Anthem Oats adds value to family farm, connects farmers with consumers

Lura Roti
South Dakota Farmers Union
Taylor Sumption, CEO of Anthem Oats, measures oats. Anthem Oats is a family-owned business that operates out of Frederick. Courtesy photo

Farmers are excellent problem-solvers. And that is exactly what Brown County farmer Taylor Sumption set out to do when he came up with the idea behind Anthem Oats.

“I had been looking for a way to add value to our family’s farm,” explains the fifth-generation farmer. “This idea really came out of frustration over the environment we market our commodities into. As it gets more and more consolidated, with fewer buyers, it seems today’s farmers really have two options – keep growing bigger, bigger, bigger to make things work, or you can add value to the products you grow. I’m a big believer that value-added agriculture is what is going to save the family farmer.”

The Sumption family has farmed in northeastern South Dakota since 1882. Since he graduated from South Dakota State University in 1996, Sumption has raised crops and cattle with his dad, John, and four brothers – Mark, Chris, Eric and Warren. In recent years, the operation has expanded to include the sixth generation.

“On our farm, we have a lot of mouths to feed. So, I was looking for a way to add value to our operation today as well as future generations who want to return to the family farm,” Sumption explains.

After nearly a decade of research, the commodity Sumption landed on was oats. And not just any oats, but the Rushmore variety developed by South Dakota State University.

“Oats are good for the soil. And they fit well into our farm’s crop rotation because they have a shorter growing season so we can follow them with cover crops that our cattle fall graze,” Sumption explains. He adds that there is also a yield bump to corn bushels when it follows oats in the rotation.

Anthem Oats is a farm-to-table business model. It begins with harvesting the oats they raise on their farm. Then, processing the oats locally. And shipping Anthem instant oatmeal direct to consumers and grocery stores from the warehouse they built on farmland that overlooks the Frederick ballfields and Maple River.

“Bridging the gap that has grown between farmers and consumers is an aspect of Anthem Oats that is important to us. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and our oatmeal connects them to the family who grew it,” Sumption explains. “As a commodity producer, I didn’t think about the impact getting feedback from the people eating it has been really fulfilling to hear what the consumer has to say.”

Owned by Sumption Farms, all farming family members have input, but Sumption and his wife, Cassie, have taken the lead and focus their time and efforts in all aspects of Anthem Oats – product development, processing, packaging, marketing and sales.

“It is beyond rewarding to be working for something that is our family’s,” explains Cassie, who prior to Anthem Oats worked off the farm in customer service. “I’ve always worked hard, but it seems like this is the hardest I’ve ever worked, and I love it.”

Initially, when the Sumptions began meeting with consultants, the Anthem Oats business model did not include marketing direct to consumers, but the COVID-19 pandemic motivated Sumption and his wife, Cassie, to add an online store.

“COVID changed everything,” Sumption says. “Instead of marketing our product through food shows, all our meetings are virtual. And since more and more consumers are shopping online, it just made sense that we would offer the product direct as well as wholesale.”

Along with opportunities, the pandemic also introduced some supply chain challenges where ingredients and packaging materials are concerned. But the Sumptions have figured out ways to keep moving ahead.

Today, Anthem Oats is on grocery store shelves or can be purchased online by visiting www.anthemoats.com.

“One thing about farmers is we are very, very, very good problem-solvers,” Sumption says. “We get problems thrown at us on a daily basis, so we develop a mindset that we can do just about anything. We just need to figure out a way.”

You can learn more about the Sumption family by visiting www.anthemoats.com.