People often ask me where I got this passion for organic agriculture and milling. The short answer is that I’m a curious person by nature. Back in the early 1970s, an amazing adventure in the world of agriculture in Africa opened my eyes to the complexity of nature and its natural cycles, to the often ambiguous relationship between humans and the earth, and how this relationship defines who we are. Culture in a broader sense would seem to come from agriculture—from our worries, uncertainties and passions about our food. For the past 40 years, I’ve continued to think a lot about agriculture, and I’ve become increasingly fascinated to discover how little we really know about the world of cereal grains.
— Robert Beauchemin, President
1977 — Start of our farming business: a different way of growing with respect for the environment
Robert and Lily set up operations on a 400-acre farm in Milan. It’s a mixed farming business producing grains and lambs. From the beginning, the company focuses on an “organic” approach, with no fertilizers or pesticides (although there was no official definition of this term at the time). Against the recommendations of agricultural professionals, we start production of food-quality wheat. This wheat is sold to natural food cooperatives—the only interested buyers at the time. In 1979, we install a very small mill with a capacity of 60 kg/h in order to provide an added value for the wheat we sell.
1982 — A few years of grinding our grains
Despite a very “niche” interest in all-natural milled flour, Lily and Robert see potential for developing this product further. They incorporate the company and build their first small milling facility on the farm, where they install their first real stone mill (with a capacity of 400 kg/h). Just over two years later, the market they have developed already exceeds the agricultural production capacity of their family farm. The challenge of buying outside the farm requires them to establish a mode of production that respects the principles of an agricultural approach focused on reducing our environmental impact. With the help of a group of producers in the Eastern Townships, we establish a definition of organic techniques—a few pages to outline the relevant processes. In 1985, as this market continues to develop, we take part in establishing Canada’s first organic certification program.
1996 — The company continues to grow
As the company continues to grow, we decide to relocate to an industrial building in the village of Milan. A fourth mill is installed there, bringing our milling capacity to 45 tonnes per day. The government of Québec finally passes an act on reserved designations. In 1999, we begin a scientific collaboration on the baking quality of ground flours with the research team from the Saint-Hyacinthe Research and Development Centre (CRDA). An increasingly diverse range of ground flours such as spelt, Khorasan and buckwheat leads to a fresh burst of activity for our artisans.
2004 — Expansion of the Milan facility
Purchase and installation of our first cylinder machine for the production of unbleached white flours, completing the range of flours produced by La Milanaise. This brings our grinding capacity to 75 tonnes of grains per day. We set up a laboratory in Milan to analyze the quality of our flours.
2010 — Our fourth expansion
After the fourth expansion of the Milan production facility, we install a second cylinder mill, along with an automated packaging line, to increase the capacity of La Milanaise to 100 tonnes a day. We establish a team of agronomists to work with organic farmers and help them to better manage their agronomic risks. The agronomy team also works with conventional farmers who want to begin the three-year process of transitioning to certified organic farming. We set up a test bakery in Milan, as well as a grain centre in Lac-Mégantic.
2016 — Construction and start of operations at the St-Jean plant
With this high-capacity production plant driven by cutting-edge technology, the company’s capacity is now close to 350 tonnes per day. With a complete team of engineers and technicians to support our customers, our flours and our production expertise are now recognized all across North America. Our value-chain business model allows farmers who want to develop their production of organic cereal grains to plan their production several years in advance.