HUDSON — Folks in Hudson, Kan., used to mark their day by the Hudson Cream Flour mill’s whistle. For more than a century, this mill has ground wheat into flour in Stafford County. Although the plant is located in rural Kansas, its reach extends far beyond the state’s borders, and its energy footprint keeps the company thriving in the 21st century.

In 1904, German immigrant Gustav Krug started Hudson Milling Co. in Hudson. The company was later renamed Stafford County Flour Mills in 1909. During the 1980s, the Krug family wanted to sell the mill. Fearing the town would lose its mill, the community banded together, formed a holding company and purchased the controlling interest of the mill from the family, keeping Stafford County Flour Mills a locally owned company. The plant employs 40 people and buys grain from more than 100 farmers.

Hudson Cream Flour is made using a short patent milling process, where the flour is sifted more times than standard flour. Because of this sifting method, the company’s short patent flour is finer. This method is more expensive and more time-consuming. This type of flour is rare but was more common decades ago. Stafford County Flour Mills is the only mill in Kansas to use this method.

“It makes a higher quality and a better baking-quality flour,” said Rebecca Regan, professor of bakery science at Kansas State University. “It’s really nice flour. I use it when I make cookies.”

Regan said Hudson Cream Flour has less bran. In addition to cookies, Regan said, this type of flour is excellent for baking pies and cakes as well.

In addition to its extra sifting, almost all the flour used on the Hudson Cream label is from Stafford County farms. More than 90% of this origination mill’s wheat comes from within 30 miles of the mill. The other 10%, which is grown in western Kansas, is used to make the company’s organic flour.

“We’re more food to fork than most,” said Reule Foote, president of Stafford County Flour Mills. ”We can identify where our wheat comes from.”

 

Moving east

Like Regan, bakers have grown attached to this label, and many of them are not from Kansas. Back in 1922, Leila English Reid, of Stafford County, moved from her Kansas home to West Virginia. This move changed the history of both the Mountain State and her hometown mill. Once she settled down in her new home, she realized her baking was not up to snuff, so she convinced her local grocer to import Hudson Cream Flour. Now, almost a century later, this Kansas flour is carried throughout most of the Southern Appalachian Mountain region, which includes Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. The company also sells the Hudson Cream label in Mississippi and Oklahoma.

“Hudson Cream Flour is one of the mainstay flours for West Virginia,” said Cara Rose, executive director for Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “People around here love Hudson Cream Flour.”

Residents of Lewisburg, W.Va., enjoy using the flour so much that seven years ago, they instituted the Hudson Cream Flour West Virginia Bake-off. The only way contestants can be a part of the bake-off is to use Kansas’ own Hudson Cream Flour. All types of biscuits, including traditional, savory and sweet, are entered into this annual contest.

“I love Hudson Cream Flour. I refuse to use any other flour,” Rose said. “It’s the smoothest, silkiest, creamiest flour on this planet.”

Foote said by using fine-meshed sieves, the company’s flour is lighter. Along with this special extra fine flour, the company produces standard-fare flour; however, the grains still come from local farms. This standard flour is used for private labels, sold both inside and outside Kansas.

Stafford Mills doubled its capacity during the 80s and became fully pneumatic. All their grains are kept dry and inside in bins, and wheat moves around the mill by air through tubes, rollers and sifters. Now, Foote said, the company is looking to double its size, going from 200,000 pounds of flour per day to 400,000, provided the move is economically sound. That move will have to be put to a vote.

 

Wind energy

In 2013, the mill wanted to reduce its carbon footprint and decided to find a renewable energy source. It chose wind energy and built a wind turbine unit. By 2015, the turbine was functioning at capacity.

Currently, the mill gathers just over 50% of its energy from the turbine, whose propeller-like blades spin in the field across the street from the plant. According to Foote, Stafford Mills is the first mill in the U.S. predominantly powered with its own sustainable energy.

“Energy does not get cheaper,” Foote said. “It increases in cost all the time.”

Foote said the company wants to be good stewards and wanted to curtail costs.

“Kansas has wind, so it’s an ideal renewable energy source,” Foote said. “On the days the wind’s not blowing, we have to get it off the power grid.”

Just under 150 miles away, Cloud County Community College operates a two-turbine wind farm. When operating simultaneously, the turbines produce 350 kilowatts of electricity. This saves the college a little more than 800 barrels of oil annually and produces an equivalent amount of energy to power more than 40 houses. The college also trains students in both wind and solar energy.

“The main advantage for any company is that renewable energy is clean,” said Monte Poersch, CCCC wind energy instructor. “You couldn’t totally disconnect from the grid because sometimes the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.”

Poersch said there is ongoing research to find ways to store energy generated from both the wind and sun. He is excited to see companies using renewable energy.

“We see a lot of industry that is requiring that they purchase power from a renewable source,” Poersch said.