Visiting a farm that makes cooking oil


Bees pollinate a sunflower on the Boyer Farm near Converse, Ind., where a cold press is used to make Healthy Hoosier Oils

I edited margarine out of my family’s diet a while ago. Next up: Industrially refined cooking oil, which is made using chemical solvents, bleaches and deodorizers. 


The room where the Boyers bottle their oil looks and functions like a kitchen.

I resisted this move for quite a while because unlike butter, there didn’t seem to be a natural substitute. Olive oil is too strong tasting to use in baking, and coconut oil is nearly as dense as butter at room temperature. But after visiting an area farm that produces its own oil from sunflowers and canola using a cold-press like those used to make olive oil, I’m making the switch. It’s more expensive, but it’s real. And it’s local.

Ever wonder how a cold press works? The one Mark Boyer showed me at his father’s 173-year-old farm near Converse, Ind., is essentially a giant screw the size of an ear of corn. The press isn’t as efficient as industrial methods, only squeezing about 70 percent of the oil from the seeds. But unlike conventional cooking oils, all of the nutrients are retained.

It’s called a “cold press” because no external heat is applied. To meet this standard, even the heat generated by friction from running the machine must be kept within certain limits.

“We basically adjust the speed of the press to go as fast as it can while not heating up past 120 degrees,” Boyer told my husband and I. (Bob went along to shoot photos for today’s News-Sentinel column, “Sunflower oil grown on Hoosier soil.”)


Mark Boyer, who says he grew up milking cows, now stores  his farm’s sunflower and canola oil in some of the same refurbished tanks they once used in their dairy operation. 

I love knowing that I know exactly where this oil came from. I’ve seen the sunflowers growing in the fields, seen the press that squeezes out the oil, seen the bottling machine (no bigger than a Kitchen Aid mixer) that Boyer and his family use to fill every bottle.

I’m not crazy about spending more on cooking oil. (This stuff runs just under $10 per 16 ounce bottle.) But I once thought I couldn’t deal with buying butter instead of margarine, at four times the cost, and somehow our grocery budget has adapted to that change. Cheap industrial fats just don’t stand up to scrutiny. I’d rather spend more on the real thing and simply use less.


Sunflowers, like corn and soybeans, need to dry in the fields before they can be harvested. Who even knew you can use a regular old John Deere combine to pick sunflower seeds? Boyer does use a special “head” on the combine, though. 

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2 Responses to Visiting a farm that makes cooking oil

  1. bgddyjim says:

    Very cool. No pun intended.

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