A Day in the Flax Fields

By Jonothan Prevost

I often get to spend time with Greg Grahn, North American Nutrition (and goldenflax.com) owner, and experience his passion for flaxseed. His passion can sometimes be difficult to portray on the website and within its contents. Spend a few hours with him, and it will become obvious how important producing quality golden flaxseed is to him and his family.

My most recent experience was taking some time to get some new photos for the website Flaxseed Field Flowers and being in a vehicle with him as he analyzed the fields, providing commentary. During the bloom, we managed to photograph the fields on what was probably the best day for it. We photographed the plants at their most beautiful stage. There is no sight like it if you’ve never experienced it.

As we drove around, Greg pointed out the fields that had been planted, and he noted dates and weather conditions when they were planted and showed how that affected growth in certain areas. He already has it mapped out as to how he will harvest. Harvest is a straightforward process, but he is really not all that simple to an onlooker. I often refer to him as the “flax whisperer.” As much as he knows about the growth and plans out the season in preparation for harvest, he’ll be the first to tell you that Mother Nature gets the last say in any farming process.

We moved from field to field, and I wished I had a tape recorder as he made his comments. He pointed out problem areas where he would have to bypass due to various conditions such as immature plants or low-density areas, which this year is surprisingly few and far between when we consider the rain we have experienced. Overall, the crops look very good for a healthy harvest.

We drove around looking at fields that were on a rotation, and he talked about how the fields would be sowed into flax the following year or the year after that. Rotation is important to flax growth, and Greg fully understands the value of holding back a field an extra year to be sure the flax that is grown the following year will be premium quality golden flaxseed.

Greg also uses a really only available process in very few areas of the USA that involves planting the flaxseed within bluegrass sod. Bluegrass sod is farmed extensively for lawn seed in Northern Minnesota and provides some essential additions to the flaxseed growth process. Because of his knowledge of the Bluegrass industry, he has also incorporated many cleaning processes for bluegrass into his flaxseed cleaning process. You’ll notice the difference if you ever have bought or buy flaxseed from anyone else. Greg’s screenings (rejected flax from the cleaning process) still qualify as grade #1 when sold to the elevator.

One of the things I think people understand the least about Greg and his family is how much time they put into the flaxseed process. When we were finished with our photo session and field tour, we returned to North American Nutrition’s production facility. His wife Arlene was busy packaging up orders for the day with daughter C.J. helping at her side. As we were having lunch, we discussed his trip earlier in the year to the 2010 Flax Institute at the University of North Dakota. He said he attends the Flax Institute to ensure that he stays on top of the studies that are made available about flaxseed growth and preventative uses in treating cancer, which was one of the focuses of this year’s conference.