Business Member Profile: Maine Grains
When the idea of the Kneading Conference was first conceived here in Skowhegan -- to bring farmers, millers, bakers, and oven builders together to explore the idea of reviving Maine's grain economy for good bread -- I had no idea that my involvement, and grain, was about to change my life.
More than a century ago, Central Maine was part of New England's breadbasket, and my hometown of Skowhegan was a hub. Skowhegan is located in Somerset County, Maine, where 239,000 bushels of wheat were produced in 1837. At 60 pounds to the bushel, that was enough to feed 100,000 people in a county that now has half that population. Realizing this, the question we began asking was not
we can grow grain in Maine, but
we restore that knowledge and practice.
The Maine Grain Alliance (MGA), host of the Kneading Conference, has been at the center of educating about grain for the last 11 years. Tackling immediate and more long-term challenges like infrastructure, seed
supply, and know-how, the MGA has gradually made connections that are making gristmills, village bakeries, and breweries centered around local grain a way of life again. That first Kneading Conference inspired me to begin figuring out how to restore a necessary mill in Central Maine to enable the cleaning and processing of grain that farmers and bakers would require. I set aside my career as a speech-language pathologist to dedicate my efforts full time to the pursuit of local bread and community revitalization, launching Maine Grains gristmill in 2012 with my founding partner, Michael Scholz.
Not unlike many people who say the Kneading Conference changed their life, our bold idea to repurpose a jailhouse in downtown Skowhegan into a gristmill has inspired a national following, and Skowhegan has successfully established itself is one of the country's emerging rural food hubs. Through collaboration and leading by example, the gristmill project has helped mobilize ideas into action. We set out to repurpose a significant historic building and create jobs and, in so doing, have realized the great potential of a project, and food production, to build strong collaborations and community-wide benefit from earth to table.
Maine Grains specializes in stone-milled organic and heritage grains and rolled oats. We process wheat, rye, spelt, buckwheat, cornmeal, malted barley and other heritage grains, which are distributed to bakeries, restaurants, natural food stores, breweries and institutions throughout the Northeast.