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NDTO News Article

Member Profile: UpNorth Organics

Before the word ‘organic’ was even a well-established farming practice, Don Dufner hesitated in putting chemicals on his crops. The tradition continues with son Joe Dufner and wife Becca, who own and operate Joe Dufner Farms and UpNorth Organics. The family business, Becca Dufner says, has been a great opportunity for all of them, the kids included, to grow and learn together. With their focus on farming edible beans in the Red River Valley, organic has become a way of life. “As we live and breathe in these fields, keeping everything as pure as possible is what I would want to feed my family,” explains Dufner.

As the kids started graduating, Becca took a more active role in the business, first working on their marketing efforts but then became engrossed with ensuring and updating the purity and traceability standards. Her passion really grew to ensure that what we put into our bodies is good and pure. “Its all about wellness,” she says when discussing their beans and another blooming business, 1881 Extracts, which focuses on hemp-derived CBD products. Maintaining traceability and purity is really key, not only for buyers but also for the next steps along the food chain.

Becca explains that, traditionally, when beans are harvested, truckloads from different farmers, and fields are all mixed into one bin when delivered to the buyers. This can be a problem if a glass bottle is found in a field, and then glass particles are harvested with the beans – adding potentially hazardous materials to an entire bin can be problematic. With UpNorth’s traceability approach, each harvest is recorded specifically to each bin, and the farmers are constantly in each field checking on the crops and quality all the way through processing. So, when it is time for the beans to be canned by a buyer, they know exactly which field the beans came from.

The Dufners are really proud to have UpNorth’s beans utilized with some quality brands like Amy’s Kitchen and S&W brands distributed at Costco. They believe it is important not only for us as consumers to know where food comes from, but more and more, the younger generations are separated from the growing stages of food. “You ask kids where their foods come from these days, and they say things like the ‘grocery store’ or the ‘Schwan Man,’ so we like to integrate more with the schools.” With that, education has become important to the Dufner’s. They host field trips to help students understand their ecosystem and get them more acquainted with food production in the region.  

Becca herself has purchased some acreage and started growing her own crop. “It’s a great way to expand my knowledge and grow together,” she says. “I also want to be a good role model as a female in agriculture. This teaches the kids to work hard, wake up, get up, push through and do it.”  The closer they are to the production, the more investment and understanding will come as to why purity is important.

All of these efforts come back to the Dufner’s beliefs in wellness and why the company continues to maintain and produce certified organic products and works with a processor that  is certified with Safe Quality Food (SQF) protocols. All of these steps take time and added effort to maintain, but it is well worth it, Becca says, when people know where their food is grown. “We welcome visits from our certifiers, then we know we are doing it right,” explains Becca.

UpNorth Organics continues to focus on expansion with its high-quality products. Next up is exporting. “We are excited to begin our exporting journey and send our products out to the world. Hopefully, we can help with food shortages and give people another choice with organic products.”  

The Dufners are preparing for their first international tradeshow and are incredibly excited. Becca proudly showcased their unique business cards with bean samples built right in to highlight their product offerings and meet many new buyers.

Clearly, the vision of Don Dufner continues as the following generations have found immense value in purity and wholesome crops grown in the Red River Valley. With enthusiasm and drive, they continue to push standards of quality food forward and reach beyond US borders. We wish them all the best at the show and look forward to seeing more from UpNorth Organics in the years to come.