Century Sun Oil

When you’re around entrepreneurs for any time at all, you immediately notice how impressively hard they work. Among entrepreneurs, food businesses have additional worries with food safety and manufacturing regulations, not to mention the key factor that has really taken the spotlight in today’s food culture: supply chain. “Where does your food come from?” is an oft-repeated question, and that’s at the center of Century Sun Oil’s message.

Century Sun Oil is made from local, organic sunflower seed and there are many reasons that co-founders Pam and Dale Johnson call their sunflower oil “Your Midwest alternative to olive oil”.

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Dale and Pam started Century Sun in 2009, and run the business from the 130-year old Johnson family farm in rural Pulaski, Wisconsin. Besides the farmers who grow for them, they employ two-to-three part time contract workers. They have re-purposed their processing facility from a former dairy barn, even repurposing the  stainless steel dairy equipment that is now exclusively used for their sunflower oil. Their oil is cold-pressed, which means no chemical extraction such as with cheap canola, corn, and soybean oils. It also means the extruder press never exceeds temperatures of 110 degrees, therefore maintaining the nutrients in the raw oil. Dale oversees the processing, while Pam focuses on marketing.

 

Pam works hard at communicating the attributes of their sunflower oil. “Our biggest challenge is educating people on what kind of sunflower oil they’re using.”

Sunflower oil can vary, but Century Sun Oil contains high levels of omega 9 Oleic Acid as well as a high level of vitamin E, an antioxidant. Besides having nutritional value, the oleic acid and vitamin E work together to give the oil a high smoke point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Anyone who has tried to sauté with butter or olive oil has witnessed the somewhat lower smoking points.  

Pam and Dale started Century Sun Oil because they believe in sunflower oil’s healthful attributes, they enjoy working together as a team, and they believe in small, local businesses. They work closely with a small number of growers; this year they contracted about 350 acres of black-oil, high oleic sunflower seeds from seven organic farmers in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota.

Much of the sunflower grown in Wisconsin is sold as bird seed, but this seed is specifically selected for its nutrient makeup, which means it must be planted in a protected area. Recently, Dale’s son Eric has been learning the management side of the business along with some photo documentation, such as this video of them loading the first seeds of the season.

Overall they are driven by a love for working with farmers who are stewards of the land, working on soil health by rotating crops and following organic principles.

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They love providing a healthy, quality product locally that has a small carbon footprint as opposed to other imported oils that are far from local.

It’s a short drive to the local farmers to stay in touch from planting to harvest, and this “less-traveled” oil is processed and stored at Dale and Pam’s on-farm facility. The end result is to reduce the total time from field to table, and as Pam says, “Small businesses helping each other grow is the backbone of a healthy economy as well.”  

Come meet Pam and Dale Johnson at Feast! on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn., from 10 am to 4 pm. The day will be well spent, with over 100 different food businesses exhibiting in addition to chef demos, workshops, kids activities, and a Real Food Media film fest. To learn more about Century Sun Oil, visit centurysunoil.com or find them on Facebook.

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