A sunny future for Smude oil
29 Jan 2019
Agriculture, Business Expansion, Manufacturing, Business, Economic Development
PIERZ, Minn. — The path to commercial success is rarely linear.
Instead, it’s full of twists, turns and unexpected challenges — to which Tom and Jenni Smude can attest.
The Smudes, who own Smude Enterprises, makers of Smude’s Sunflower Oil, have turned necessity into a thriving business that is being recognized as Agriculture Utilization Research Institute’s Ag Innovator of the Year.
The Smudes operate a crop and cattle farm near Pierz. A drought in the late 2000s forced them to look for an alternative protein source for their cattle feed. Trucking in corn and soybean meal was expensive. The Smudes also wanted a crop that could perform well in the region’s sandy soils.
“We looked at the trucking costs for bringing protein in and thought ‘why not make it ourselves,’” Tom Smude said.
The Smudes began processing sunflowers to get the meal for their cattle and planned to sell the oil into the biofuels industry. Soon after they began processing, the price for oil dropped.
“The long-range plan was to bottle and sell the oil,” Smude said. “Instead of doing it in three to five years, we were at it in a matter of months.”
The Smudes grow and process high-oleic sunflowers. The seeds are higher in unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E than typical sunflower varieties. Those heart-healthy traits are desirable for baking and cooking and as food ingredients.
The Smudes shifted gears and began bottling and selling food-grade oil through retail outlets.