Jill’s road to becoming the Senior Mill Manager and Head Miller may have begun during her high school year in Luxembourg, and her college years in France, when she tasted fresh breads made from freshly stone-ground grains for the first time. And she never forgot them.
So when her neighbor Harold Wilken asked if she’d like to be the miller at Janie’s Mill—a year before it even existed—she jumped on board! Today she oversees all of the Mill’s day-to-day operations — from keeping a close eye on the temperature of the millstones, to monitoring quality of grains and milled products, to developing new products, to working with bakers and wholesale customers.
Cecilia was raised on a beach in New Zealand and has lived in Central Illinois for ten years now. She was looking for an organic grower to farm her husband’s family land just down the road from the mill, and within three weeks Janie's Farm was farming the land, and Cecilia became the retail manager at Janie's Mill. She oversees all retail orders, blogs at #justjanies, and manages the tracing of local grains from the farm to the flour mill. Cecilia keeps the mill employees (and bosses) happy by baking delicious sourdough bread several times a week, and you can chat with her anytime on #justjanies or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janie's Mill Part 2: Meanwhile a Dream is Taking Shape at the Little Mill That Can
"It's a big circle with the mill as a pivot, the center of our wheel--by making a strong mill with a good base, all these other things can happen"--Jill Brockman-Cummings and Cecilia Gunther
We're talking about catalyzing a farm to food system vision for regenerating community health, wealth, resilience and well-being.
In this interview, recorded prior to the onset of the pandemic, I'm visiting with the lead staff at Janie's Mill--Head Miller Jill Brockman-Cummings and Retail Manager and Manager of Food Safety Cecilia Gunther--about their collective vision of the mill and the impacts they see it having on their community and the broader farming and local food system. And as we heard from mill owner Harold Wilken in Part 1 of the story of Janie's Mill, the business has now made a dramatic pivot toward its direct to consumer business in order to meet demand for flour that is in short supply.
In Part 2 of the story of Janie's Mill, Jill and Cecilia talk about how their collective vision supports the mill, giving us insight into how the operation has been able to quickly pivot to meet growing retail customer demand.
This team of committed powerful visionary women explain that their aim is to serve their community and its future generations not only by providing a superior nutritious product but by first building the health of the soil--which they view as the source of all sustenance for collective health and well-being--with healthy farming practices. From how the grains are grown to their emphasis on wasting nothing created by the mill, ensures their high quality products not only keep the soil and environment healthy, feeding people nutritious foods, but also return the benefits full circle directly to the soil as milling byproducts become food for Cecilia's very happy pigs!
The two share their perspective and experience of how the mill is creating a conversation about the nutrition, health and ecological benefits of baking with fresh organic whole grain flours that is having larger ripple effects out into their community and into the greater world.
Jill and Cecilia together run a really tight ship. Ultimately, Cecilia emphasizes, to succeed the business must be profitable and so being exacting in the processing and food safety procedures is critical to ensuring they can stand behind every bag of flour they sell.
Together they share their dream for how they hope to engage people through baking to build a community with local food at the center.
Please enjoy my conversation with Jill and Cecilia to learn how we can catalyze and support a regenerative farming and food system that works for everyone.
Don't forget, I’ve created a special Our Food Is Our Future Facebook Group where you can join the conversation and share your reflections, questions and ideas about creating a healthier farming and food system.
Here's to a healthier farming and food system for us all,