Nobody around here knows what to do when we say that we grow grains for people to eat. The local U of I extension office couldn’t tell us how to get a protein or falling number test (something bakers want to know) – all they could tell us where we could learn the “feed ration value” of our wheat. There are plenty of feed mills, but the nearest commercial food mills were several hours away. They only mill soft wheat…and we grew hard.
After much research and many emails sent into the void never to return, I finally found someone who was willing to do custom milling for us! His name is Roger, and he runs Rogers Creek Grist Mill in Milledgeville, Illinois (how very appropriate!).
Roger built this mill because he was fascinated by the engineering behind water power. Though it’s not built on a creek (because he didn’t happen to have one handy), he set it up so that he could use water to power the wheel and turn the mill. It is a demonstration site, open for visitors and school tours – but it’s also a working mill. He mills grains for his own line of pancake and muffin mixes on this Meadows Mill built in 1922:
The mill is a stone mill, and the twenty-inch stones still have to be taken to the factory in North Carolina for sharpening every few years. Roger uses electricity to power the mill for work-a-day use. He put it to use for us one day last month.
We ate that first handful of flour in some delicious sourdough pancakes with some freshly-harvested local honey. (The bees were building comb where it didn’t belong, and this jar was the sweet, sweet collateral damage.)
We’ve had reason to make the drive to Milledgeville several times since that first visit a couple of months ago. In addition to orders from our vegetable-growing friends at Tempel Farms Organics, who included our flour in their CSA shares, we were also invited to be a guest vendor at the Green City Market in Chicago this month. They host a program called the Locavore Challenge, during which market patrons can pledge to eat only local food for two weeks. Since there are few grains or beans available through regular market vendors, they asked us to help them close the gap by making the staple crops we grow available at the market. We’re mid-way through right now, and we’re enjoying it greatly. It gives us renewed energy when we talk to people who are excited about what we’re doing.
One of our customers, Lauren from Peerless Bread & Jam, created a bread recipe using our wheat that we can give to customers and even baked some loaves for samples (right). Yum. Thanks to Lauren for the photo, too!
My dad made it up to the city to hand out samples and advice to customers last Saturday. He sold quite a bit of product, too!
Doesn’t the market stand look great? Stop by and see us there – we’ll be at the market on Wednesdays and Saturdays through September 21st. We have also been going to a market at the Whole Foods in Naperville on the second Sunday of the month, and our last market there will be October 9th.