Bellegarde Blog: Building our Newest Stone Mill.

By Aimee Helms

In January, I was given the opportunity to assist in building a stone mill for our first retail bakery at New American Stone Mills in Elmore, Vermont (with owner Andrew Heyn, who also built our current mill we use in New Orleans). Bellegarde is quickly growing; adding a second mill to our new bakery in May will help increase production and allow us to provide our flour and bread to more customers across the US.

It was interesting and inspiring not only to work on the new mill, but to work alongside Andrew, learn from him and see the changes made in the design of his mills since our first mill was built.

Most of my time in Vermont was spent cutting the furrows - the circular line design that is on our bags, t-shirts and totes - into the 40-inch granite stones and then dressing the stones (making the smooth granite surface rough, like sandpaper). The pattern on our stones is called a quarter dress pattern, and the design is thousands of years old. Lucky for me, I had the aid of power tools to help my work! After drawing the pattern onto the stone’s surface, an angle grinder was used to cut in the main and sub furrows, or feathers. Then, an air hammer is used to hammer the stone, chipping away bits to make a rough surface. When the stones are together and the runner stone is in motion, these furrows create a scissoring action, cutting the grains open before sending them across the rough, flatter parts to be ground into flour. Even with power tools, it makes for tiring work, and I’m in awe of the millwrights who hauled and chiseled mill stones without the use of modern equipment.

After the stones were cut and dressed, I helped with assembling the stones, housing and milling the first grains (Vermont-grown) to be milled in the new mill.

During my trip, I was fortunate to spend some of my time at Elmore Mountain Bread, chatting with Blair Marvin, who owns the bakery with her husband, Andrew. Blair is an incredibly inspiring baker and has worked hard to develop relationships with the farmers she works with. She is now using all Vermont-grown grains in the breads she bakes! It seems everything in Vermont is grown by a farmer up the road, and Blair has brought that into her bakery, too.

It was a humbling experience meeting and connecting with bakers and millers like New American Stone Mills and Elmore Mountain Bread that share the same values that we do at Bellegarde. These businesses are great examples for us as we work to build a similar grain economy in the Gulf South. My deepest thanks to Andrew, Blair and Bellegarde for an amazing experience!

Bellegarde has plans to open its first retail bakery in late May in New Orleans. The bakery will be located on Apple Street, near the intersection of Carrollton and Claiborne Avenues.