Upper Peninsula family hobby farm now means business with the support of public and private support.
SKANDIA, Michigan (March 6, 2019) As a kid, Paul Wilson, Jr. loved to drive the tractor across his grandparents’ land where the family farm stood. Today his son Neo is following in his dad’s footsteps. But Liberty Farms and Flour Mill in Skandia is no longer a hobby farm. When Paul recognized that there was a lack of local flour manufacturers, he and his wife Gina established the farm as an LLC and began a milling operation to fill the void. The company currently sells its Freedom Mills flour in 39 stores across the Upper Peninsula. A recently awarded $40,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development will allow the Wilsons to expand the operation even further. The project will add value to UP-grown products, while creating jobs and investment in the UP.
Liberty Farms and Flour Mill is working to develop a 1,600-square-foot building to house a grain mill, sifter, and bagging line to utilize UP-grown food-grade grains. The project will lead to the creation of as many as three new jobs and will require an overall investment of $448,000. Once fully operational, the facility is expected to mill approximately 685,000 pounds of food-grade grain per year. Grain will be sourced from UP farmers and will provide a local milling operation, saving significant transportation costs as grain is typically sent to Minnesota for processing into flour. The final milled flour will be sold wholesale into local and regional markets.
Peter Anastor, Director of MDARD’s Agriculture Development Division said, “We’re excited to support the growth of [this] food and agriculture company as they invest and grow here in Michigan. Liberty Farms and Flour Mill will be the first project in the Upper Peninsula to receive a Food and Agriculture Fund grant, and we’re proud to be able to support value-added processing of Michigan-grown products that will provide a significant impact to our local and regional food economy.”
The company has also received support for the project from Alex Kofsky at Accelerate UP, a nonprofit business development organization funded by Eagle Mine that provides free, confidential business coaching within Marquette County to spur business development growth and diversification outside of the mine. Kofsky notes, “It’s a true honor to work with Paul and Gina. They are hardworking, innovative, and passionate about what they do. It makes our job easy.”
Liberty Farms and Flour Mill is situated on eighty partially wooded acres. The Wilsons have reclaimed ten acres and hope to clear some more. They’re exploring the purchase of additional local land to grow some of their own product as well. Once they have acquired a sifter, the Wilsons will begin producing an all-purpose pastry flour. Local bakeries are eagerly standing by.