It’s a tale as old as time. An unlikely duo teaming up to save the day and teach us all a valuable lesson. Our hero’s: Tom Hunton and Charlie Tilt, owners of Hunton’s Farm and Hummingbird Wholesale respectively. One a grower of grain, one a distributor. Both located here in the scenic Willamette Valley. So what is it that brings these two businessmen together?
To answer this we must start at the beginning and ask another question. How do those hard little kernels of grain turn up on your plate in the form of cereal and bread? It is through the magic of milling! And now, thanks to these two enterprising daredevils, for the first time in over 80 years, the Willamette Valley boasts its very own stone flour mill.
Years ago, these types of grist mills were common along many of the waterways of the Willamette Valley. As grain farmers turned to grass seed production, and a preference for white bread developed among their consumers, many of these mills were forced to close. Where there is no grain being grown, there is no need for a flour mill. And so it went for a long time.
As the economy began to change and the price of grass seed changed with it, the Hunton’s realized the need to re-strategize. Enter Charlie and Julie Tilt and their business Hummingbird Wholesale. If the Hunton’s were going to grow grains (and beans, as it turns out), it would only make good economic sense to mill them locally as well. Hauling a commodity hundreds of miles to be milled and processed and then shipping it back is not only increasing the carbon footprint of a product, but also unnecessarily increasing the cost.
And so, with their forces combined, (and some help from eDev and the City of Eugene), they built a mill. As with any construction project, things got complicated, but they persevered. Working with an eye towards the future they created a mission statement and a set of goals to support continued viability, provide resources to farmers in the valley, implement innovative practices, and foster an environment of optimism and collaboration.
As individuals, when we choose to support these products and businesses, we can have far-reaching effects on our local and subsequently global economies, standards of health and living, and what society holds as important. We can all be heroes!