From field to flour; how Kansas grain feeds the world

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WICHITA, Kansas — Now that the Kansas wheat harvest is over, much of that grain is going to Horizon Mill in Wichita for flour production.

“Sometimes if it’s really busy we can do anywhere from 90 trucks a day,” says truck dump operator, Charlene Johnson.

“I sample each truck, then it comes into our pan,” explains Charlene.

She’s the first stop for the grain, and she makes sure there’s no critters, moisture or other issues.

“You can really smell the aroma. Without just going inside that truck,” says Charlene.

If it checks out, the wheat is unloaded.

It then soaks in water for 16 hours, helping it crack, rather than shatter in the rollers.

“When we start the mill up from when it goes into the rolls we’ll start getting flour as soon as a couple minutes. It’ll ramp up to full production in 5-10 minutes,” explains head miller, Aaron Trost.

Flour comes out of a grain of wheat when it’s cracked, but it’s a series of rolling and sifting that separates the ‘bran’ from the flour.

Aaron explains, “By the time it leaves the back of the mill you either have pure flower or you have bran. You want to get as much flour off the bran as possible.”

The bran is mostly used as animal feed.

The flour goes through one more filtering process in a nine-story tower where, filters, sifters and magnets remove anything that’s not flour.

The pure flour then fills two 50,000 pound holding tanks before getting loaded onto trucks.

“It takes about 20 minutes from when I start a load to go through everything and get loaded in the truck,” says bulk loader Jason Clark.

The trucks are regulated for cleanliness.

And if a 50,000 pound truckload isn’t enough, there’s options.

“We can load anywhere from 180,000 to 210,000 pounds of flour on a rail car,” says Jason.

Horizon Mill in Wichita processes only Hard Red Winter Wheat which is sent to companies like General Mills in Joplin, Missouri, Tyson Foods in Arkansas and of course – Pizza Hut.

“We’re looking at things that go into tortillas, pizza and breads or possibly a coating for chicken or breading,” says quality control manager Jared Davis.

Even people who’ve worked at Horizon Mill for more than a decade still appreciate the process that feeds people across the world.

“To see the wheat and everything it’s just neat and how they make it, it’s nice yeah,” says Charlene.

The Horizon Mill plant in Newton packages smaller quantities of flour, like the sacks of Wal-Mart brand flour you see at the store.

More than two-million pounds of flour are produced every single day at Horizon Mill.

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