From Wheat To Flour

Tour curated by: Takuya Amagai, Sahree Kasper, & the Minnesota Environments Team

Minnesota's wheat empire lasted for about a century and reshaped the state's landscape and economy around producing wheat and flour. Beginning in the late 1800s, small pioneer farms in the southeast planted the state's first wheat farms. Soon wheat farming expanded to include the large bonanza farms of the Red River Valley. The water and mills of Minneapolis were crucial to the development of wheat production in Minnesota since they allowed the farmers to grind their wheat into flour. St. Anthony Falls and the flour mills that grew up around the falls were strongly intertwined; the mills required the power provided by the falls to grind their wheat. By the early 1900s, both the state's wheat and the Mill City's flour production were in decline, and by the 1950s, the production had dwindled to almost nothing. Although Minnesota is no longer a leading wheat producer, its legacy lives on in Minneapolis, a city once famous for its flour.

Locations for Tour

Minnesota’s first grains of wheat sprouted in the southeastern part of the state, but the epicenter of production soon shifted to the Red River Valley in the northwestern part of the state. Minnesota produced its first wheat in 1820. But because…

St. Anthony Falls and the area surrounding it became the milling capital of Minnesota in the second half of the 19th century. The mills, for both lumber and flour, were built alongside the falls to capitalize the power that the rushing water…

The mills of Minneapolis had a humble beginning, but they soon emerged as a world-renowned flour powerhouse. On their path to fame, the mills struggled to tame St. Anthony Falls and to mill and market the coarser varieties of spring wheat that grew…

In 1915, flour production in Minneapolis peaked at about two million barrels. From there, the mills started a slow descent from world leadership to only a memory of their former glory. In 1880, Minneapolis was known as the “Flour Milling Capital of…