The Delaware Valley Fields Foundation, a Bucks County agricultural non-profit, is taking another step toward unlocking the economic potential of heritage grains for Pennsylvania farmers. On October 4, 2020, historic grain met historic mill in Bucks County when the historic Thompson-Neely Grist Mill in Washington Crossing Park milled over 1,000 lbs. of Keystone Rosen Rye grain. Keystone Rosen Rye is a unique rye grain varietal prized for its flavor that has not been grown in the US in over 50 years.
Bringing back a long-lost grain does not happen overnight. Starting with just 5 oz of seed 6 years ago, The Delaware Valley Fields Foundation (DVFF) is proud to announce that 18 bushels of their Keystone Rosen rye were ground into rye meal by the antique millstones at Thompson-Neely restored grist mill in Washington Crossing’s Park on October 4, 2020.
The DVFF and their partners have been propagating Keystone Rosen Rye, a heritage varietal of rye grain once prized for its flavor, for the last 6 years.
This grain fell out of favor after Prohibition but looks to have a renewed future with the re-introduction of distilling in Pennsylvania. Getting long-lost grains back into production is not an easy task. The SeedSpark Project is a collaborative effort involving farmers, PA universities, and members of Pennsylvania’s grain supply chain led by the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation. Read more about it here.
When the SeedSpark Project’s began in 2015, only a handful of seeds from the USDA seedbank were available. By September 2020, over 6,000 lbs. of Keystone Rosen rye seeds were harvested across the state of Pennsylvania! Bringing the seeds to market begins in earnest as two more distilleries and a brewery join Stoll and Wolfe Distillery in utilizing Keystone Rosen Rye this year.
However, before grain can be made into beer or whiskey, it must be milled. Emerging from a long retirement earlier this month, the huge, historic millstones at the heart of Thompson-Neely’s water-wheel-driven grist mill ground the grain – once again fulfilling its role as an important part of Pennsylvania’s grain supply chain.
Historic Grain Meets Historic Mill
The historic Thompson-Neely Grist Mill is the perfect location to grind this long-lost grain. Pennsylvania was once the breadbasket of America with deep ties to rye grain. The Thompson-Neely Grist Mill is being restored to all its 1820s glory. Reopened to the pubic in March 2019, the grist mill wheels are ready to turn again just as they did 200 years ago.
Bucks County’s Glenn Blakely, champion of the Thompson-Neely Grist mill restoration project, has been the lead miller guiding this historic process. During the revolutionary war, the Thompson-Neely Grist mill provided aid to General Washington. On October 4, 2020, a miller from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Grist Mill in Virginia was on hand to aid in the milling process at the Thompson-Neely Grist mill.
The SeedSpark Project
The groundbreaking Seed Spark Project brings together local farmers, academic research institutions, and commercial industry experts to help build profitable markets for regional agricultural businesses. One promising new market for farmers is the Pennsylvania distilling industry. There are over 135 distilleries in Pennsylvania today, and many are searching for local grain sources. The DVFF helps distilleries and farmers connect and better understand each other’s perspectives. Stoll and Wolfe Distillery in Lititz, Pennsylvania will be the recipient of the donated 1,000 lbs. of ground rye from Thompson Neely’s mill. This is their second year receiving Keystone Rosen Rye from the DVFF and the SeedSpark Project will continue to work with them and their local farmer to benefit the economic interests of both parties.
About Delaware Valley Fields Foundation
The Delaware Valley Fields Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes local farming and its history. The organization works with farmers and other non-profits to bring attention to the vital role small farming plays in communities. Members educate the public through events, including the American Whiskey Convention. To learn more, visit delvalfieldsfoundation.org. The foundation also had a huge role in helping historic grain met historic mill in Bucks County.