When chef Dan Barber's favorite organic farmers, Mary-Howell and Klass Martens, two heroes in his book, The Third Plate, raise a crop, that's just the beginning. "All these little farms can grow," says Mary-Howell, "but oftentimes the real challenge is not that you can grow something, but what you do with it after harvest." The Howells process their own grain for animal feed. But if they want to get want to get their grains to the people who can bake them into delicious bread, there's a piece of the puzzle that they need help with: the milling. From the tiny Grist and Toll in downtown Pasadena to the sprawling Champlain Valley Milling in New York's Finger Lakes region, the new—and sometimes age-old and revived—locavore mills are at the center of our newfound fascination with grains. Most of them use ancient stone-wheel technology, grinding whole grains into wholesome and intensely flavorful flours containing all the nutritious and tasty oils in the grain's germ. Some of them sift those whole flours afterwards, creating finer grades that are great for pastry and pizza. A few of the bigger players also employ more-modern technology, like roller mills, which smash and separate the parts of the grain, but they process their flours slowly and carefully, making artisan products that professional bakers love. All of these mills are what Mary-Howell calls "developing hubs," helping to create vibrant local and regional food communities of farmers, as well as the bakers, cooks, and consumers for whom these freshly milled products are a revelation. "The chance to experience this is important," says Mary-Howell. "You taste it and see the flavors are far, far beyond" that of conventional flour. How do you find the mills that sell retail, along with their products? Just follow the map.—Betsy Andrews

Food & Wine

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