Skip to content
Photo of Harold Stanislawski with David Eiynck and Tyler Hoban.

Eiynck Farms is Ag Innovator of the Year

Geographically, David Eiynck hasn’t moved far in his life. He lives and farms less than a mile from where he grew up in Mahnomen County. However, through innovation and entrepreneurship, he and his family have taken their farming business, Eiynck Farms, to a whole new place.

After returning from college, Eiynck purchased a neighbor’s farm and started working in partnership with his father. They milked cows, had a farrow to finish hog operation, and planted a range of crops. Eighteen years ago, Eiynck says he and his wife had acquired enough farmland to focus more on their crops.

“As we grew on the commodity side, we looked at ways to improve our cash flows and revenue crops,” Eiynck says. “We decided we wanted to try to do a little better and develop more revenue crops.”

Eiynck currently grows soybeans, corn, peas, wheat, barley, oats, and dry beans.

Several years ago, Eiynck and partner Tyler Hoban started tinkering with a process to produce oat groats, which is the whole grain oat seed with the husk removed. Eiynck developed an impact process, followed by cleaning and sizing, to access the oat groat.

“Oat groats are in a lot of different products, from items humans consume to pet foods to small pig rations, so a little bit of everything,” Eiynck explains. “It’s more of a niche, smaller market, but there’s a demand for oat groats as an ingredient.”

Eiynck Farms produces oat groats that currently go primarily to the pet food market.

Growing Demand
Originally, Eiynck was able to produce one load of finished product in about 45 hours. During COVID, one of his end users was unable to source oat groats out of Canada, so they asked Eiynck to produce more. That led to the construction of a new plant.

“Our old E-H Oats plant wasn’t able to keep up,” Eiynck says. “We had seen some market opportunities, so we decided we’d build a brand-new plant. We’ve been processing oats there since May 2023. We went from one load to 2 to 3 loads a week; now we’re doing about 6 to 8 loads a week. We have the capacity to do 8 to 10 loads a week.”

Eiynck has worked with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) on several occasions, including utilizing AURI’s business services to help identify market opportunities, address supply chain issues, receive engineering expertise to identify equipment and processing needs, and discuss testing capabilities to uncover coproduct value.

The hulls, which have been separated from the groat, are the primary coproduct. They’re shipped to area dairy and beef farmers for feed. Some hulls go to a fellow entrepreneur using them to produce biochar for fertilizer. Eiynck is also working with AURI to identify more uses for the hulls.

Local Opportunities
Eiynck says the E-H Oats plant near Waubun processes about 650,000 bushels of oats a year, but he’s hoping to expand that production to one million bushels a year.

The Eiyncks grow some of the oats they need for the mill but also contract with other growers. Eiynck says oats used to be called a poverty crop because growers couldn’t afford to raise it. That’s not the case anymore. The increased demand for groats is creating a bright future for oats in the region.

“We can make more money raising oats than a lot of other crops,” Eiynck contends. “It’s a viable crop.”

AURI Business and Industry Development Director Harold Stanislawski, who has worked with the Eiyncks on several projects, says Eiynck Farms’ oat processing business has grown and evolved over the years, and the enterprise now delivers numerous positive impacts with lasting potential.

“The Eiyncks have created a local supply chain that otherwise would be coming from miles and miles away from Minnesota,” Stanislawski notes. “The supply chain is now a lot shorter, the logistics have gotten better, and it has provided an opportunity for farm diversification and value-added results, enhancing revenue without adding more acres to the farm.”

“AURI helped us develop our process for oat groats and was instrumental in building our oat plant this past year,” Eiynck says. “AURI helps connect producers with people within the industry and identify markets, and that’s a pretty important thing. We appreciate their help with the Rural Economic Development Loan facilitated by Wild Rice Electric. We’d also like to thank American Federal Bank for their help with financing.”

Stanislawski says the Eiynck Farms plant was set up to expand as more markets are established, and AURI is working to help determine some of those opportunities.

“We are still looking outside the box here to see if we can find more end-user markets,” Eiynck notes. “We’d like to run our plant at full capacity, so we are trying to establish more revenue channels.”

Building the oat mill has also inspired future and older generations on the farm, ensuring continuity. Eiynck’s 21- and 18-year-old sons have returned to the farm, and his 85-year-old dad enjoys helping out.

“It’s kind of fun to have all the generations together. Hopefully, we can just keep on growing and expanding our markets and be able to buy more oats from local producers,” Eiynck reflects.

Recognizing Innovation
Eiynck Farms’ efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. AURI has selected the enterprise as the 2024 Ag Innovator of the Year. Since 2002, AURI has presented the award to a Minnesota business that has demonstrated innovation in its product or process, has established success in the marketplace, and utilizes Minnesota agricultural products. AURI Executive Director Shannon Schlecht says Eiynck Farms represents what the Ag Innovator Award is all about.

“The Eiyncks are forward-looking and open to trying new things to create new opportunities and diversify their market opportunities,” Schlecht explains. “They didn’t have to take the risk of creating a new business with a smaller acreage crop, but they saw an opportunity for a different future and had the ingenuity to put it together. Now, a new business exists in Waubun that allows farmers to look at putting oats into their rotation, creating new crop opportunities for their neighbors and other Minnesota farmers.”

“This award is pretty humbling, but it’s a great honor,” Eiynck says. “I don’t know if I’ve done anything different than any of the other innovators out there. Everybody has their own story. I like to try different things and work hard. I think that’s what gets you to where you are and where you want to be.”

Stanislawski also sees Eiynck Farms as a worthy award recipient.

“You’ve got a family farm that now has an enterprise associated with it that will make it easier to pass on to the next generation,” Stanislawski explains. “The family has made a significant investment in a county that is one of the poorer counties in Minnesota. Now, the county has a long-term value-added business tied to a local farm. This is really good for northwest Minnesota and places that need value-added revenue streams brought to the table. The enterprise also encourages more farmers to grow oats as part of their rotation, as there’s a new market. This kind of impact is spot on with AURI’s mission to support the rural economy through the utilization of agricultural products.“

Eiynck says moving from the original idea to constructing a processing plant took about five years. The growth was deliberate because he carefully researched markets before jumping into business.

“Anybody can build something, but it’s much harder to establish markets,” Eiynck says. “I’m a fast-moving person, so I often joke that I had patience, but I used it all up. I consider five years a slow process, but it’s been fun. We’ve met a lot of great people, and it’s been an excellent learning experience.”

In true entrepreneurial fashion, Eiynck is researching new opportunities for oats and its processing coproducts as a way to keep the business growing the only way he knows how.

“The harder you work, the luckier you get,” Eiynck says.

AURI has supported Minnesota businesses like Eiynck Farms for over three decades with no end of innovations in sight.

“We continue to see a robust pipeline of ideas from across the state. That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges to implement innovative ideas,” Schlecht explains. “I am 110% positive we’ll continue to see new innovations and entrepreneurial efforts arise out of Minnesota’s food and agriculture industry.”

In April, Eiynck Farms was presented with the Ag Innovator of the Year award at the 2024 New Uses Forum in Mankato, Minnesota.