Grist Mill In Skowhegan Set To Open Saturday
It’s been more than 60 years since Somerset County has had an operating grist mill, but that’s about to change.The sound of grain being ground into flour is something that hasn’t been heard in Skowhegan since the 1950′s. That’s when Spaulding and Watson, a livestock feed mill, closed its doors. “The introduction of the railroad began to make it easier for large scale production in the midwest to bring grains here,” said Amber Lambke, one of the owners of the Somerset Grist Mill.More than three years ago, Lambke and her husband set out to bring the grain business back, a business that was once thriving. “Somerset County produced 239,000 bushels of wheat in the 1830′s, enough to feed over 100,000 people,” Lambke said.Saturday, the Lambkes’ vision will become reality when the Somerset Grist Mill holds its grand opening. It’s the coronation of a $1.5 million renovation that turned the old county jail into a fully functioning mill that will produce flour, wheat, oats and more.It’s a project that has put around 60 local contractors and sub-contractors to work. “Believe me in my wildest dreams, I never envisioned myself helping to convert a former jail into a grist mill, but here we are,” said Steve Dionne, owner of Dionne & Sons Builders who did a lot of the work on the facility.Slow Money Maine, a non-profit group focused on investing in farms and fisheries – and in the ecosystems that sustain them as a means of growing our local food systems, economies and communities statewide – is one of the principal investors in the project. “I look at the business plan and I look at the numbers, but what Amber is trying to do here is feed her community, improve the health of her community, support farmers and those are the goals and those are my goals with what we’re trying to do with the slow money movement,” said Eleanor Kinney, an investor with Slow Money Maine.A handful of other businesses will also be housed in the building and the Skowhegan Farmers Market is right in the parking lot. “We care a lot about food access in this movement and if you bring your food stamps to the farmers market they’re doubled in value for use here. And the low income use at the farmers market has gone way up,” Kinney said.The hope is that this project will be a much-needed boost for the entire area. “We’re excited that this project also brings a lot of attention to Skowhegan and brings visitors to Skowhegan who will shop in our other local businesses,” said Lambke.Saturday’s grand opening kicks off at 10:00 a.m. The celebration will coincide with the Skowhegan Farmersâ€™ Market and Pickup Cafe. Lambke will give tours of the mill and a local band will perform in the parking lot at the farmers market.