But the farm has always been close to their hearts and minds. After a stay in Minneapolis-St. Paul for college, all three gradually fell back.
“I think when you grow up in North Dakota you still have a connection to the farm,” said Grace Lunski, 25 and the youngest of the three sisters.
Lunski and her sisters Annie Gorder, 31, and Mollie Ficocello, 29, now play a variety of vital roles on the farm, not least of which is a new effort to market crops from ‘field to pantry’.
The sisters recently launched Three Farm Daughters, which takes the farm-grown GoodWheat variety and turns it into products like flour and pasta.
The company’s slogan, “No fillers, no dyes, no lies,” explains how they want their products to be seen.
“These are the attributes and the nutrition that we want to eat and feed our families,” Ficocello said.
But even more than that, the sisters see their business and history as a way to showcase the image of modern agriculture and provide consumers with the transparency they crave about their food.
“It was grown in our field. We put the seed in the field, ”Gorder said. “That’s what we did to bring it and raise it, then we took it to the elevator, the North Dakota Mill, and we ground it, and now we bring it to your custody. -to eat.”
Paul Sproule grew up working on his uncle’s farm in northeastern North Dakota, and he built Sproule Farms from the ground up.
“He started a quarter at a time,” Gorder said.
At that time, Sproule was not only raising crops, but also his daughters. All three left Grand Forks to attend Bethel University in St. Paul. Gorder focused on finance and real estate, and she graduated with a master’s degree in business administration. Today, she and her husband run The Farm Agency, a farm auction agency. After Bethel, Ficocello completed his law studies at the University of North Dakota. And Lunski focused on human resources, communication and entrepreneurship; she started a cosmetics business at the age of 19 and also graduated with an MBA. All three brought their skills back to the farm when they got married and started their families.
Today, the Sproule operation is a large farm in the Red River Valley that grows sugar beets, wheat, durum wheat, hemp for grains, soybeans, corn, edible beans and potatoes. The farm has received Global Good Agricultural Practices certification, a designation that means every aspect of their farm, from their agronomic practices to how they treat employees, have been audited and approved. A recent addition to the line is GoodWheat.
Ficocello explains that his father heard about GoodWheat and the company that created it, Arcadia Biosciences. She flew with him to Davis, Calif., To learn more about the company’s approach to wheat and its GoodWheat varieties that had fewer calories, more fiber and less gluten.
“We are the only farm in North Dakota to grow this wheat,” Ficocello said.
After Sproule Farms started growing GoodWheat, Sproule suggested his daughters take the crop and process it for more. Together with their parents and other counselors, the sisters developed a business plan and went to California with their father to present it to Arcadia Biosciences.
While confident in their idea of marketing their farm produce to consumers like themselves – ordinary people who wanted to feed their families with naturally healthy foods they could trace – they were nervous about taking the plunge. Gorder was pregnant at the time and Ficocello had recently had a baby.
Their father, Gorder said, spoke to them and calmed them down. He stressed that rejecting their idea would not be the end of the world, in keeping with how he has always urged them to pursue their dreams and remember that “failure is not fatal”.
The presentation with Arcadia Biosciences was a success, and the sisters believe that was in part because they are building their business to be transparent and open, not only on their farm, but also on who they are.
“They were like, yeah, that’s awesome,” Gorder said. “And they said, this brand is like you three girls.”
The company takes GoodWheat from Sproule Farms and other Idaho farms and turns it into flour and pasta with less calories and gluten and more protein. With support from Arcadia Biosciences, Three Farm Daughters also received broad support from institutions in North Dakota. They received a grant of $ 68,800 from the North Dakota Farm Product Utilization Commission and a loan of $ 500,000 from the North Dakota Innovation Technology Loan Fund.
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So far, the products are sold on a small scale, on the Three Farm Daughters website, in Hugo’s stores and soon in Hornbacher’s stores. As demand increases, they want to expand into the Midwest. And with that will come the ability to market not only their own wheat, but that of their neighbors as well.
“If 100 million people buy flour,” Gorder said to his sister’s laughter at the distant lens, “we’re going to need a lot more farmers to grow this wheat. So we hope to be able to really launch our seed platform and enter into contracts with producers. And we would love to have it in the Red River Valley and sort of go from there.
They work with local chefs to develop recipes and find ways to use the produce. The low gluten content means the flour doesn’t work for traditional bread recipes, but it can be used in things like split buns, pizzas, naan, cookies, cakes and brownies, a Lunski declared. They also want the people who use their products to tell them about their use and recipes.
The small list of ingredients on their products is also important to them. The pasta is just semolina flour and water, Gorder said.
“We’re trying to show that this natural wheat is actually nutrient dense and actually good for you,” she said.
And they also try to highlight everything they know and love about farming, things like technology and the family connection, as well as show people that modern farming doesn’t necessarily look like it. image that consumers have of farmers. Instead, it might sound like three well-educated girls finding ways to help diversify their farm and add value to what is grown there.
“Ag is near and dear to our hearts. I know it is near and dear to many others, ”said Ficocello.