When Michele, our head baker Griff and operations manager Sam visited the farm in Saskatchewan where Bay State Milling harvests the oats we bake with, they also had the opportunity to see how teamwork and technology come together to process our oats before they make it to our kitchen. Following are Griff's photos and observation of this experience:
Our visit to MGM's Seed and Grain processing plant was our first stop during our time in Saskatoon and really set the tone for the rest of our trip. We were welcomed with open arms by friendly faces and treated to a tour of the entire facility by Operations Manager Sean, along with many in-depth explanations of how the oats we use are processed, stored, and shipped off to parts unknown. The facility was one of the cleanest I've ever seen and with each new room there was something new to learn. Dawning white lab coats and bright yellow hard hats, Michele, Sam, and I were ushered through rooms three to four stories high, complete with conveyor belts, automated chutes, grain storage silos, and digital optical sorting machines.
Things that we at Michele's Granola would do by hand, the MGM team would do with the press of a button. Sean explained the conscious choices they've made that set their facility apart from others. We learned that certain things like how the oats are rolled or steamed are really the deciding factor in what persuades us to source our oats from MGM Seed and Grain. We climbed what seemed like an endless amount of stairs to the very top of the facility and watched how the oats are sorted by size, shape, and color, not by hand, but by cameras snapping over 1,000 shots per second. The level of automation in their facility was mind-blowing.
The employees all adhered to emphasis on self care, proper hygiene, and a solid system of communication. When touring the lab, we were shown the long text message chains between the on-site food scientists and the automation operators. After being tested, anything that was not up to spec was logged and communicated, allowing adjustments to be made in just minutes after receiving a sample batch from processing. The lab would run dozens of tests a day on single batches/samples of oats and relay their findings back to the machine operators. We were shown much hospitality, either in the form of refreshments or information - no questions went unanswered. Throughout the tour we were constantly workshopping ideas on how to improve the work flow within our own facility and what growth actually means to us. We were told that the building used to be a cement processing plant and were explained how Ron, the owner of the facility, worked to handcraft the floor plan, spatial relation of the machinery, and prep both the building and the company for steady and successful growth. This offered a large amount of perspective on our current level of growth, and how we see Michele's Granola expanding and maturing as we move into the future.
At the end of the tour we were introduced to Marc who works directly with local farmers on procuring the highest possible quality oat.