NORTHWOOD, N.D. -- Four northern Red River Valley families with a passion for agriculture and pets have formed a pasta company that donates part of its proceeds to a local animal rescue.

Leslie and Jon Rethemeier, of Emerado, N.D., James and Kristi Bowling, of Shelly, Minn., Jared and Brandie Hagert, of Emerado, and Nick Bury and Breanna Privratsky, of Thompson, N.D., founded Four Families pasta in late 2019. All four couples are involved in the agricultural industry and see their business as a way to benefit farmers and the animals they rescue through their work with Journey Home Animal Rescue, based in Grand Forks.

Besides farming, the Hagerts own Integrated Ag Services near Northwood, where Jon Rethemeier, also a farmer, is Integrated Ag Services operations manager and Leslie Rethemeier is its office manager. Meanwhile, Bury is Integrated Ag Services sales agronomist, and James Bowling works for Bay State Milling, which produces the flour from which Four Families pasta is made.

“We were talking about what an opportunity this white wheat was, and how we could help support the local farmers and the animal rescue,” Leslie Rethemeier said.

Pasta production was their solution.

Four Families pasta primarily is made with HealthSense, a hard, white wheat flour processed by Quincy, Mass.-based Bay State Milling.

“It’s a high amylose wheat. This makes it a healthy fiber,” said Bowling, who contracts HealthSense wheat acres for Bay State Milling. HealthSense contains 35% to 45% amylose flour, compared with traditional flour, which has less than 12%, he said.

Amylose is a type of starch in a wheat kernel that is tightly packed so it resists digestion, according to Bay State Milling. The resistant starch breaks down more slowly in the gut, which gives it prebiotic power.

Besides the HealthSense flour, Four Families pasta also contains semolina, a flour made from durum.

About 8,000 acres of HealthSense wheat were grown in 2019 by farmers in North Dakota and Minnesota in an area that runs north to south on both sides of the Red River, from Crystal, N.D., to Valley City, N.D.

“It’s really farm to table,” Leslie Rethemeier said, noting that she knows the farmers who raise the HealthSense wheat. After harvest, growers deliver the identity-preserved wheat to approved receiving stations, and then the wheat is transported to the Bay State Milling facility in Tollefson, Ariz., where it is milled into flour.

HealthSense flour has more than 10 times the fiber than traditional flour, according to Bay State Milling.

Four Families penne pasta is produced at Abbiamo Pasta Co., in Casselton, N.D., and packaged into 16-ounce plastic bags. The company produced 4,000 pounds of pasta during the initial run, and Four Families plans to do a second run of 25,000 pounds, Bowling said.

The pasta is for sale at specialty stores and cafes up and down the Red River Valley, including Kittsona and Treat, Play, Love in Grand Forks. Four Families also plans to have the pasta available for purchase online at its website, www.fourfamilies.net

The pasta soon will be packaged in boxes that feature a photograph of Kristi Bowling and a dog she and James adopted from Journey Home Animal Rescue. Four Families owners consider their pets as part of their families and “with this in mind, we’re proud to give parts of the proceeds from Four Families pasta to Journey Home Animal Rescue of Grand Forks,” according to the Four Families pasta label.

“It goes straight to saving animals,” Rethemeier said. “It’s very rewarding to support others.”