Taste a bit of South Carolina's history. And like fine wine, it takes time to perfect.
The Stauffer family grows non-GMO heirloom varieties of corn on their 18th century plantation in Pauline, South Carolina.
Exclusive Photography: FishEye Studios, Greenville, SC
Colonial Milling harvests, hand selects, and mills small batches on site with a pink granite stone; A white variety; Hawkins Prolific, and a yellow; Hickory King. The results are some of the best grits and cornmeal you’ve ever eaten. With this superior product, you can feel good about feeding your family. “It has to be the best,” says Jon, “I wouldn’t do it any other way.”
Jon learned everything he could about how to grow heirloom corn after a visit to one of the few living heirloom corn farmers in Hendersonville, NC. "The seed is hundreds of years old and has been traced back to the Native Americans in Georgia. Hawkins Prolific is named after a revolutionary war veteran that was given the seed by the Native Americans” explains Jon.
“In each ear of corn, each silk (hair) goes to a kennel. Each silk gets pollinated so you can see when some of the kennels do not get pollinated. This summer there was extreme heat when pollination took place. When this happens, we get to wait until next year to try again.”
Cover crops are an important staple of land stewardship, especially when striving to keep the soil organic as possible. These crops nurture different types of nutrients back to the soil. An example is Buckwheat. Buckwheat adds and brings up phosphorus from the subsoil so that Jon doesn’t have to add synthetic phosphorus. Certain beneficial ‘weeds’ can act as conditioners and protect soil from drying out in the summer heat.
“When I started this 3 years ago I had no earthworms.” Jon explains, at one time “the land was unbelievably fertile, but it hadn’t been tended to in 80-100 years, so now 3 years later with just doing a little research and work, we have worms all over now.”
The Stauffers have selected seeds that have been proven for the Southeast’s soil type and climate. After growing and collecting the seed over the years, only the best will be replanted. When Jon first started, the ears were set at 9-14 feet tall. Hand picking corn that's 9 ft. high is not easy, so Jon began selecting ears at chest height, which he collects and uses to give his corn the traits he is looking for. This year, Jon is seeing success with ears set at his desired picking height. The feeling is “…awesome. That’s the part that keeps your motivated.”
In the 1760’s the King of England granted the plantation to the Smith Family, who served as a Captain in the Revolution War. Fast forward to the early 1990’s, where the home was updated with modern day plumbing and wiring. Today it’s the proud home of Jon, Michelle, Grant and the loving dog, Lucas.
Jon explains “We put it in a glass jar so you can see what you’re going to eat.” "When it’s something as simple as a grit you should be able to see it and it should be the best grit you’ve ever had,” Michelle adds.
Catch the Stauffers of Colonial Milling at the Greenville’s TD Saturday Market from 8am to Noon for a sample of their fantastic cornbread and stone ground grits. If they're not there, please reach out to them with the contact information above.