See Fran and Mark Fischer and Castle Valley Mill on WHHY's Friday Arts show here!
Fran and Mark Fischer were not aware of the part they would play in the local farm-to-table movement when they decided to resurrect an old mill on their property and grind their own grains for personal use and to sell at area farm markets. However, when Castle Valley Mill products reached the informed taste buds of chefs and bakers in eastern Pennsylvania and beyond, their craft business quickly went into full production mode.
“We moved forward simply because our products tasted good and were healthier,” says Fran, who is responsible for management, marketing and order fulfillment. “Now we have four distributors and are shipping product out by the ton.”
Indeed, in just five short years, Castle Valley Mill products have found a home in prominent restaurants and bakeries throughout the northeast, including Vetri Ristorante and High Street Bakery in Philadelphia, the Iron Gate in Washington DC, the Facebook corporate dining room in New York City, Bayou in Allentown and Grain in Bethlehem as well as locally in Genevieve’s Kitchen in Doylestown and Earl’s in Peddler’s Village. The Castle Valley Mill visitor’s log proudly displays the names of chefs and bakers who have toured the mill, including renowned chef, Mark Vetri. In addition, the Doylestown Food Market is one of just two retail stores that buys directly from Castle Valley Mill.
Castle Valley Mill produces all natural stone ground soft and hard wheat, yellow and red grits and polenta, and rye, emmer and spelt flours or berries, all of which you will find stocked at the Doylestown Food Market. All of their wheat and corn is sourced from local growers within a hundred and fifty mile radius. The grains go through a triple cleaning process to ensure the purity and integrity of the final product and no preservatives are used, except refrigeration.
Fran explains that there are 33 vitamins and minerals in wheat and commercial processing strips out a lot of the inherent nutrition and taste and can contribute to gluten sensitivity. “Stone grinding is a slower and cooler process in which all of the components of the seed are maintained,” she says.
The circa 1730 mill is situated on 20 acres along the Neshaminy Creek in Doylestown. The land was purchased in 1947 by Henry Fischer, Mark’s grandfather, and later sold to Mark and Fran. Although Henry never went into the milling business, he did salvage equipment from the existing mill on his property as well as from many of the surrounding mills that were shutting down at the time
Today, the three-story mill houses an elaborate and ingeniously orchestrated system of highways and byways designed by Mark, an electrical engineer, and his son Curran, both certified millers. The system is so efficient, that it takes only two people to run the operation. Grains delivered from local farms are mechanically transported from two towering silos named Wallace and Grommet into the mill to be cleaned, sorted, and stone ground using the original machines and antique buhr millstones, brought back to life by the Fischers.
Currently, all of the waste products from the grains are recycled into pellets that can be burned to heat the mill and occasionally the Fischer’s residence. Restoration of the millrace also is underway with plans to operate the mill using water power.
Looking ahead, Fran says that Castle Valley Mill has the capability to double its production and move into new markets. This includes working with craft distilleries including Hewn Spirits in Peddler’s Village.
For more information about Castle Valley Mil please visit their website, http://www.castlevalleymill.com and also their Facebook page. In addition, stay tuned for WHYY-TV’s Friday Arts “Art of Food” segment which will feature Castle Valley Mill in their upcoming broadcast scheduled for November 4, 5, and 6 (Friday at 8:30 pm, Saturday at 10:30 pm, and Sunday at 11:30 am.)
As our Producer of the Month, all co-op shoppers receive 20% off their Castle Valley Mill purchases through November. This is a perfect time before the Thanksgiving holiday to stock up and use their products for your holiday meals. In addition, shoppers will have two opportunities to meet Fran as she will be sampling her amazing cornbread as well as showing off a variety of grains and their various grinds during two in-store demos, scheduled just as baking season comes into full swing: Saturday from 10 am – 12 noon on November 12 and 19.
--- By Elieen Seiler