Iowa State alum finds success with organic flour company

What started as a hobby seven years ago has turned into a full-time business for Iowa State University alumna Marty Glanville.

Glanville graduated in 1967 with a degree in child development. She now operates Sunrise Flour Mill LLC, a company in North Branch, Minnesota that specializes in organic heritage wheat flour.

Heritage wheat products are especially popular among people with sensitivities to conventional wheat, Glanville said. She sells her products to more than 2,000 customers.

“We started building up a clientele, and word of mouth started spreading,” she said. “It’s just growing and growing.”

Meeting customer needs

Glanville said that many of her customers tell her they can tolerate her products better than conventional wheat flour.

Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair of food science and human nutrition, said there is good evidence that people can have a range of tolerance to wheat gluten, and that the degree of sensitivity can fluctuate over the lifespan.

While gluten often gets the blame for wheat sensitivity, MacDonald said it’s possible to be sensitive to other proteins in wheat.

“The current advice for anyone that suspects they have gluten sensitivity is to seek a medical diagnosis,” she said.

She also cautioned about extrapolating one person’s experience with a dietary change to a broader population.

“Sometimes when people make changes in their diet they also make other changes such as getting more exercise, reducing stress, or focusing on emotional well being, which all can contribute to how we feel,” MacDonald said.

Starting from scratch

Glanville became interested in milling flour after enjoying artisan bread while traveling abroad. She and her husband tried to bake their own, but discovered that conventional flour didn’t have the right baking properties.

After experimenting with other varieties of wheat, she found that two heritage varieties of wheat — Turkey Red and Red Fife — had the baking properties and flavor she wanted.

When other people began asking to buy the flour she made, Glanville saw an opportunity to start a full-time business.

Sunrise Flour Mill’s products include wheat and rye flour, pasta, pizza flour, wheat berries, pancake and waffle mix, oatmeal, and cornmeal in a variety of quantity options.

Glanville sells her products online as well as at the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis. She’s also starting to get products into local cooperative markets and restaurants.

Business success is only part of what makes operating her flour mill so enjoyable, Glanville said.

“I love meeting all the people. I love smelling all the different grains as they’re milling,” she said. “It’s keeping us young; it’s keeping us active. We’re learning new things every day.”