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Business Spotlight: Natural Way Mills

Helen and Ray Juhl, founders of Natural Way Mills

Grand Forks Herald Writer Ann Bailey recently penned an article about cooking with products from the region during this coronavirus threat. She noted that baking bread, for example, is a way for families to bond and that cooking from scratch may be a likely consequence of being housebound.

As shelves of products, such as flours, yeast and dried legumes, become empty in area stores and even difficult to order online, one area business – Natural Way Mills – continued to be stocked with such products though, when visited in late March, they had temporarily ceased taking online orders because of the high number they had recently received. In addition, they were asking that customers who wanted to buy large quantities call first.

The office at Natural Way Mills also serves as a small store, where shelves were filled with quite a variety of organic products, including maple syrup, cornmeal, various flours and cereals, popcorn, carob powder and Pohonka Waffle & Pancake Mix (which is named after Helen Juhl’s great-grandmother).

Ray Juhl who with his wife, Helen, founded the business offered a tour of the building, which consisted of a number of rooms and additions, revealing a business that has been changing and growing over many years. The business is located at the farm that the couple purchased in 1954, east of Middle River, Minn.

Next to the office is the lunchroom, which Juhl said was once a bakery that they operated for a couple of years in the 70’s and where his wife baked 100 loaves of bread daily.

They also used the room for a time to make vegetarian jerky. “I had mixers and slicers and everything to make jerky,” stated Juhl, adding that he eventually sold that equipment.

“This room was my first warehouse,” said Juhl as we stepped into the next area. Flour was being put in five -pound bags in one space, while larger, 25-pound bags were filled in another. The larger bags revealed such products as whole oat groats and einkorn berries.

Juhl said he gets his grain from many places, including Canada, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. Rye, beans and corn come from Southern Minnesota. Asked if he anticipated running out of grain because of the demand for flour, he replied, “There’s lots of grain out there.”

Tours of other parts of the business revealed quite a variety of machines and some of Juhl’s mechanical ability. “I rebuild them and pearl barley with them,” stated Juhl as he showed a rice-polishing machine.

“I found this in a junk yard in Thief River Falls. It was just what I needed,” he said, showing another machine.

One man, one of their “six to eight” employees bagged their “flagship product”, Gold N White flour. Juhl showed a handful, stating, “There’s no bleach on that.” The flour has the bran removed, but retains the germ.

“This building used to be the high school gymnasium in East Grand Forks,” he said, as we came to a large area with shelves piled high with product.

Read the full article in the April 2 edition of the North Star News.

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