Old Mill of Guilford appeals to ‘locavores’

by Keith Barber

Buying local isn’t a fad. More and more these days, consumers are willing to go the extra mile to buy unprocessed, earth-friendly, healthy foods that help support the local economy. For nearly 250 years, the Old Mill of Guilford has been a fixture along Beaver Creek on the western edge of the county. Its rich history includes Cornwallis’ troops seizing the mill in 1781 so the British general could feed his troops during the Revolutionary War. The historic landmark has drawn thousands of tourists over the years, but these days, folks make the drive out to Oak Ridge for the flour, corn meal and muffin mix because the mill uses mostly local ingredients. Mill owner Amy Klug said using corn raised by local farmers makes the mill’s famous cornmeal healthier and fresher. Most of the wheat that goes into the wide array of flours and pancake mixes created by Klug and miller Annie Laura Perdue comes from western states, but just about everything else inside the mill comes from the surrounding area. The mill’s top sellers include its sweet-potato muffin mix, the Old Mill gingerbread mix, grits and cornmeal. Klug’s business is also mostly local. The Old Mill’s local customers include Ganache Bakery & Restaurant, Green Valley Grill, Lucky 32, Print Works

Bistro, Piedmont Club, the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market and Bestway Foods. The mill also does a brisk mail-order business, especially during the holiday season. The first thing that grabs a visitor’s attention is the large, red water wheel. The water source is the mill pond, which is located on the opposite side of NC 68. Inside the mill, the setup is antiquated yet elaborate. Klug showed how the raw wheat and corn goes into “the hole” before being transported by a grain elevator into the “cleaner.” It comes down a long chute suspended about eight feet above the wood plank floor and goes into the hopper. The wheat and corn is then stone ground just like it was in the 18th century before going into the sifter and ending up in a barrel lined with a clear plastic bag. Klug and her husband, Darrell, had been longtime customers of the Old Mill before purchasing the property last summer. Klug credited previous owners Heidi and Charlie Parnell with keeping the mill going for 30 years with the help of volunteers and support from the Oak Ridge community. “They designed all these products,” she said. Klug pointed out that mills have traditionally served as community gathering places. Local farmers would swap stories and news of the day while waiting for their corn to be ground. The Parnells always enjoyed afternoon tea on the mill’s spacious front porch. In that tradition, Klug prepares lunch for Perdue and the volunteers daily — the “mill family” — and they enjoy their meals on the mill’s front porch. Klug characterized the transition of ownership as a smooth process due in large part to the fact Annie and the volunteers stayed on board. She said she hopes to continue the mill’s proud traditions of serving the community while simultaneously growing the business. “We’re looking at different stores in the area that might be interested in selling our products. We’re also looking into selling more gluten-free products, like a gluten-free cookie mix,” she said. The next miller could come Klug’s family. Her three boys, who range in age from 6 to 12, all enjoy working in the mill. After their chores are finished, they often romp and play in the lush greens fields surrounding the seven-acre site. For now, Klug is happy to be part of a tradition that supports local farmers and offers the community a piece of history and great tasting cornmeal, grits, cookie and muffin mix.

Old Mill of Guilford 1340 NC 68 North Oak Ridge, NC 27310 336-643-4783

AmyKlug is the current owner of the old mill, which has been in continuousoperation almost 250 years. (photo by Keith T. Barber)