The largest processor and exporter of kidney beans in the world, Chippewa Valley Bean, located in Menomonie, Wisconsin, exports over 70 percent of the beans they handle.
It all started with Russell and Nancy Doane who, when they started farming, fell in love with the land. As their family grew, so did their passion for agriculture.
They expanded the family’s traditional livestock farm (homesteaded in 1858) to one focused on dark red kidney beans.
Founded in 1973, specifically for the purpose of cleaning and marketing the beans grown on Doane Farms, Russell partnered with Bob Wachsmuth to start the Chippewa Valley Bean processing operation so they could begin cleaning and shipping kidney beans to domestic canners around the Midwest.
Over the years, the company grew, and Chippewa Valley Bean started contracting with other growers in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The company exported its first load of beans to the United Kingdom, in the early 1980’s, and developed an export market from there.
As the business has grown and changed, Russell, now 90 years young, and Nancy have remained excited and pleased with the transition to the next generation.
Their belief in family, pride, respect for the land and the production of quality food, which was the motivation nearly 50 years ago, still sustains them today, providing energy and inspiration for tomorrow with the next generation playing a major role in what is now a joint management corporation.
Russell and Nancy’s three children, Cindy Brown, Ruth Anne Hofland and Brian Doane, along with long-time business partner, Wachsmuth, are all shareholders and a major part of the business today.
Cindy is the president of Chippewa Valley Bean and plays a leadership role in the bean industry while Ruth Anne oversees quality control.
Brian and Bob’s positions overlap in many areas, with Bob primarily responsible for production and Brian in charge of processing.
Each of them has been a part of the business for the past 40 years, and they all have the same pride and belief in keeping the family tradition going for many years to come.
Russell’s grandson and Cindy’s son, Charles Wachsmuth, is vice president of Chippewa Valley Bean.
“Generally, kidney beans are a great rotational crop for many of the acres that are grown in Central Wisconsin,” says Wachsmuth. “Typically, kidney beans are grown every third or fourth year in the rotation to give nature a chance to help manage soil diseases.”
He adds that kidney beans are planted the year preceding potatoes, as the harvest is more advantageous with cover crop and soil preparation the fall prior to planting potatoes.
Wachsmuth says Chippewa Valley Bean expects to grow around 5,000 acres of dark red and a few acres of light red kidney beans in the state of Wisconsin. About half of this production is done in the Central Sands region, while the remaining production is in Dunn County, closer to the processing plant.
But the future is bright he continues.
“Our plan is to continue to grow Chippewa Valley Bean. In addition to our core operation of processing and exporting kidney beans, we have also begun to broker other commodities to offer our customers a full basket of agricultural options.”