About 35 years ago, Casey, Jon and Kelly Miller were looking for a way to add value to their soybean crop and saw the growing, processing and exporting of natto soybeans as a way to do that. This awareness prompted the three brothers to create Brushvale Seed Inc., a successful exporting business specializing in natto soybeans. The Breckenridge, MN based company sources their non-genetically modified (non-GMO) soybeans from their own family farms and other famers in North Dakota and Minnesota.
From the start, the Miller brothers were confident that their soybeans would do well abroad. “Exporting soybeans was part of the original plan and was pursued from the beginning,” said Brushvale marketing manager Paul Holmen, “since the soybeans being grown on the Miller farms were a good fit for the soy food markets overseas.” Brushvale caters to international food buyers, which typically demand non-GMO crops, as well as identity preservation. Identity-preserved (IP) crops are traced from their origins, throughout planting and processing, and ultimately to the customer, in order to keep track of the crop’s unique characteristics. To achieve this, Brushvale thoroughly documents their products to ensure their customers may know every detail about the shipment, including which field the soybeans were grown in.
The company’s practices emphasize the importance of developing long term relationships with overseas customers. Brushvale employees travel to make personal contact with international buyers, as well as hosts customers at their vertically integrated operation. This arrangement allows the Miller family to demonstrate how the planting seeds come from their own seed breeding program, are then grown on Miller farms, and finally cleaned in the company’s own processing facilities.
Brushvale initially focused on the export of natto soybeans to Japan. Natto soybeans are primarily used to make the Japanese dish nattō, a traditional recipe of fermented soybeans that is popular in eastern Japan as a “super food” full of protein and nutrients. Nattō is known for its sticky consistency and pungent aroma, and is often eaten with rice for breakfast. Although a meal including nattō is unfamiliar to many Westerners, for Holmen and company it is customary. “We try nattō every time we visit Japan and every time we visit the nattō food processing facilities,” said Holmen. “It is an acquired taste that we have become accustomed to.”
As Brushvale expands to include additional soybean varieties for soy food in other Asian countries, Holmen has developed an international taste. “In the various countries in that part of the world, each country has a variety of soy food products and over time we have tried many different soy foods that are quite good and flavorful.”
For more information on Brushvale Seed, Inc. please visit http://www.brushvaleseed.com/.