For three years, Nathanael Gonzales-Siemens drove up California's coast for 14 hours every month for a routine task: milling his grain into flour. "I was literally not able to find a flour mill at my scale, and we're not tiny," he said. "We've got 150 acres of grain." He found this disconcerting, not only for himself but the future of small-scale grain farming in California, once known for its golden hills of grain.
As California has lost much of its grain to higher value crops, small flour mills and grain cleaning businesses have disappeared, too. It's a symptom of what Gonzales-Siemens sees as a larger problem facing many farmers, awash in a marketplace dominated by highly concentrated operations as regional farm infrastructure atrophies.