In my experience, the tools and equipment on a farm are often as varied and versatile as the land itself. As a farmer, we slowly come to know what does or doesn’t work best for our needs, individually, or for the farm as a whole. This tendency to personalize something, to adapt it to do what we need as an individual, is not limited to farming. This is human nature. It’s natural. And my son-in-law, Andrew has done a great deal of this as manager and part-owner of The Oil Barn® here on the farm.
In the beginning, a lot of the process, from grain bin to bottle, was done manually. The safflower seed needed to be fed into the presses, bucket by bucket, which required regular monitoring every few hours, even through the night. The presses themselves have been adjusted and readjusted and parts have been replaced to meet the standards and expectations Andrew and I were looking for in the final product. The safflower byproduct we call mash accumulated in large barrels that needed to be emptied every few hours. And the oil had to set for nearly a week to allow the sediment to settle out.
Over the last few years, Andrew has put in a great deal of time and effort automating, streamlining and perfecting the process of pressing the high-oleic, organic safflower oil we enjoy today. The seed is now stored in bins next to the barn which only need to be refilled every other month or so. And from there everything is automated. The seed is transported by small, enclosed augers into hoppers and fed into the presses via gravity and the oil is filtered through a cloth and paper press to remove all remaining plant particles. The byproduct is carried away by conveyor belt and into the back of a truck that needs to be emptied every few weeks. And the presses run day and night, six days a week, with minimal maintenance.
Certainly one of the most beneficial adaptations to date has come with installing grain bins that store the safflower seed beside The Oil Barn®. At the base of each bin Andrew has attached a boot which allows a connection to the small augers that transport the seed automatically into the barn. With the recent arrival of two more bins, Andrew is making the same modifications in preparation of adding more presses later this year.
Success is rarely accomplished without change and hard work and Andrew is continually using both to further improve and expand his production to make this excellent product more readily available.