Heartland Mill

Heartland Mill’s attention to detail and dedication to making quality products have guided its operations since its founding 25 years ago. The Mariental, Kan.-based company produces a variety of flours including all-purpose, whole wheat, and rye; as well as grains, corn meals and rolled oats. Recent years have seen a growth in the company’s production of whole grain flours, which are healthier than refined flours.

Products under development include commercial grade flour and a flour milled from garbonzo beans. “We’re noticing a switch in the market from refined flours to whole grain-type flours,” Owner Mark Nightengale says. “We want to adapt to customers’ needs with innovative products.”

Most of the company’s customers are manufacturers, distributors, co-packers or other institutional users located through­out the continental United States. “We consider ourselves a leader in making quality flour and grain products,” Nightengale adds. “We have premium products for the discerning customer; we work with customers to their specifications and pay close attention to details.”

Company Expansion

The company was started by Nightengale and other farmers in 1985 and initially specialized in stone milling wheat products before the founders were introduc­ed to organic production methods. Heart­land Mill has grown and bought organic wheat for use in its products since 1986.

“We have long been developing relationships with farmers who grow grain to the exacting standards of our customers and our third-party certifying body; these men and women are the foundation of our quality,” the company says. “Their knowledge, experience, and hard work are evident in every bag of Heartland flour and in the outstanding baked goods of our customers.”

Heartland Mill initially operated one stone mill at its beginning; today, the company runs seven mills and continues to expand its operations. The company recently installed a set of eight pneumatic tanks that will hold 100,000 pounds of flour each, Nightengale says.

Another recent innovation is the com­pany’s use of a gasification process to convert the oat husk – a byproduct of the milling process – into energy through a controlled burning process that will convert the husk into steam then used to heat and operate the company’s main facility, he adds.

While Heartland Mill has felt the effects of the national economic downturn in recent years, the company has used downtime to replace equipment and increase its efficiency. “We’ve scaled back just a little bit,” Nightengale says. “We didn’t want to push sales too hard, because it’s easy to rack up a huge accounts receivable amount and not collect on it.”

Heartland has had its workforce install the new equipment instead of having to lay off workers, he adds.

Quality Control

Heartland Mill uses an extensive quality control program on its products. This includes an in-house laboratory, where product samples are tested and evaluated on a regular basis to ensure their quality and safety.

“We make sure the quality of our product meets or exceeds product spec­ifications and our customers’ requests,” Nightengale says.

The company also regularly tests its flours with an Alveograph Consisto­graph to determine their baking quality. Quality information is posted online by lot number and made available to bakers. “Any baker, regardless of the time of day or night, can go on their computers and get all the information relative to the performance of that flour such as how much water to add to it to make dough or how to mix it,” he adds.

Safety is assured through an extensive employee-training program, as well as a Hazard Analysis and Critical Con­trol Points (HACCP) program. The HACCP system addressed food safety through the analysis and control of hazards during every step of the product cycle, the Food and Drug Admini­st­ration says.

Heartland Mill is American Institute of Baking certified, kosher certified by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Con­­gre­gations of America, and organic cer­tified by Quality Assurance Inter­national. The company is also seeking Level 3 certification from the Global Food Safety Initiative.