Montezuma Mills: Milling Homegrown Wheat for Good Nutrition
By Lynne Hewes
What started out as a warm memory of the things his grandparents used to do has become a present-day reality for Robbie Yost, owner of Montezuma Mills, southwest of Montezuma.
Yost, with help from his mother, Connie, operates his own flour mill, putting to good use the hard white wheat he grows on the farm. Though the operation began only a little over a year ago, Montezuma Mills now produces and packages enough whole hard white wheat flour to distribute to area grocery schools and schools in a 50-mile radius of the farm.
“My grandpa raised wheat all his life, and I remember my grandma baking her own bread. My mom raises a lot of vegetables in her garden each summer,” Robbie Yost says. “I had been farming for about 10 years, and I started thinking about the value of farm-fresh foods, the better taste and nutrition. We started dreaming of ideas.”
Good health is important for the Yost family. Both Robbie and his sister Breana, now attending college in Colby, had been distance runners. They knew they felt better and had more energy when they ate good food and exercised, and they began talking to their mother about grinding their own wheat for baking.
“We started out in the kitchen with a wheat-grinding attachment for our mixer,” Connie Yost says. “From there, Robbie had what I call a creative energy burst. He became so excited about the idea of grinding flour from our own wheat.”
After spending a considerable amount of time researching wheat, storage, milling equipment, and the grinding and packaging processes, Robbie decided to invest in actual milling equipment.
“We use a stone mill,” Robbie Yost says. “There are two big stones that grind our flour. Using the stone-grinding process keeps the wheat cool. The bran never gets hot, so the flour doesn’t taste rancid and it lasts longer.”
Other types of mills may grind finer, but that extra fineness also means that many of the nutrients have been taken out.
“Stone-grinding is the way our early ancestors used to do it,” Robbie Yost says. “That age-old process is more natural. We left that old process behind and went to modern technology, but that wasn’t so healthy. Nowadays, people are starting to pay attention to nutrition, and they’re starting to see that some of the older ways were actually better for us.”
The Yosts grind hard white wheat exclusively at their mill.
“We grow some hard red wheat on the farm,” Robbie Yost says, “but we send that to the elevators. We’re discovering that the United States is interested in hard white wheat for export. Other countries want white because of its milling qualities. Many of the Middle Eastern countries, such as Turkey and Iran, have found out about the better quality of hard white wheat, and they’re asking for that.”
Hard white wheat was developed when Kansas State University started experimenting with grains. The earliest varieties were crossbred with red wheat.
“They found that white wheat produces the same number of bushels per acre as red,” Connie Yost says. “In fact, locally, Gray County test plots are showing that hard white produces the same number or more than red wheat does.”
Hard white wheat is perfect for baking, having a sweeter taste than other flours, and the Yosts have experimented with a variety of recipes.
“It makes a denser, heavier bread than perhaps most people are used to,” Connie Yost says. “It’s delicious, it’s healthy, but because of modern technology in milling and packaging, we’ve gotten used to light, fluffy loaves of bread—which, actually, aren’t very good for us.”
Connie Yost recommends that bakers use bread recipes they normally use, but substitute hard white whole wheat flour for one-third to one-half of the refined white flour their recipe calls for. She also says that the 2009 Kansas Wheat Commission Cookbook features several recipes using whole hard white wheat.
“The bread is delicious, in addition to being healthy,” Connie Yost says. “And it works very well in bread machine recipes too. Most people really like it.”
What does the future hold for Montezuma Mills?
“We’re still in the beginning stages,” Robbie Yost says. “It’s only been about a year since we first started. Right now we mill about one day a week and produce about 350 – 400 pounds of flour each time. We package it ourselves and distribute it to area stores.”
Montezuma Mills packages its flour in five-pound bags for the convenience of its regular customers, but they also package in 25- and 50-pound bags for commercial institutions, such as school cafeterias.
Connie Yost believes in promoting small-town economies.
“I like the idea of putting our product in smaller stores,” she says. “I grew up in a small town, and I like to do what I can to help small towns thrive. We’ve got Montezuma Mills flour in Cimarron, Montezuma, Meade, and Sublette grocery stores, and we even deliver to some individuals who call.”
By serving as the delivery crew as well as growers and producers, the Yosts can monitor their product.
“Since we use wheat from our own farm, we know our product is good,” Robbie Yost says. “We don’t keep it on a grocery shelf for more than three months. Because it’s a 100 percent natural product with no preservatives or additives, it has a shorter shelf life than processed flours. However, it stores well in the refrigerator for about a year and in the freezer for about two years.”
Connie Yost points to a government food pyramid poster on the wall of their office.
“According to those standards, we’re supposed to be eating at least three servings of whole grains each day,” she says. “When we eat refined packaged products, we’re not getting that.”
The slogan at Montezuma Mills is “producing whole grains for a wholesome you.”
“There’s definitely a market for this now,” Robbie Yost says. “As a country, we’re in a hard state of nutrition, and people are starting to look for healthy alternatives to their present diet. When we eat well, we feel good and have more energy. We’re more about what’s good for our customers than about making lots of money.”
Whole Hard White Wheat Flour
Grown and Milled in Southwest Kansas
PO Box 313, Montezuma, KS 67867