We craft flour from the best grain that New York State can grow.

Farmer Ground Flour is a team of conscientious friends working together to provide our community with fresh, organic, local, stoneground flour. We are committed to leading the growth of a sustainable grain economy. To this end, we farm, mill, teach and listen—bringing together the ancient triumvirate of farmer, miller and baker.

In the early nineteenth century, the Hudson Valley was the breadbasket of New York City; the Genesee Valley of western New York was the center of wheat production in the Northeast. Farmer Ground Flour rose from that history—from our desire to once again grow grain for the local flour mill. Two farmers, Thor Oechsner and the late Erick Smith, inspired our humble beginning. In 2007, Thor bought our first Meadows stone mill. As the mill collected dust in his barn, Greg Russo was working on a grain farm just on the other side of the county. When Thor approached Greg about a bootstrap mill, Greg put his nose to the grindstone. In 2009, he milled 50 tons of flour in the backyard of Regional Access. Greg spent that first year transporting grain in his undersized truck, carrying sacks of grain up ladders, filling hoppers by hand and sleeping on pallets.

In the early days of Greg’s learning curve, Farmer Ground became a cooperative enterprise. Late in 2010, Neal Johnston, a professional electrician, joined forces with Greg and Thor. Neal and his mechanical affinities were soon realized as an asset to the mill’s expansion, and he became Farmer Ground’s third business partner. By 2012, the mill was ready to build a legit facility, and Benji Knorr jumped on board as an essential teammate in day-to-day milling operations and infrastructural improvements. In 2014, Ben King (a true godsend) joined the team, and we built the “West Wing” and cleaning deck additions. In 2015, we milled nearly 330 tons of grain.

In the commercial milling world, we are considered a “micro-mill.” Milling is a highly consolidated industry and the largest corporate mills produce more in one week than we do in one year. And we like it that way. We know our grain farmers. We see our beautiful grain in the fields near the mill. We smell our fresh flour and love how it covers our Carhartts. We continue to hone our science of milling.

Oechsner Farms is a certified organic grain farm in Newfield, New York, and an established leader in the organic grain movement in the Northeast. We farm 1,200 acres of corn, spring wheat, winter wheat, buckwheat, rye, clover, hay and cover crops throughout Tompkins County. Soil health is our top priority. We work to reduce the environmental impacts of grain farming with dynamic cropping systems.


Thor Oechsner

Thor Oechsner grew up in the suburbs of New York City. Through summer trips to his uncle’s dairy farm in Pennsylvania, he became completely fascinated with agriculture. Eventually, he plowed his parents’ lawn and planted corn. Since he wasn’t born into farming, Thor built his farm bit by bit, scouting for abandoned fields to rent and restore to cropping. In 1991, Thor purchased his 15-acre home farm. In 1998, he started Oechsner Farms on 44 acres of rented ground. As Thor gained experience and equipment, he steadily added acreage until he could support himself exclusively by farming. In the meantime, he ran a Volkswagen shop and taught diesel mechanics at BOCES. By 2005, he had 400 acres in production, primarily for the organic dairy feed industry. Today, Oechsner Farms manages 1,200 acres, primarily for organic food-grade and craft beverage markets.

Thor, the grandson of a German born pastry chef, is one of Farmer Ground Flour’s three business partners.


Dan Gladstone

Dan Gladstone, Production Manager at Oechsner Farms, is another New York native who grew up near Canandaigua. After raising a few replacement heifers as 4-H projects, Dan worked on several conventional dairies through high school and college. Other than a brief moonlight as a welder, he has been wrenching on and operating farm equipment for the last 12 years. He started at Thor's farm in 2010, working part time while wrapping up his senior year of Ag Science at Cornell. Dan has become a vital part of the team, and key to keeping the farm growing and grain flowing. In 2012, he started his own certified organic operation and farms 50 rented acres in Enfield. In his spare time, he dotes over a pair of milk goats and defends his title as world's worst fly fisherman.                                          


Associate Farms

Oechsner Farms grows the majority of Farmer Ground Flour’s grain supply. Additionally, we are thankful to work with the following farmers in New York State:

Dan Gladstone, DG Farms, Enfield

Bob Munson, Running Creek Farms, Groton

Rodney Graham, Oxbow Farm, Hunt

Dan Conable, Eagle Bay

Dan Palladino, Palladino Farms, Jamesville

Larry Moore, Lansing

Peter and Hanna Martens' Farm, Penn Yan

Andrew Dygert, Trumansburg

John Myer, Myer Farm, Ovid


Our system consists of several stone mills running in sequence, which is designed to gradually and gently reduce the kernels into flour. Meadows Mills in North Carolina cut the 20-inch and 30-inch granite stones. The vertical stones run at relatively slow rpms, dividing the workload between different machines to reduce heat and physical pressure.

We farm and mill in New York State—not the arid west or vast fields of the former tall-grass prairie. Because of our climate and relatively small farms, producing organic grain of milling quality is a challenge. Similar to farmers markets, mills can be levers in building a regional food system. We are motivated to help New York State farmers step out of the volatile commodity market by building long-term relationships, and providing a stable price and consistent market. 


Greg Russo

After growing up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., Greg Russo began his college career in Maryland studying religion and philosophy. On the recommendation of a friend, he spent a summer working at Wheatland Vegetable Farms in Virginia. That summer sparked a love of agriculture and an interest in local food systems, which turned into many years working on organic vegetable and grain farms throughout the Northeast. After a brief detour to finish his degree in Agricultural Economics at Cornell University, he was psyched to connect many of the dots by starting up Farmer Ground Flour. Greg might be responsible for a few Rube Goldberg style contraptions at the mill and can always be counted on to have permanent marker notes decorating his right hand.


Neal Johnston

A west coast native, Neal Johnston was raised on organic food from the local co-op. Some of Neal’s fondest childhood memories are of helping out at his grandfather's peach farm in California. Through the many twists of Neal's dynamic life, who would have guessed that he'd find himself creating beautiful, artisan flour in the Finger Lakes of New York? Among other fine virtues, Neal is our resident electrician, safety officer and witty storyteller whose laugh cannot be mistaken for another’s.

Part of what has tied Neal to FGF is the opportunity to put his labor where his heart and mind reside: in local, organic food; in endlessly trying to figure out how to make things work.


Benji Knorr

Coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Allison Usavage
By Allison Usavage
By Allison Usavage
By Allison Usavage

Photography by Allison Usavage

About the bakery ... coming soon.

Stefan Senders

Coming soon.