Castle Valley Mill: Visiting the 1700s in 2015

 10424343_10155332009215080_3548260401949345192_nAs many of you know, Nishon and I love to use locally sourced ingredients in our baked goods. I wanted the flour we use in our baked goods to be PA Preferred. I sat down and did a little bit of research and found an amazing discovery. I found a quaint, active grain mill run by a passionate, and dedicated family. I was intrigued to find that there was an active grain mill in Doylestown. Doylestown used to be the grain mill capital and the charming town had over three hundred grain mills. These old-era mills were many times powered by water. That’s why you see many flour mills neighboring fast moving rivers. The mill I found was Castle Valley Mill—the only active grain mill in the area that uses vintage mill parts and equipment. The mill is owned and operated by husband and wife Mark and Fran Fischer. I was thrilled to make my ride to Castle Valley Mill.

It was a cloudy, chilly morning. The drive to the mill was as beautiful as Castle Valley’s laboriously made flour. The trip had many farms with meticulously planned crops at the left and right hand of the uncurving road. It was an awe inspiring backdrop for a nearly three hundred year old mill. As I was nearing the property, I could see Neshaminy Creek trailing right by me. I took my final left turn and arrived at an unassuming property. The property had a house and another building resembling a mill. I saw Fran walking cheerfully to come greet me. She walked me several feet into the mill. As I entered the mill, I was greeted by Fran’s husband, Mark. Mark’s clothes had a flurry of flour stains—something the Wild Flour Bakery family truly knows about.

Mark gave me a tour of Castle Valley Mill. Mark was articulate and aptly knowledgeable about everything the mill has to offer and its potential. I was pleasantly impressed with all the detail Mark knew about the mill. He told me how his grandfather bought the property to restore it, but never had the chance to fully restore it. Mark bought the mill and decided to restore it. His engineering skills came in handy to replace and maintain many of the old-age parts and equipment. The mill has newer equipment that mills in the traditional millstone way. There are heavy millstones (pictured below) stacked. On the upper level of the mill, I saw various crucial parts packed on shelves. Finding a part seemed like finding a needle in a haystack. Mark quipped that every part that he needs is at the mill, but he just has to find it. Mark explained to me that our modern day flour is usually bleached because consumers prefer their flour white. The modern flour making process also dissipates crucial vitamins from the flour. Mark explains companies have to “enrich” their flour with vitamins and nutrients because of that reason. Castle Valley Mill’s non-GMO products is naturally colored and the vitamins and nutrients are never taken out. Mark and Fran showed me how the grains moves around the mill to become its final product. I felt the urge to buy all their products. I purchased stone ground spelt, stone ground rye, and “bloody butcher” cornmeal and grits. I believe our customers will truly appreciate that aspect.

Mark, an electrical engineer, and Fran, who studied commodities and securities, met at Lafayette College. Their combined expertise proves no surprise that they successfully restored and operated the Castle Valley Mill. I can truly appreciate that. Nishon’s well-crafted baking skills and my finance industry background helped to prepare us to start and operate our bakery for over 10 years. I am excited to try out the various flours I bought from Castle Valley Mill. Nishon is still deciding what to do with the bloody butcher grits and cornmeal (see the picture of the bloody butcher grits and cornmeal on the bottom). I will keep you all updated!

 

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