Whole food supplements start on Palmyra farm
The aroma of juicy forage fills the air as a self-unloading forage wagon spills fresh cut buckwheat onto a conveyor belt at Standard Process organic farm near Palmyra.
The wet greens fall off the belt into a crusher and the remaining cake is conveyed onto the back of a truck to be distributed on a compost pile of alfalfa, bean and beet pulp.
After turning, the greens eventually look like dark top soil. The processed compost is then spread in a thin layer over the farm fields to feed the soil and the life in the soil according to the farm's organic system.
Last year the farm applied 480,000 pounds of compost to the fields.
In a good year, an acre of buckwheat will produce 1,000-1,200 gallons of nutritious juice that is taken in a bulk truck to the processing plant to be further condensed. This year, because of the drought, the moisture in the plants was considerably less until the farm received some rain just the day before the tour.
The farm suffered from drought this year just as other farms in the state. It has a pivot irrigation system for some of the fields. Steve Mason, one of the farm managers, said some plants are started in the farm's greenhouse and it is important to get water onto them immediately after they are set in the field.
OF THE COMPANY
The tour of the farm Tuesday (July 31) was a part of the company's celebration of 25 years in the Palmyra area.
Hundreds of Palmyra area residents had an opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Standard Process, a company that raises a variety of healthy crops on 450 acres just outside town and then processes to create whole food supplements.
The tour began at the company's headquarters in Palmyra's industrial park. Included in the building is a museum featuring the many inventions of the company's founder, Dr. Royal Lee, who developed a method of preserving and concentrating the valuable vitamins and minerals found in a variety of crops.
The company's first offices were located near Marquette University and, as the company grew, it had several locations around the Milwaukee area.
In 1987 Standard Process consolidated the entire business to Palmyra, operating a 450-acre organic farm just over a mile outside of town. The manufacturing facility and offices are in the industrial park.
The company is still operated by the extended members of the Lee family.
Dr. Lee served as president of the company until 1990 when his nephew, Frank DuBois, Sr., took on the title. Upon the death of his father in 1995, Frank's son Charles DeBois was named president and continues to serve.
Standard Process has continued to grow and today has 304 employees working in various processes to create whole food supplements that provide specific, nutritional support to humans and animals.
The company offers more than 300 products through three product lines. Over 12 million bottles of finished goods are distributed each year throughout the United States.
A large part of the content of the capsules and tablets that are made at the company come from plants grown on the company's organic farm. The farm produces more than 6.5 million pounds of vegetables to meet the company's needs each year.
Standard Process is involved in every step of the production, employing state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and quality control standards. The company also has its own research and development department.
"We can trace a vitamin supplement from the bottle to the field it was grown," the manufacturing plant tour guide explained. "We know where it was planted, the type of tractor that was used and the weather the day it was planted. That's how detailed our records are."
UNIQUE CROPS ON FARM
Out on the farm, Mason talked about the unique plants that are grown for the specific needs of the whole supplement business.
"Having our own R&D (research and development) on the farm is an advantage," he said. "We can try different varieties and then R&D tells us which is best for their needs. Sometimes we need to balance that with which variety works best in our organic system."
One area of the farm is established as a pollination area, with plants that aid in attracting insects that assist in the pollinating process.
The farm utilizes cover crops for building organic matter in the soil and controlling weeds.
Mason said the farm has many separate harvest goals. Crops include alfalfa, beets, Spanish black radishes, Brussels sprouts, buckwheat, carrots, kidney beans, pea vine, oats and many more.
"Each year we rotate crops and adjust the acreage for each new crop based on the estimated needs of the main production facility," he said.
The farm follows strict organic standards and he says the practices, such as cover crops and compost, have helped to build the soil over the years.
They harvest seeds from many of the crops.
"It helps to preserve the integrity of the seed and also, many of these seeds are hard to find in large quantities," he explained.
Mason grew up on a conventional dairy farm. He says after working with the organic farm for eight years and seeing the benefits of raising crops on healthy soil without chemicals, he is sold on the idea of organic.
During a dry year like this he points out that the soil has the ability to hold water much better and the crops did not suffer as much as those grown on conventional ground.
While the farm does not raise corn for their products, they did establish a field in one part of the farm for a corn maze that is used for a special harvest day for employees and their families each fall. They also raise pumpkins to give to employees' children at the event.
The Palmyra-Eagle FFA gets involved in those activities as a fund raiser for the group.