It would be hard to find people who love to talk about grits more than South Carolina millers. Shrimp and grits, a centerpiece of South Carolinian cuisine, can be found on restaurant menus and dining room tables year- round. In the Midlands, heirloom white and yellow corn, even hominy grits, are locally and sustainably milled by individuals and families, some have been milling for only a few years while others have performed their craft for the longest in South Carolina history. Names like Anson Mills, Palmetto Farms and Carolina Plantation are commonplace in culinary conversations nationwide; this national attention makes way for local grist mills to spotlight the history of grits in South Carolina.
The passion of grist milling lives on as these businesses improve upon tradition by connecting past and present to create a sustainable, healthy future for South Carolina grits. From these gristmills to your table, the rich history and importance placed on South Carolina milling continues to support multi-generational farmers and families alike.
Powered by the Boykin Mill Pond in Kershaw County, the family-owned Boykin Gristmill has been in production since 1905. Yellow corn is milled here by waterpower, 100-year-old turbines and one-ton millstones with notched surfaces. This old-fashioned process keeps Boykin’s whole grain grits cool enough to retain the essential oils for flavor and contain no preservatives.
“I know this probably sounds redundant, but grits are just a Southern tradition,” says Jenny Chavis, office manager at Boykin Mill Farm. And it’s not just the grits that are entrenched in southern tradition – the property they’re milled on is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as being of significant historical significance to Kershaw County, making Boykin Mill a commercial community site for milling grits and cornmeal as well as a local tourist attraction.
Allen Bros. Milling Co.
Adluh, produced by Allen Bros. Milling Company, is the state’s longest operating gristmill registered on the National Register of Historic Places. Adluh has been a part of the Columbia skyline for more than a century, housing its white and yellow stone-ground grits. Four generations after the mill’s founding, Doug Allen proudly represents his family’s brand as a national salesman of the Certified SC Grown product.
“Our motto is ‘same today, same always,’” says Allen who spoke of Adluh’s commitment to investing in the community and purchasing directly from South Carolina farmers. The goal, according to Allen, “is to be able to purchase it from them to help maintain their operations and to also be able to buy local to keep money in our city and in our state.” Adluh has been working with the same yellow corn farmer family for three generations, which is something Allen says is important to put farmers in a good position to grow every year.
Mark Keisler, local Lexington ophthalmologist, decided to purchase and revamp an old community mill in Gilbert to begin his personal milling story. He has milled virtually every type of corn including white, yellow and hybrid breeds. Keisler’s Mill specializes in heirloom corn products, including best-seller Lowman Yellow Grits.
“Everything I do is locally focused,” says Keisler. For Keisler, growing and grinding grits in his mill is important to minimizing his carbon footprint and upholding excellent quality. All of Keisler’s products are non-GMO and grown under the meticulous care of the Keisler family. For Keisler, farming has been in his family since the 1760s—he remembers picking out the corn he wanted to be milled as a child.
“The only time you would get off the farm was to go to the gristmill,” says Keisler. A recent restoration project in partnership with Clemson University rebooted growing and milling efforts to produce the popular Carolina Gourdseed white grits.
The Congaree Milling Company
Ken DuBard, owner of The Congaree Milling Company, is the only active manufacturer in the United States currently producing organic hominy grits through a traditional process of nixtamalization, unique to Native Americans.
“I just found it interesting,” says DuBard when asked how he came into milling unique and organic grits. DuBard wakes up around 4am most mornings to get to the Dano’s Pizza kitchen to begin his stone-burr milling process. Renting out the back of Dano’s has allowed his small business to grow and introduce more USDA-approved organic products, such as his yellow, white and blue grits into the Columbia community. His sustainable practices and membership in the South Carolina Specialty Foods Association helps his business connect and promote the local food movement.
Where to Find Local Milled Grits
Hampton Street Vineyard
Hunter- Gatherer Brewery and Ale House
Motor Supply Company Bistro
Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café
Tazza Kitchen Trenholm Plaza
The Oak Table
The Root Cellar
The War Mouth
14 Carrot Whole Foods
Boykin Mill Store
Capital Supply of Columbia
Caughman’s Meat Plant
Crave Artisan Specialty Market
Price’s Country Store
Rhoten’s Country Store