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Bill Flory compared it to sliding his feet into someone else’s shoes. It’s a well-worn analogy but one that perfectly describes his experience during the recent flour milling course presented by the International Grains Program (IGP) Institute and Kansas State University (KSU).

“Getting a first-hand look at how wheat from my farm is milled to meet the needs and demands of customers is incredibly valuable,” Flory, a wheat farmer from Winchester, Idaho, and member of the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Board of Directors, said. “You analyze things from our customers’ points of view. The technical aspect of milling is something we as farmers — even those of us active with our state associations – rarely get to see. The knowledge we gained in the course can be shared with other farmers. And the things we learned will come in handy when we host trade teams from other countries or when we visit international markets to meet our customers.”

The IGP-KSU course conducted on the KSU campus in mid-December was considered a “deep dive” into flour milling. It was constructed specifically for producers who sit on the boards of state wheat organizations, as well as people who work for those organizations. Representatives from Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma and Oregon engaged in the course led by Shawn Thiele, IGP Institute associate director and flour milling and grain processing curriculum manager.

Here is a short video featuring Flory’s take-aways from the three-day course:

 

 

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Some have a basic understanding of the flour milling process. Some have absolutely no idea how wheat from a farm ends up as flour destined for a baker’s oven.

Regardless of their experience, farmers and State Wheat Commission staffers who gathered in Manhattan, Kansas, this week share a common destiny.

“Everybody is going to learn something,” said Shawn Thiele, who led the three-day flour milling course presented by the IGP Institute and Kansas State University (KSU). “From those who have experience with wheat and flour to those who’ve never stepped foot in a flour mill, the course is designed as a thorough look at the action of turning wheat into flour – step-by-step and step-by-step.”

Here is a short video from the first day of the three-day course:

Conducted at IGP and on the KSU campus, the Dec. 13 to 15 training – considered a “deep dive” into flour milling – is a condensed short course specifically built for producers who sit on the boards of state wheat organizations, as well as people who work for those organizations. Representatives from Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma and Oregon were involved in the course. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) staffers Peter Laudeman and Ralph Loos also took part.

“It is kind of amazing when you come to know what you didn’t know,” Martin Kerschen, a wheat farmer, a Kansas Wheat Commissioner and one of the students in the IGP-KSU flour milling class, said. “It’s clear how important details are when taking our wheat and turning it into something bakeries and consumers on the other side of the world really want and appreciate.”

In a flour milling lab at Kansas State University, USW's Mark Fowler and Kansas Farmer Martin Kerschen discuss the variety of flour products resulting from the milling process.

In a flour milling lab at Kansas State University, USW’s Mark Fowler and Kansas Farmer Martin Kerschen discuss the variety of flour products resulting from the milling process.

Hands-On Learning

The course included classroom trainings on wheat quality, global competition facing U.S. farmers, wheat cleaning and conditioning, and an overview of the mechanics of wheat milling. Participants also milled wheat during a hands-on laboratory workshop and later toured the KSU Hal Ross Four Mill.

USW Vice President of Global Technical Services Mark Fowler, an experienced flour milling instructor, also gave a presentation on the role quality plays in the global wheat market.

“USW finds a lot of value in these IGP-KSU courses because it provides producers and others we work with in the wheat industry insight into the relationship between wheat quality and flour performance,” Fowler said. “It gives growers a new perspective on what international customers look for in quality flour.”