If you are one of the many people who now bake bread, you are relying on a talented miller to produce the quality flour you enjoy using! Over the last few years many thousands of people have ‘found’ bread making and many of you use stoneground flour from traditional mills. Imagine if those millers who produced your flour retired?
This page tells you why you should support our scheme to create the first national training scheme for traditional stonground millers in the UK to safeguard the pipeline of talented millers into the future.
As a baker, you will know the importance of good quality stoneground flour. You’ve probably noticed the difference in the taste of bread made with stoneground flour as opposed to roller milled flour. You will have used flours that just don’t seem to work – which don’t enable you to get a good proving of your dough or oven-spring, you will have also worked with fantastic flours which a fine in consistency, give you a shiny dough, good elasticity and a great crumb!
As a baker, the secret of your success is partly in your technique, but equally in the hands of the miller who crafts the flours you work with.
I’m Jon Cook, one of the Directors leading the Sutton Mill project, I’m a miller and an amateur baker and if you’ll allow me, I’d like to tell you my story to explain why it is so important that we, in partnership with the Traditional Cornmillers Guild set up this scheme to train traditional millers.
I had the good fortune to be able to purchase Fosters Mill, Swaffham Prior over 20 years ago. When I began, I had very limited experience milling, I knew virtually nothing about baking; I truly had my “L Plates” on!
I had the good fortune to work with James Waterfield and Chris Wilson, both highly experienced millers who taught me how to mill. I then worked with other millers who are part of the Traditional Cornmillers Guild learning how to mill both with windmills and watermills.
After a few years of milling, I realised I needed to understand how bakers used my flour, so I learnt to bake with artisan bakers including Carl Shavitz and Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. I’m now an addicted sourdough baker and have learned a great deal about how bakers use my flour. The result is my range of flours – The Prior’s Flour.
I now pass that knowledge on to new trainee millers on one day courses.
Why do we need a training scheme?
The reality is, however, that to train millers to run wind and watermills to produce great quality products in safety takes many hours of training and practice:
- Wind and watermills are large industrial buildings with machinery, they present significant safety risks.
- Flour is a food product and as such the production of flour is subject to numerous regulations
- Millers need to be able to maintain the equipment they use
- Millers need to understand the product they produce in order to select appropriate grains, to mill a quality product
- Millers need the skills to operate horizontal millstones in a range of settings, not just one mill.
In the Netherlands, to operate a traditional mill, you first train to be a Volunteer Miller which takes an exam and hours of work at different mills which are accredited, or signed off. Then you can start and stop the mill! Then you learn to become a Professional Miller with further exams and accredited hours working at different mills. In this way, they train qualified millers who can run mills safely and produce a great product.
By creating the National Milling & Millwrighting Academy, we will be to create a similar scheme, where:
- Trainee millers can come on residential courses to Sutton Mill
- Learn and practice their milling skills under the supervision of Master Millers
- Receive classroom training on safety, food hygiene, trading standards and environmental health issues
- Learn how flour is used with our in-house artisan baker
- Work with other mills in the area to learn to mill using water power as well as wind power
In this way, we can pass our knowledge on to new generations of traditional millers and lastly and equally importantly, we can offer people a career in traditional milling – a real future.
The future is bright for traditional stoneground milling today – more and more people are finding the benefits of local stoneground flour, whether milled in windmills and watermills or on-farm. We can take advantage of the renaissance in artisan baking and traditional bakery methods and create fantastic jobs for millers!