meet the producer: Geechie Boy Mills
Geechie Boy Mills is owned and operated by Greg and Betsy Johnsman. Located in the “lowcountry” of South Carolina in the town of Edisto, about 45 miles south of Charleston, the Johnsman’s operate a farm and on-site market. The farm is home to four working mills, including a 1847 mill, one of the earliest American-made mills. Every week the classic mills turn heirloom corn into grits, flour and cornmeal to be shipped throughout the US.
It all started first with Betsy’s father, Adair McKoy, who began farming at the age of 14 in Sumter, SC. He eventually moved to Wadmalaw Island, SC and went into the tomato business. As his farming operation grew, he acquired the land and a packing house on Edisto Island, the current home of Geechie Boy Mills. In 2003, Greg and Betsy began working on the Edisto Island farm that had been in Betsy’s family for three generations. The couple grew and sold tomatoes, strawberries, and specialty vegetables for their market, as well as specific varieties for select Charleston restaurants.
Four years after moving to the family farm, Greg sought out to fulfill his dream of milling grits and cornmeal and bought his first mill. The 1945 mill purchase came with the stipulation that it could not be sold again and that it would be on display for the public to see. The mill was dormant for many years, so it required repair before it was ready to use. Greg squeezed in time before and after tending to his crops to travel the state for parts and painstakingly repair the old piece of equipment. Once he had the mill running, Greg then began experimenting with various types of heirloom corn until he found a variety with a perfectly sweet and hearty flavor.
Milling is a true labor of love, and the task is made harder by the coastal humidity of the lowcountry region of South Carolina. Much of the milling process is dependent on using dry grain, and the damp air makes it challenging to create a consistent product. It's both an art and a science, which Greg loves to share with visitors who stop by the roadside market. We’re proud to sell such a high quality product. Look for the yellow grits and cornmeal on the shelves of the provisions store!