Farmer of the Month is a Farm to School program that applauds local Northeast Georgia growers who are producing fresh nutritious food for students. Farm to School is a nationwide movement that connects school cafeterias to local food sources to improve student nutrition and agriculture educational opportunities.
This month, Linda Johnson, miller of Sylvan Falls Mill, is Farmer of the Month for Habersham County. The historic Sylvan Falls Mill is located in the scenic mountains of Rabun Gap in Rabun County. The mill is unique among other gristmills in that it is located below a 100-foot cascading waterfall, and the mill is powered by a 27-foot water wheel, which is one of the largest in the United States.
Wilbanks Middle School Farm to School student ambassadors had the opportunity to visit the mill last spring and watch Linda slowly grind fresh flour and grits from the historic water-powered mill. The students also enjoyed a tasting of the mill’s cornbread. Linda is working with Wilbanks’ cafeteria staff on recipes using her cornmeal and whole-wheat products that the school is purchasing. “Our flours are ground from regionally grown organic grains. Great for all baking needs” says Linda.
“We became millers when the bed and breakfast we purchased came with a mill” reflects Linda. Mike and Linda Johnson have operated the Sylvan Falls Mill Bed & Breakfast since 2001 and have enjoyed sharing the natural beauty of the property with guests from all over the world. Delightful breakfasts are served on the screen porch overlooking the falls and feature organic, local and seasonal fare. “When the mill is operating it always draws a crowd. Local farmers call in advance to schedule a day to drop off their grain, we then grind it as they specify (grits, cracked, meal, flour) and bag it for them and then call them for pick up. If it is a small amount they often wait, and we shoot the breeze,” explains Linda.
Linda and Mike both grew up in rural areas and knew where their food came from. Linda is excited about her part in the Farm to School program. She says, “With all the changes that have occurred in our world, it is important to us to pay forward the knowledge of how food comes to our table to the next generation.”
The local community can purchase Sylvan Falls Mill products from several locations: at the mill or from the Sylvan Falls Mill website; from Roomful of Nuts in Franklin, NC; at Osage Farm market in Rabun Gap, GA; from Holland Produce in Clarkesville; and at the Main Street Farmers Market on Friday afternoons in downtown Clayton. “Our mill is open to the public, but we do suggest you call in advance to make sure we are not in town running errands or hosting a special event. Also please call if you are a group of over six people so we can better accommodate you” says Linda.
The Habersham County School’s Farm to School project will be a model for the rest of the state on how to incorporate food and nutrition education into the classroom, integrate gardens in the school environment, and bring local food into the cafeteria while working in partnership with the community and local farms.
Sylvan Falls Mill is located at 156 Taylors Chapel Road in Rabun Gap. To learn more about the mill visit http://www.sylvanfallsmill.com. The Habersham Farm to school program is sponsored by Georgia Organics and Northeast Georgia Food Bank. To gain additional information about Habersham County School’s Farm to School program, contact Habersham’s nutrition director Andrea Thomas , firstname.lastname@example.org