; it works good in our footprint,” Haynie said. “In our area of Virginia the timely summer rains have supported good wheat and double-crop soybean growing conditions. Our sandy soil is good for wheat, and we’ve learned which fields do better with wheat and which don’t.”

Virginia farmers earned $54 million from the sale of 9.2 million bushels of wheat in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s less than 1 percent of the national total, but wheat is still important to Virginia grain growers.

Farmers interested in selling wheat to the Culpeper mill can contact Aaron Amundson, Ardent Mill wheat buyer, at 651-333-4562.

Media: Contact Robson at 309-530-2447 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.

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