Our mission and guiding principals
Our mission at Maine Grains is to be a leading partner in building a regenerative economy by milling nutritious, organic and heritage grains using a traditional stone milling process. We source high-quality grains from our region and distribute throughout the northeast. Through a traditional stone milling process, we preserve nutritional content and improve the performance of our flour for natural fermentation baking and cooking. Our principal foundation is that Maine Grains will provide a strong, positive community impact by creating jobs, improving land utilization, focusing on a holistic food chain, enabling farm-to-table benefits and serving as a successful model of local economic growth. We aim to show that business can be used as a force for good.
Skowhegan last thrived when its paper, wool, and shoe factories were humming. As with grain, when these industries left in search of efficiency and large scale, the town, and its farms were left behind.
Today, Skowhegan is fertile ground for an agricultural renaissance led by a new generation of thought leaders, farmers and food producers. By focusing on our greatest assets: grit, resilience, and agriculture, we are creating opportunities. Our once vacant buildings are humming again with new life and new businesses.
“By collaborating and leading by example the gristmill project has helped to 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 to build strong collaborations and community wide benefit.” – Amber Lambke, Maine Grains President
An Engine of Transformation
Maine Grains isn’t just a new business, it’s an engine of transformation, helping the town of Skowhegan take center stage in a statewide grain renaissance. Maine Grains bold idea to repurpose a jailhouse into a gristmill has created an international following and Skowhegan has successfully established itself as one of the country’s emerging rural food hubs. Communities across the globe are now looking to Skowhegan as an example of how to successfully restore the benefits of regional grain production and heritage seed restoration.
“Revitalizing Maine’s grain economy has helped provide focus for economic and community development at the grassroots level in Skowhegan at this time in history. We are improving an economic cluster and creating new opportunities from milling and baking, to grain farming, malting, and brewing.” – Amber Lambke, Maine Grains President
Fixing What’s Broken
Exercising common sense, and learning from those that have come before us, we are committed to making the most delicious, nourishing foods from whole grains. Maine Grains uses modern equipment and methods that are steeped in tradition to produce freshly-milled flours that are full of flavor. Grains have long been at the center of a healthy diet and the foods that form our cultural identities. Maine Grains supports the innovators, educators and community builders that are restoring village bakeries, breweries, and thriving family farms. From chaff to dust, we move our byproducts on to composters, livestock farmers, and even mushroom growers so that our mill is zero-waste facility.
Maine’s agricultural heritage is rich, and the grain economy in Somerset County has deep historical roots. Somerset was the bread basket of New England in the 19th century, producing 239,000 bushels of wheat per year at its peak in 1837, enough to feed more than 100,000 people. Painting: Met Museum, public domain, The Veteran in a New Field,1865, Winslow Homer American
Spaulding and Watson purchase the former gristmill across the street from the jailhouse from D.A. & W.E. Porter where they custom milled grain for livestock farmers. Flour, sugar, molasses, and draft horses to work the woods arrive in downtown Skowhegan by train, which terminates right in front of the present-day Maine Grains Gristmill.
Photo: Spaulding & Watson millers standing in front of the first Mack Truck in Skowhegan, loaded up with grain.
With the expansion of the use of automobiles, the railroad tracks through downtown Skowhegan are ripped up to make room for a public parking lot, representing a shift in the way we produce and purchase grain products. Grain farming began to move westward, and the grain farms and small-scale mills of rural Maine began to close up shop.
Photo: The Skowheagn Railroad station was positioned in what is now our parking lot.
Community members in Skowhegan aimed to address the growing ‘locavore’ movement and demand for locally grown grains for bread baking by starting a conference that would bring together grain growers, bread bakers, millers, and wood-fired oven builders annually for discussions on the topic of reviving regional grain economies. Friends and cofounders of the Kneading Conference, Amber Lambke and Michael Scholz were inspired by bakers and farmers willing to grow and use local grain, and they decided that a regional grain economy required a mill.
Facing the vacancy of an historic 14,000 square foot Victorian jailhouse in their downtown, and the lack of gristmills which once serviced a robust grain economy in central Maine, Amber and Michael partnered to buy the building for $65,000, and formed the Somerset Grist Mill. The former county jail transforms a blighted part of downtown Skowhegan into a thriving food hub and community gathering place.
Photo: Amber & Michael with the brand new stone mill, shipped from Austria.
Maine Grains has purchased over $1,000,000 worth of Maine Grown Grain, and is selling delicious, freshly milled product to bakeries, chefs & breweries throughout the Northeast. Maine Grains works to fulfill a mission to provide a strong, positive community impact by creating jobs, improve land utilization, focus on a holistic food chain, reap the rewards of fresh food to our health and happiness and serve as a successful model of local economic growth. Maine Grains grows so that business can be used as a force for good in Skowhegan.
Photo: Operations Manager John Violette overseeing flour coming off the large stone mill.
Nourishing, Flavorful, Fresh
Maine Grains manufactures locally grown stone-milled grains, a staple food in the human diet. We don’t mess with a good thing. We mill whole grain into flour that is unadulterated, perfectly fresh, and rich in flavor. Our grain is packed with vitamins & minerals, like vitamin B, zinc & magnesium. Whole grain has plentiful protein, healthy fat, and fiber, which aids in digestion and has probiotic qualities.
Sticking With Stones
We are utilizing age old technology with fresh intention, in an effort to build a lasting agricultural economy for the seed sowers and dough kneaders of the future.
Through use of our traditional stone milling process, we preserve the exceptional flavor and nutrition inherent in the grain. Slow turning mill stones keep the flour cool which improves performance in natural fermentation baking and enhances flavor. Our freshly milled flour is ideal for baking and cooking.
From Field To Loaf
New England has a rich history of producing grains like oats, rye, wheat, corn, and buckwheat. Maine Grains is reviving this tradition to ensure that nutritious local grains are available and affordable for our community. Outside of commodity pricing and markets, Maine Grains works directly with each of its farmers to create transparent, sustainable, and economically feasible trade relationships. Farmers supplying Maine Grains pledge never to use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on their grain crops. The Maine Grains’ milling facility has organic certification through Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
“Eating is an agricultural act.” –Wendell Berry
A gristmill is at the heart of a community.
Turning the contributions of many into sustenance for all.
Maine Grains works directly with growers to increase the market for their organic grain crops. We work with each of our farmers to create transparent, sustainable, and economically viable trade relationships. Farmers supplying Maine Grains pledge never to use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on their grain crops and our milling facility is certified organic by the Maine Organic Farmer and Gardeners Association.
Grains have a central role to play on the farm.
Grains feed people, animals and help to manage healthy soils – ensuring their vitality for generations to come. A regional gristmill provides local farmers an outlet to sell their high quality grains for food, while also benefiting from the animal feed and utility grains provide. Before chemicals were used to kill weeds on farms, cover crops like oats and rye were commonly used to deter weeds naturally. When grown in rotation with other crops, grains help balance nutrients in the soil to produce the tastiest vegetables and lush yields.
“The expansion of the regional grain economy has had a very positive impact on our family farming business. Grains have always played a role as a rotation crop on our 4th generation farm but now they are our main focus. We have been producing a variety of grains, pulses, and oilseeds since 2008 all of which are marketed throughout New England. The willingness of the markets to experiment with a variety of grains and other crops has been beneficial from a cropping system standpoint, allowing us as growers, to design and practice diverse rotations that result in quality crops. The resurgence of the New England grain economy has played a pivotal role in allowing us to continue farming our land in Benedicta on a scale that works for our family.”
– Jake, Farmer