The Camas Country Mill Schoolhouse Project
Farm to School Outreach | Tours | Farm Dinners and Events | Retail Store
One hundred years ago, the landscape of the Willamette Valley was dotted with two rural fixtures now rare as hen's teeth; stone-burr flour mills for strong foodsheds, and one-room schoolhouses for educated farm kids. Swept away by the tides of a changing world, we believe both of these anchors of rural life are worth preserving, strengthening, and sharing with our community.
A third-generation family farm growing grains, lentils, and beans for our small-scale commercial mill, we're at the forefront of a national movement to revive local grain economies. Help us renovate the Lower Fern Ridge Schoolhouse to serve as a destination education and community center for our mill, on our farm, and be a part of preserving living history and strengthening our local food web!
Renovations & Rewards
- We are reaching in our own pockets to cover the cost of moving the schoolhouse to Hunton's Farm, and are asking for $30,000 to renovate the building and restore it as closely as possible to its original state. This means a solid foundation, new windows, repairing siding, re-constructing the bell tower (we tracked down the original bell halfway across the country!), and strengthening the structure for safety and accessibility.
- Our ambitious plans for the site around the schoolhouse include a commercial kitchen & retail baked goods, outdoor picnic areas, landscaping to include small grain test plots & a kitchen garden, and eventually.....the re-location of our entire milling and packaging operation on-farm! Any funds raised beyond our goal of $30,000 will go toward making this full-circle field to flour dream a reality on our farm.
- We want you to be a part of this project, start to finish and down the road! We're offering a whole passel of perks to thank you for your support; small tokens for our immense gratitude.
- Want to add your names to those of school kids from over 100 years ago? We can't let you carve in to the siding--but sponsor a brick, a window, furniture, or a test garden plot, and your name will be inscribed on this community asset for life!
- And of course, what kind of rewards would these be without a little "whole grain goodness"? Limited edition hand-crafted cookbooks, product discounts good at the market, mill, and on-farm store when it opens...
Why Farm to School and Farm to You Matters to Us
Camas Country Mill whole grain flour reaches the cafeterias of over 35,000 students in the Bethel, Bend-LaPine and North Santiam school districts each year, alongside 200,000 pounds of Lentil Barley Soup Mix, first developed as a complete protein soup base for Food For Lane County. Farm to School and community outreach are some of the most valuable facets of our mill. We currently offer guided tours once a week at our mill and seasonally at our farm, and have gotten wonderful feedback from students and teachers about the experience. The field to flour process is a revelation for students, as is loving the whole grain baked goods they sample. With a staff of three retired school teachers, we have an excellent crew for leading tours, and are so excited by the idea of having the Lower Fern Ridge School as our open house for tours and education.
Outreach doesn't stop after graduation, however. Talking to our customers and community at farmers markets, events, and conferences, folks often think about flour as a real food ingredient, rather than a factory product, for the very first time. It's important to know your farmers and food processors--particularly for staple foods! We want to share the deliciousness and tangible difference of freshly milled whole grain flours, and for such a unique product it's important to have face-to-face contact with those that grew and produced it. That's why we're incorporating our retail storefront in to the schoolhouse, so you can enjoy shopping on-farm and chatting with the folks who know our products from field to flour.
The Lower Fern Ridge Schoolhouse is a one-room school built prior to 1890, and is the last standing building from the town of Alvadore's heydey in the 1900s. It has the iconic architecture of a country schoolhouse from its bell tower to its abrupt, window-less front and interior wainscoting. We are lucky enough to still have the last remaining graduate of the Lower Fern Ridge School in our community--as a matter of fact, Lew Bailey has been our landlord for over 40 years--who has painted us a solid picture of what the interior and grounds of the school once looked like, from the pot-belly stove to the desks and recital bench. The names of school kids from over 100 years ago are still visible, scrawled in graphite under the former coat racks, and carved in to the backs and sides of the building. These are family names still alive in our community, and we're hoping to preserve as many signatures as possible throughout the restoration. You can explore our gallery for more photos, or see our Flickr series.
When Camas Country Mill opened its doors two years ago, we were the first stone grist mill of our kind in the Willamette Valley in over eighty years. With the help of local wholesale distributor Hummingbird Wholesale, we embarked on the ambitious project of growing our own bread wheat and ancient grains, and encouraging local and regional farmers to do the same. Slowly, acreage is changing in Oregon to reflect the burgeoning demand for locally grown and processed grains and legumes. Much of what we mill is grown on owners Tom and Sue Hunton's third-generation family farm, an enterprise with deep ties to the land and community of the Southern Willamette Valley for over fifty years. Artisan, farm-based flour is an anomaly in an industry saturated with factory flour and economies of massive scale; we want to share our field to flour project with everyone by opening up the doors of this schoolhouse on our farm, and allow folks the unique opportunity to see their ingredients grown and processed in person.
Beyond the Pocketbook
Can't contribute at this time? No worries; there are plenty of other ways to help us!
- Donate your time/skills/energy: landscaping, pruning in the orchard, painting the exterior & interior of the schoolhouse, re-creating the original interior etc. There are lots of little (and big) tasks at the site that will need work; think you have something to share? Let us know!
- Share the campaign! Blogs, email, facebook, twitter, word of mouth, carrier pigeon, telegram, whatever you use!