BLACKFOOT – Field after field of golden stands of wheat wave in the breeze throughout Bingham County come harvest time, and one might wonder what happens to those golden kernels, where they end up when harvest is over.
The county ranks among the top 10 in wheat production in Idaho, and most of its wheat ends up at Thresher Artisan Wheat’s elevators west of Blackfoot.
Thresher’s elevators are located west of Grain Craft, the flour mill that was known as Pendleton Mills when it first came to Blackfoot, which is handy because that’s where 70 percent of the wheat purchased from East Idaho growers ends up.
Thresher Wheat manager Ken Morgan said the business contracts with growers throughout eastern Idaho, from the Utah border to the Montana border, an area that produces primarily Durum and hard red winter and spring wheat, and the bulk of their contracts are for irrigated wheat. He said while some goes for foreign exports, 90 percent of the wheat they buy is for domestic use in Idaho and throughout the U.S.
In addition to the Blackfoot facility, Thresher has collection stations at Newdale and Idaho Falls.
Morgan said the spring frost hurt the crop in some areas, mainly those producing soft white wheat, but the quality is still good.
When they look for contracts, Morgan said, they search for the type of wheat their customers want, noting that growers and millers have different ideas about what is best when evaluating seed. “Growers look for seed that’s insect and disease resistant,” he said, “while the millers want the variety that will produce the highest quality flour.”
The wheat is cleaned as it arrives at the elevator, he said, and all of Thresher’s facilities are graded by the International Baking Institute, which means they have to meet very high standards.
“We have to meet quality specifications because they check the plant as well as the seed for cleanliness and that means no insects or rodent droppings.”
While they contract the bulk of the wheat they handle, Morgan said, they will take wheat that’s not. When they’re not out looking for wheat crops to contract, Morgan and his co-workers sit in front of a bank of computers watching the daily markets and trading.
Wheat may be the only major crop harvested in Bingham County this fall that growers were able to get under cover before the current spell of bad weather hit, but most are still working between temperature fluctuations to get their potato crops out of the fields.