The corn is harvested late in the season and by hand to ensure quality control. It’s processed in the millhouse
The Barkley family grows Hickory King white heirloom corn on Southern Cross Farm in Barnardsville.
For the Barkleys, running the farm and making grits is a family affair, with all three of Jim Barkley’s daughters, their spouses, and children pitching in to help during the harvest. Left, farm manager Micah Stowe with his wife Auburn (one of Jim’s daughters) and their two children, Olivia (center left) and Barrett
Early attempts raising cattle and boer goats didn’t prove as fruitful as corn. This past year, the Barkleys grew 14 acres of the crop. The shelled kernels are stored in the millhouse, the door of which is aptly marked.
1. The harvest takes place in November. Each ear is picked by hand, shucked by a machine, and then sent to a crib, where it takes three to four months to dry out.
2. Family and farming friends work to sort the corn, tossing out any bad kernels.
3. An old-fashioned sheller is used to remove the kernels from the cob.
4. Kernels that have been separated from the cob are sent down a shoot through a seed cleaner. The discarded cobs are spread on the fields to help prevent soil erosion.
5. At almost every stage in the process, the corn is inspected for quality.
6. Buckets of cleaned kernels await milling, a process that usually happens in February when the weather is cold.
7. The corn is fed into a restored gristmill from 1919. The stones that grind the corn into grits are out of sight below.
8. A control mechanism regulates the rate of feed to the grinding stones.
9. A temperature gauge helps ensure that the grits coming off the gristmill are between 80°F and 90°F, which is ideal for the best flavor.
10. The coarse-ground grits are packaged and stored in a freezer within two hours of coming off the mill.
VanKeuen Stable is where the corn is stored to dry, then shelled and cleaned
Corn comes out the chute and into a truck before being transported to the millhouse, which is powered the old-timey way by a waterwheel
Allison Barkley helps with the farming and handles the marketing for Barkley’s Mill Grits.
In its second year of production, the finished product is already making its way across the country.