Will Brockenbrough

Will Brockenbrough

Having taken over a nearly 225 year old mill and brining it back to life, Will + the Woodson's Mill team are producing regional products from ancient grains, just like they did in the nineteenth century. 

When did you start Woodson's Mill:

Believe it or not, that is a tricky question.  Woodson’s Mill has been owned and loved by a small handful of families since its construction in 1794, when Guilford Campbell built the original four-story building. Those families were passionate about Woodson’s Mill, and so are we.  We opened it in the summer of 2012, after it had been closed about ten years. 

 

What Inspired You To Start Your Company? 

The idea that we could do something really simply and really well, that we could deliver a product everyone could use in a way that would be good for them and good for this place really compelled us.  Thanks to water from the Piney River and the original Mill structure, we had the opportunity to do something most grist mills aren’t doing any more, that is, to grind locally grown grains in small batches in a traditional way with truly minimal impact.  It still really excites us.

 

Tell Us About Your Products.

Our products are virtually identical to the grits, flours, and meals that were produced a more than a century ago, and they taste great.  We source old-variety grains from local farmers we know.  Our corn, wheat, and buckwheat are ground on hand-dressed millstones that have been in place since the nineteenth century.  All our work is powered by a river that runs past the Mill, which is almost 225 years old. 

 

What Does Being A Small-Batch “Artisan” Mean To You?

It means that we are stewards of an entire process, not just a product.  We work hard, and we love what we do and what we produce.

 

What is your favorite small-batch treat? 

Our friend, Heather Coiner, at Little Hat Creek Farm bakes the most amazing bread from our milled grains.    

 

What Drew You To Food?

My family has been in the food business for generations – four probably – it is central to our home and our relationships.  I can’t imagine another way of living.

 

Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?

Day to day.  We think a lot about how to live with food, not just how to make it.  

 

What Products Are You Working On Now?

The perfect all-purpose flour…we just finished a batch made from an old variety of red winter wheat grown to organic standards by a Mennonite family in the Shenandoah Valley.  It’s really beautiful.  We are also working with all of our growers to increase our supply of heirloom corn varieties.  

 

Do You Have a Favorite Product? 

I love our three-grain pancake mix.  My wife is from Georgia; she says the grits are the best.

 

Latest Ingredient Obsession?

Corn flour

 

What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?

Tacos with pork from our friends down the road at Double H Farm and homemade corn flour tortillas (see above re: ingredient obsession).

 

What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product? 

My first ever cookbook was American Cookery…My father knew James Beard in the food world said he was the best sort of character.    He was also a phenomenal baker, and I think he would have appreciated our return to older varieties of milled grains.  

 

What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business?

What Advice Would You Give other artisans?  Quit your day job.  

 

What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?

We are fortunate to live in an area where there is a lot of momentum for the local food movement.  We are part of a community of growers, producers, and chefs who giving everything they have to making a name for mid-Atlantic cuisine.   We have the deepest respect for all of them and a sense of incredible gratitude for what they do.  It would be impossible to choose one or two.

 

If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?

Raw oysters and fried soft-shell crabs – both Virginia delicacies.

 

Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience? 

Live sushi, Tokyo.  

 

What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen? 

The farm keeps me pretty busy.  Every now and then, I get out to fly-fish. 

 

What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?

Van Morrison

 

What is your favorite recipe to make with the product featured in our basket?

Well, its been done before, but we love Shrimp and Woodson’s Mill Grits.  Use the leftovers in the morning for a grits bowl with sausage or bacon and a perfect fried egg.  You can’t beat it.

Find Woodson's Mill Grits in The Box from Chef Jason Alley