The first time I visited Bob’s Red Mill, it was on a field trip with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. From behind big glass windows in the visitors portion of the mill, Christie, our tour guide, talked with the girls about whole grains and healthy eating, and showed them how the grain was processed. She also told us the story of Bob’s Red Mill, and what it was like to work for her boss, Bob Moore. After hearing about the driving philosophy of Bob’s Red Mill and what a privilege it is to work there, I left fighting the urge to print out my resume and hand it in immediately. What an amazing, impressive company! During our tour, Mr. Moore – “Bob” – took the time to come down from his office and spend some time talking with my little group of seven-year olds, leaving them all with smiles a mile wide.
So when I got the invitation to join a group of local bloggers for an inside look at Bob’s Red Mill – beyond the glass – I jumped at the chance.
This time, as before, our tour began with Christie telling us about how wonderful it is to work at Bob’s Red Mill. But then she went on to explain that Bob had intended to give us the tour himself, but his sweetheart had a health concern and, as he later told us, “you don’t keep those OHSU doctors waiting.” Still, he found a few minutes to share his office, and his inspiration, with us.
Bob credits a small book call John Goffe’s Mill as inspiration for his success. “John Goffe’s Mill is the story of George Woodbury,” Bob explained to us. “His mother was a Goffe, and George Woodbury was an archeologist who did archaeological digs in places like Mesopotamia. He got a letter one day that said, “you’ve inherited 400 acres and a mill in Bedford New Hampshire. What would you do?”
“Anyway, when I finished reading this book, two things stood out in my mind: George Woodbury was not a miller and he was not a salesman: he was an archaeologist. And he was successful [as a miller]. He started grinding flour, and people beat a path to his door. When I read that book, I thought, ‘it’s so simple. I bet if I could get some millstones someplace, and just open up anywhere, and if I let people know I was grinding flour and stuff that somebody would be interested.’
“Honestly, it’s that simple.”
As we walked through the hall upstairs on our way to the mill tour, we passed by a little table with two tubs of brownies. I don’t know about anyone else, but I thought it was pretty cool that we got to vote in the gluten-free brownie tests. (Sure, I’ll eat a couple of brownies in the name of Science.)
Bob’s Red Mill does things the old-fashioned way – in an ultra-clean, modern facility. Quartz millstones, much like the ones used during early Roman times, are still the best way to grind grains and ensure that the most nutritious parts of the whole grain remain.
In an effort to offer the best possible product, Bob has formed solid, personal relationships with the farmers from across the country, taking time to visit their farms and ensure best practices are being used every step of the way.
We had an opportunity to tour their on-site testing labs, and I was deeply impressed with the care they took to assure that gluten-free products were indeed, gluten-free. Like some with severe peanut allergies, people with severe Celiac Disease go far beyond having a simple gluten intolerance, and can react to even the slightest trace of gluten. Not only does Bob’s Red Mill have a completely separate gluten-free facility, but every grain shipment they receive is painstakingly tested for gluten cross-contamination before it is ever packaged or sent through the machines.
In a second lab, the same care is being taken to guarantee their products are GMO-free. Bob’s Red Mill uses Heritage Feed, which is non-GMO, and tests all of the corn and soy they receive ensure that it is non- GMO. They are part of the Non-GMO Project and are working toward verification, but it is a lengthy, expensive process, so non-GMO isn’t on all of their labels yet.
At the end of our tour, we drove down the road to the Visitor’s Center and Whole Grain Store to eat lunch and explore the shop. They sent us home with Goodie Bags full of wonderful products, including a brand new one called “Orca Beans” that I am very excited to share with you. (Check back Wednesday for the best veggie chili you’ll ever have. If you don’t tell anyone it’s vegan, I won’t!)
Note: Bloggers who attended this tour received a goodie bag full of free Bob’s Red Mill products, plus a gift card. Bob also bought us lunch at the Red Mill cafe, where I have eaten more than once on my own dime. All opinions are my own.