Maine Bread Lovers Can Celebrate Rise of Somerset Grist Mill

(NECN: Amy Sinclair, Skowhegan, Maine) - Bread lovers in Maine will soon have something to celebrate: the return of local flour production.

All it took was five years of hard work and one very expensive piece of equipment imported from Austria.

Central Maine has plenty of farmland to grow amber waves of grain and local chefs who would love to work with locally produced flour, but, when the farmers and foodies got together, they discovered a problem: there was no infrastructure to process the grain.

That will change this weekend, when "Maine Grains" opens in the old county jail building in downtown Skowhegan.

“I really hope we produce nutritious grain for the community and we become a thriving business here,” says Somerset Grist Mill President Amber Lambke.

On these floors, that once housed inmates, workers will mill roughly 600 tons of organically grown grain a year.

“We plan to process wheat, oats, pelt, rye.”

The heart of this $900,000 operation is an Austrian stone mill that can grind flour, slowly preserving the nutrients and flavor chefs and their customers are looking for.”

Wheat farming certainly isn't new to New England; 150 years ago, many local farmers grew it for livestock and people. And there were hundreds of small local mills to grind it for them.

“Somerset County produced 239,000 bushels in the 1830s, enough to feed over 100,000 people.”

While they probably won't grow on that scale again, at least a dozen farmers, including Garin Smith, at Grassland Farm are anxious to give grain a try.

"The biggest advantage for our farm would be having another sideline. We’re a very diversified business.”

And downtown at the bakery, where fresh bread is baked daily, Chef and owner Matt Dubois is anxious to sample the mill's products.

"I'm excited to see what they'll produce for oats flour anything we can use."

Like any great recipe, it was just a matter of bringing the right ingredients together and putting them into the right hands.

Now, the Somerset Grist Mill is ready to rise.

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