By Kayla Bennett

As we look back on 2021 with a few of the members from ASFC’s Millers Peer Learning Group, we learned that many mills took steps towards expanding operations.

Aaron Grigsby, one of three partners at Deep Roots Milling, noted that “We were able to get running again in March and since then, we’ve just been kind of steadily growing. Every month is kind of bigger, more busy, more efficient – learning more about the process and how to manage our time and resources.”

At the same time, climate disruptions have taken a toll on mills and farms in the West.

At Capay Mills in Esparto, California, David Kaisel said that ongoing drought and high temperatures in 2021 affected his heirloom wheats and other crops. Kaisel pointed out that climate disruption exposed blind spots in the commodity system that drives the food industry. Like Grigsby, Kaisel has been able to emphasize local crops in his business and build support for regional food markets when the global supply chain failed.

Dillon Green of Shagbark Seed & Mill, a regional seed cleaning and milling business located in Athens, Ohio, said this year has been a lot more consistent than 2020, when the pandemic meant the loss of most of their restaurant and other food service customers.

Although 2021 posed many new challenges, Shagbark’s retail sales leveled out and food service accounts eventually came back.

“Our online sales are better than ever right now,” said Green. “I think people are actually thinking about supply chains now… and keeping things local is more meaningful than ever, because they’ve seen what it looks like when stores do run out of things.”

Capay Mills and Deep Roots Milling also experienced an increase in online sales this year. Looking forward to 2022, all three mills are planning to expand production capacity and farmer support.

Kaisel said Capay Mills is in the process of fundraising and obtaining investments for the production expansion. He’s also in discussion with a few national brands about being an ingredient supplier for their products.

“It’s a good problem when customer interest lets us know our facility is too small.” Green said. “2022 is about how do we do more and what do we need to do more?”