Organic, gluten-free business grows
BY Sarah email@example.com A small empire of organic and gluten-free food mixes is quietly mushrooming in Menahga. Owned by the Savela family, My Grandpa's Farm is the brainchild of Jayson and Amy Savela with sons Paul and John...
BY Sarah smith
A small empire of organic and gluten-free food mixes is quietly mushrooming in Menahga.
Owned by the Savela family, My Grandpa’s Farm is the brainchild of Jayson and Amy Savela with sons Paul and John. It grew from Amy’s gluten intolerance.
The family moved here from Phoenix in 2008 to take over Amy’s grandfather’s farm, which “had been in the family for generations,” she said.
The parents and 11 children were excited about “growing our own organic, non-GMO fruits and vegetables and making our own food so we would know exactly what went into it.”
They were excited about changing lives one at a time.
Then in 2011, Amy got sick and discovered she was gluten intolerant.
She started experimenting with gluten free foods, using the family as guinea pigs in December 2012.
The family thought she was on to something and began testing until the summer of 2014.
There were cake mixes, breads, pancakes, pizza crusts, brownies, gingerbread bars and more.
It was an American success story from the get-go.
The family is constructing a new building to occupy and will move sometime next month, in the Southgate addition of Menahga.
They hope to have all 14 products on the markets by fall, when it’s finally cool enough to turn on your oven. They are wholesaling their products, which fittingly go by the name of My Grandpa’s Farm.
To date they supply dozens of grocery stores and health food stores, mostly in central Minnesota.
Local sellers include A Clean Plate in Menahga, Down Home Foods in Wadena and Central Market in Detroit Lakes.
The products contain brown rice flour, which they purchase on the west coast. Most of the other ingredients are local, Jayson said.
Gluten intolerance is becoming more prevalent and can cause a variety of digestive system and nervous system problems, the family says.
It causes headaches, bloating and other uncomfortable symptoms.
While they were experimenting, they decided as long as they went gluten-free, why not be organic, too?
They had to counteract public perception of health foods as objectionable-tasting. So lots of experimentation went into the taste of the products, Jayson said.
And they read a lot about gluten intolerance, and its more serious cousin, celiac disease, a fatal condition if not treated properly.
It causes the digestive system to become incapable of absorbing nutrients as the body goes into an auto-immune state in which it attacks itself, Jayson and Paul said.
It’s unclear what causes it, but genetic modifications of foods and crop mutations may be among the culprits. Genetically modified organisms have increased gluten contents, Jayson said.
But celiac disease also has a hereditary component to it, the Savelas say.
Jayson predicts the company will become the Betty Crocker of gluten-free and organic products.
And although it’s tempting to offer a baked goods division, “I’d still rather wholesale it,” Jayson said.
“I’m blessed that we’ve been able to work together,” he said. “We’ve learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses very quickly. And we still get along.”
They also love living in the Menahga area. When they took a head count in Phoenix, it was unanimous to move back to Minnesota.
Sales have been mostly by word of mouth, but Paul is busy doing the website design while Jayson and John are the sales reps. And sales are starting to skyrocket.
“Mom is the production manager,” Paul says.
To date they have 14 mixes that are organic, gluten-free, free of preservatives and without fillers and additives.
And they are tasty.
Their success is measured by the brown paper sack containers they used to use, to the new sleek bags that are still hand-filled but maybe not for long.
“You can’t keep growing if you’re not going to automate,” Jayson said.