Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Local Grist Mill

On Wednesday, we took a drive to the neighboring Butte Creek Mill to see about some local flour. What I learned from owner Bob Russell is that their wheat comes mostly from Montana to be ground locally, because nobody around here is growing any grains to be milled. He mentioned that there is a small family farm growing five acres of wheat that will eventually be milled at Butte Creek Mill, but knew of no other growers.I looked online to see if I could find the source of any local grains, and I did find the Oregon Wheat Growers League and the Oregon Grains Commission, but I did not find the names of any farms local to me growing grains.

Regardless, this is the only working gristmill in Oregon, and it happens to be within 100 miles of my homestead, so I am purchasing local and supporting a local livelihood by taking home my finds today. I purchased 5 pounds of bread flower, a zucchini bread mix, a scone mix, a jar of local wild plum jam, and a book called Log Cabin Cooking. Tomorrow I will share a recipe with you.Next door, the owners of the mill also own the antique store and building. There is a very colorful Cigar Store Indian (is cigar store Native American any better?) standing guard over the wares. I picked up an 1865 leatherbound copy of Golden Leaves from Dramatic Poets from Hurst and Company publishers of New York for $3.00. There is some wear to the leather, but the binding and all pages are intact, and the pages still have their gold leafing on the edges. I hoard books like I hoard craft supplies, so I was pleased at this find.
Between the mill and the antique store building, there is a strip of well manicured lawn with benches and picnic tables, and a gravel path that leads down to the creek. Rags went with us on this trip, and he is modeling for you on a rough-hewn stone bench by the water's edge. It was a lovely, sunny 80 degrees with a light breeze off the water when we were there. A visiting family was eating lunch at one of the picnic tables.Miller and owner Bob Russell can be seen here on YouTube, explaining the working of the mill, the huge French buhr stones, and the name of the equipment used. Today, he gave Amilia and I our own private tour of the milling room. It was really a treat to see how the grain elevator worked and to receive our very own teeny baggy of wheat seed that we might choose to plant.

I am finding, on my quest to become a Locavore, that there may be (and may have always been) a need at times to trade with distant communities. The coffee roasted by my local roaster is grown by a small community somehwere (the coffee is all Fair Trade at my local shop), and the livelihood of that small (local to them) economy depends on my shop's purchase of coffee beans. My local mill depends on an influx of wheat and other grains in order to do the milling that provides the livelihood of the owners.

I believe it is best if we can obtain LOCAL LOCAL items, meaning grown or manufactured here from local resources and sold to the consumer at an independent local market or store. But next best is, if raw materials have to be imported, that the raw materials imported are (hopefully from an independently owned source) processed or manufactured locally and then sold at that independent local place. Then, we can still avoid the Big Box and the Megacorp. Next, I will have to ask the mill if they purchase from BIG AG, or if they purchase from artisanal growers...if from Big Ag, I will let them know (again) my preference for local, sustainable ag sources.

How are you doing on the Locavore challenge?
Do you have a local mill near you?



Splendid Little Stars said...

very interesting post. Thanks for sharing. Wow! The ONLY working grist mill in Oregon?!
Whoops. My red, white, blue post is scheduled to be posted on July 4th. I was momentarily testing to see how it would look published. Does that mean it shows up on your reading list? (With blogger you have no idea how your published piece will look, even if you click on "preview.")

Sinclair said...

I guess it shows up on the reading list as soon as it is published, even if it is then unpublished. I will look forward to reading it on the 4th...

Deb G said...

There is a flour mill in the town I live in. They get their wheat from Eastern Washington and Montana. It's organic.

My mother knows someone who is growing, selling, and grinding their own wheat one county away from me. She gave me a bag. Pretty exciting!