In many residential garages one might find tools, bicycles, boxes, car accessories and other various items but very seldom food.
One North Dakota family is trying to change that.
Originally a concept of farmer Steve Knorr's parents, Robert and Cheri Knorr, he and his wife Margo are breathing new life into the business of providing bulk food-safe buckets of wheat for longterm storage with the help of a $31,000 grant from the Agricultural Products Utilization Commission, a program of the state Department of Commerce that provides funding for the research, development and expanded use of North Dakota agricultural products.
Whitney Pandil-Eaton/MDN --
Margo Knorr kneels over a bucket of wheat that her in-laws, Robert and Cheri Knorr, filled more than a decade ago. “Even after all this time, the grains are completely dry and perfect to use,” she said.
"Steve's parents started the business in the mid-1980s to supplement their income from the farm and ran it successfully for a decade before they let it dwindle," said Margo Knorr. "Even after all this time we still got calls about it so it seems like a no-brainer to try to restart the business. The money we got from APUC has allowed us to hire someone to get all of the marketing done and has allowed us to do things you would probably cut out if you were on your own. It's neat that North Dakota provides a way for young farm families to create a solid business foundation."
At the height of the elder Knorr's business during the 1980s and 1990s, they were shipping one and one-half truckloads approximately 1,800 buckets of wheat each month, a majority of which went to Mormon communities across the United States. Knorr explained that one aspect of the Mormon religion required communities to keep a stockpile of food staples on hand at all times.
"Although Costco also sells buckets of wheat, they (my in-laws) were able to supply them with a unique need for these people," she said. "But there are wider applications for these buckets of wheat from baking your own bread to keeping a food staple in case of disasters."
Up and running
With a Web site under construction and brochures expected off the presses any day, Knorr said they plan to have the business up and running by Wednesday and will begin taking orders and shipping out buckets. The five pound food-grade air-tight bucket holds 33.3 pounds of wheat and will sell for $22 per bucket before shipping.
"By raising the wheat ourselves we are able to provide a better price than you would be able to get in the open market and having control of the wheat from the ground to the bucket we can ensure quality," Knorr said, adding that they are working with SunPrairie Grain to triple-clean the grain and package the wheat.
Initially, Knorr said they plan to focus on selling their products over the Internet, in health food stores and to niche groups such as the Mormons who need the services. But they have broader reaching, philanthropic goals in their future.
"Our hope for the future is to be a provider of food staples to charities that supply Third World countries," she said. "Right now, the food is packaged in bags and a lot of it becomes spoiled or infested by the time it reaches its destination."
In doing research, Knorr said that approximately 10 percent or 20 million tons of food aid sent to China spoils during transportation and storage, a loss of about $3 billion.
"You think of all of these famous people like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Bill Gates that donate all this money to help these people, Shouldn't it actually make a difference?" Knorr said. "Besides providing a new standard for (food) safety, the bucket itself can add to the quality of life for these people by being able to transport water or store items."
As for now, the Knorrs focus on the present.
"It's going to take a lot of persistence but we feel very lucky to have a successful template to start with and have my aunt Linda Narum here to help us. She has been instrumental throughout this whole process," Knorr said. "We hope to make people understand why it makes sense to have a bucket of wheat in your garage."