Grain Place Foods based out of Marquette, Neb. was created in the 1980s to provide a place for other organic farmers to go and get their grain cleaned and marketed.
Since it was incorporated in 1987, it has been cleaning, packaging and selling organic grains and beans.
“Don Vetter was a third-generation farmer who came back to the farm after the war and was an early adopter of ‘chemical farming,’” explained Christian Evans – President/Chief Operating Officer. “He soon realized though that the soil and ecology was changing for the negative, so he decided to ditch the chemicals and farmed organically starting in 1953.”
In 1976, Dave Vetter, Don’s son, came back to farm with his father and brought with him a vision to head in the organic direction. Evans said the organic transition is not difficult to achieve, “If you can get past the mental barriers that present themselves – like being different from your neighbor or tolerating some weeds since synthetic chemicals are not allowed. Everyone’s situation is different, and no one size fits all, but following the organic standard itself is not complicated.”
“The organic industry has a wide-spectrum of allowable practices to ensure that new organic farmers can meet the standards as well as someone like our farm who has been organically regenerating the soil for multiple decades,” he went on. “The goal is to help people understand that good food comes from good soil. Our motto, ‘How your food is produced does matter,’ states the goal that methods from the farmer to the cleaner to the customer’s table, all make a difference.”
“There are many aspects to why regenerative/organic is an important part of our nation’s future. Organic food production should be a vital part of the discussion as we tackle increasing health concerns, the climate in general and how agriculture moves forward into an increasingly uncertain future,” he said.
Grain Place Foods started selling soybeans in the German and Japanese markets. Today, Evans said they sell primarily to North American companies due to challenges in the export business, “We handle organic whole grains as well as roll grains into flakes such as – barley, oats, wheat and spelt. Organic popcorn is another popular item that we have been known for throughout the years. Besides selling these products in small packages or in 25 and 50-pound bags, we offer custom cleaning, color sorting and co-packing services with refrigerated warehousing to clients from all over the United States.”
Evans said they currently source their grains from farmers located from Canada to Texas and from California to Ohio, “As the demand for organic products grows, we’re seeing almost 50 percent of the required resources being brought in from overseas. This is giving domestic farmers who might be interested in growing organically an incredible chance to enter the market with much greater opportunity for making their own operations sustainable for the long run. That growth potential should allow us to help some of those farmers get the grain cleaned, packaged and to market. The challenges we see are maintaining the highest organic standards within the industry. As smaller organic outfits are bought up by larger companies, the quality can sometimes wane, hurting all of those in the organic sector.”
“The farm has two farmers who manage the 280 acres, 60 head of cattle and 50 hogs. David Vetter ultimately guides the farm practices and rotations. The processing plant currently employs about 20 people and we have production staff who run the cleaners and package the grain into bulk bags. Another team handles the smaller packages. There are several employees in our Compliance and Quality Assurance departments as well as about five office staff to serve our clients. Our employees are the backbone of what we do and make all the difference in the quality and dependability of the products we produce,” Evans said.
To ensure The Grain Place farm remains a regenerative, organic operation, Evans said four years ago the Grain Place Foundation was created as a 501(c)(3) non-profit to offer internships, educational opportunities and to host their annual field day that is open to the public and occurs in July every year. He said the farm will ultimately be owned by the foundation and remain organic in perpetuity once Vetter can no longer run it.