Monday, January 14, 2008


This hardly qualifies as a true confession since I've been complaining about it incessantly, but I have no idea where my wheat is coming from.

I would like to buy wheat from my foodshed (100 miles from Newtown, CT) or at least regionally (New England/Mid-Atlantic). I would like to get it whole, as in buy a mill and grind it on my countertop. I would like it to be durum wheat and hard red winter wheat. I was told (at a local Farmer's Market) that CT is not a good region for growing wheat--it's too humid. I guess they weren't so picky about their wheat in 1875.

I generally use King Arthur's, Hodgson Mill, and even (gasp) Pillsbury and Gold Medal, but I have no idea where these guys are getting it. King Arthur's Web site does not say where they get their wheat but it does say that they enrich it. Their semolina ingredients are durum wheat, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid. I was looking to get the plain kind. It seems Hodgson Mill sells the plain kind, but they're in the Ozarks, so they're not even a regional producer. Yet they may very well be the closest source to my home.

So where are these companies getting their raw wheat? Here's a PDF of where wheat is grown in the US (HINT: Not New England or the Mid-Atlantic). Mostly North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Kansas, Colorado, and even Washington (not DC). Looks like you can get durum and hard red winter wheat in California too. Is there anything they don't grow in that state?

It's equally possible that we (meaning American corporations) are selling our domestic wheat to other countries and buying ours from still other countries. We could just be trading between the same countries. Food migration is turning out to be weird. According to the North American Grain Export Association, "as much as one third of all grain produced in the U.S. moves into export" More from their site:
Exporting grain is both a competitive and a capital-intensive industry. Since the margin of profit to be earned from moving a ton of grain can be quite small, exporters depend upon moving large volumes very quickly. They seek to achieve an economy of scale that lowers their average fixed costs per unit of volume handled, provides operating flexibility, increases bargaining power in chartering for shipping, and improves the services they can provide worldwide.

It seems that to purchase US Wheat, I need to be a big company (think commodity trader) or another country looking to do business with a big American company. See US Wheat Associates.
Buying wheat is a serious enterprise, especially since there is a high financial risk due to the large volumes of the commodity traded. Thus, in order for an inquiry to be considered by a reputable exporter, a buyer should be prepared to provide ... information.
An importer who is ready to buy will typically seek offers from exporters through either direct negotiations with specific suppliers or through an invitation for bids. Buyers who negotiate directly usually watch the U.S. cash market for advantageous times to make their purchase and then negotiate private transactions. Those issuing an invitation operate through a public or private tender system.

I really didn't want that much...maybe a few pounds a month...


Anonymous said...

Wheat is grown in New Jersey. There is a mill at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Columbia County, New York. You might find out where they get their wheat...

girlosun_9 said...

This is a bit far for you but I have bought some flour from
which is in northern Maine. I am from Maine so it is much closer to me--although it is still better then 150 miles away.

Sophie said...

Thanks Anonymous. I got in touch with the folks at Hawthorne Valley Farm. They did answer my query. Howver, their focus is on biodynamic and their source is in North Dakota. Still, they make great yogurt and I will continue to enjoy that.

And thank you too girlosun_9. I checked out Wood Prairie Farm's Web site. I can get hard red winter wheat from them (and will) but not semolina.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just wondering if you found any other sources? I know there is a farm called Wild Hive. That is in New York, about 68 miles from here.