Keynote: Tom Smude

Photo Credit: Rolf Hagberg Photography

Tom Smude, owner of Smude Enterprises, Midwest Sales & Construction, Midwest Processors, Rich Prairie Custom Woods LLC, Smude Gravel Company, Smude Trucking, Smude Farms and Smude Holdings, graduated from Pierz Healy High in 1993. After high school, Tom attended Central Lakes College in Brainerd, MN where he graduated from the Sales & Marketing program.

While working at Evergreen Equipment for 18 years in sales, trucking and parts, Tom bought a farm to raise corn, beef cows and began a feedlot. He married Jenni in 1999 and they started Smude Oil in 2010 to create a protein source for feeding their cattle. After running for three months, the oil price dropped in half. Needing to do something with the oil quickly so as not to sink within the first six months of operation, Tom and Jenni began bottling the oil and selling it at Farmers Markets and then moved into retail.

In 2011, a family member needed work so Midwest Sales & Construction was created to build grain bins, sell and service them, and handle all the grain equipment. In 2012, Jenni resigned from her job to handle the books for the two enterprises, and Tom finished his John Deere career in 2013 to concentrate on the businesses. Two children were added to their family and have been learning many facets of the family business from the cattle to the sunflower oil.

Microwave Popcorn was introduced about a year ago and has become a popular product. Focusing on keeping ingredients simple and high-quality taste, the heart healthy snack (in addition to the sunflower oils) has been stocked by many grocery stores throughout Minnesota. Online orders of the products ship all over the nation.

Most recently, Tom and Jenni purchased Redwood Industries in Pierz, a woodworking shop, to gain 50,000 square feet and expand the crushing capacity of sunflowers for bulk oil orders being received, plus space for the microwave popcorn processing expansion. The woodworking department will remain in business to preserve the current jobs and expand employment opportunities for the community by ramping up production in crushing, oils and popcorn.