Fabulous Article in FEAST Magazine Profiling Harold, Janie's Farm, and The Mill

Harold, his son Ross, and his nephew Tim Vaske. Photo by Judd Demaline.

Harold, his son Ross, and his nephew Tim Vaske. Photo by Judd Demaline.

We were thrilled to read this beautiful article by Liz Miller that perfectly captured Harold’s character and spirit, and his tireless efforts to grow and mill great-tasting and healthy grains.

The photos by Judd Demaline are also extraordinary, and we have put a few of them here, along with a few quotes from Liz Miller’s writing.

But you should really click here to see all the photos and read the whole piece in the St. Louis FEAST Magazine.

Thank you to Liz, Judd, and all of our friends who provided quotes. We are grateful to all of you!

“When we started going organic, I had a neighbor come over – he’s 10 years older than me – and he said, ‘Harold, I’m worried about you. If you go organic, you’ll never rent another piece of ground. Nobody is going to have anything to do with you; you’re going to be all on your own.’” Wilken says. “And I said, ‘I thank you very much for your concern, but I feel that this is what I have to do.’ That was about 1,700 acres ago.”   Photo by Judd Demaline, of organic corn going from the combine into the grain wagon. Nearly all of the grain Harold grows on his 2,400 acres is food for people, a rarity in the Midwest.

“When we started going organic, I had a neighbor come over – he’s 10 years older than me – and he said, ‘Harold, I’m worried about you. If you go organic, you’ll never rent another piece of ground. Nobody is going to have anything to do with you; you’re going to be all on your own.’” Wilken says. “And I said, ‘I thank you very much for your concern, but I feel that this is what I have to do.’ That was about 1,700 acres ago.”

Photo by Judd Demaline, of organic corn going from the combine into the grain wagon. Nearly all of the grain Harold grows on his 2,400 acres is food for people, a rarity in the Midwest.

Years before the two Engsko stone mills from Denmark were installed at The Mill, Wilken, Ross and Brockman-Cummings were focused on research. They traveled to mills across the country, from Oregon to New York, to see how other people were milling grain to make whole-kernel flour. It was during a mill tour in New York that Wilken met Amy Halloran, author of  The New Bread Basket . The book charts the 10,000-year history of grain growing, including how America has drifted away from local and regional milling over the past 100 years. Although people like Wilken are seeking to bring that tradition back to communities across America, it’s slow going.  “Harold is a demonstration of exactly what’s missing to help create regional grain economies," Halloran says. "The mill is not just set up to benefit his farm, but to help several growers. He’s not looking just to process his own grain – no mill is. They’re engines of regional economies that eventually provide a market for a lot more than a single farm. The interest in a local or regional grain product and economy is coming along, but it’s much slower than other areas of local food, because [mills] – that intermediate processing facility – [have] disappeared, and because that processing facility is so expensive to create. Consumers being able to taste the difference figures into the equation of the value you put on the product, too.”   Photo by Judd Demaline, of Mill Manager Jill Brockman-Cummings closely monitoring the milling process, including the temperature of the millstones, and their proximity, resulting in finer or coarser whole-kernel flours.

Years before the two Engsko stone mills from Denmark were installed at The Mill, Wilken, Ross and Brockman-Cummings were focused on research. They traveled to mills across the country, from Oregon to New York, to see how other people were milling grain to make whole-kernel flour. It was during a mill tour in New York that Wilken met Amy Halloran, author of The New Bread Basket. The book charts the 10,000-year history of grain growing, including how America has drifted away from local and regional milling over the past 100 years. Although people like Wilken are seeking to bring that tradition back to communities across America, it’s slow going.

“Harold is a demonstration of exactly what’s missing to help create regional grain economies," Halloran says. "The mill is not just set up to benefit his farm, but to help several growers. He’s not looking just to process his own grain – no mill is. They’re engines of regional economies that eventually provide a market for a lot more than a single farm. The interest in a local or regional grain product and economy is coming along, but it’s much slower than other areas of local food, because [mills] – that intermediate processing facility – [have] disappeared, and because that processing facility is so expensive to create. Consumers being able to taste the difference figures into the equation of the value you put on the product, too.”

Photo by Judd Demaline, of Mill Manager Jill Brockman-Cummings closely monitoring the milling process, including the temperature of the millstones, and their proximity, resulting in finer or coarser whole-kernel flours.

Unlike a bag of white all-purpose flour you buy at the grocery store, The Mill’s flours vary in color, from grayish-blue rye and rosy Turkey Red to light brown Glenn bread flour.  “They’re not the same product,” Brockman-Cummings says of most industrially milled flours. “There’s no flavor from their flour. It’s a medium, whereas ours is a medium with flavor and nutrition.”  All of the flours produced at The Mill are whole-kernel, which means the nutrition in the bran and germ – including oils, vitamins, proteins, amino acids and minerals – are left intact. This is achieved with those Danish Engsko stone mills; most large industrial mills use high-speed roller mills, which process out the bran and germ.  “The fat and flavor lie in the bran and the germ of the kernel, and largely in the germ,” Halloran says. “That germ is not reintegrated in a supermarket product because it has short shelf life, it’s very volatile and you want stability. To have true stone milling increases flavor tremendously, regardless of the characteristics of the grain itself.”   Photo by Judd Demaline, of five of the many certified organic flours stone-ground by Jill Brockman-Cummings at The Mill at Janie’s Farm, each with a different color, texture, and taste profile. Clockwise from left: Calumet Bread Flour, Wabash Artisan Bread Flour, Whole-Kernel Rye Flour, Des Plaines Pastry/Cake Flour, and Mackinaw flour from the heirloom Turkey Red wheat

Unlike a bag of white all-purpose flour you buy at the grocery store, The Mill’s flours vary in color, from grayish-blue rye and rosy Turkey Red to light brown Glenn bread flour.

“They’re not the same product,” Brockman-Cummings says of most industrially milled flours. “There’s no flavor from their flour. It’s a medium, whereas ours is a medium with flavor and nutrition.”

All of the flours produced at The Mill are whole-kernel, which means the nutrition in the bran and germ – including oils, vitamins, proteins, amino acids and minerals – are left intact. This is achieved with those Danish Engsko stone mills; most large industrial mills use high-speed roller mills, which process out the bran and germ.

“The fat and flavor lie in the bran and the germ of the kernel, and largely in the germ,” Halloran says. “That germ is not reintegrated in a supermarket product because it has short shelf life, it’s very volatile and you want stability. To have true stone milling increases flavor tremendously, regardless of the characteristics of the grain itself.”

Photo by Judd Demaline, of five of the many certified organic flours stone-ground by Jill Brockman-Cummings at The Mill at Janie’s Farm, each with a different color, texture, and taste profile. Clockwise from left: Calumet Bread Flour, Wabash Artisan Bread Flour, Whole-Kernel Rye Flour, Des Plaines Pastry/Cake Flour, and Mackinaw flour from the heirloom Turkey Red wheat