LEGACIES OF OUR LAND 2016
A monthly supplement to The Delmarva Farmer
Corn meal, pipes: One venture leads to another
PAINTER, Va. — It was the start of one business venture on Pungo Creek Farm that led to the discovery of centuries-old artifacts and that discovery led yet to another business venture for the Bill and Bob Savage.
Bill Savage started Pungo Creek Mills after he first planted Indian corn in 2007 with plans to sell wreaths and fall decorations.
“You couldn’t give them away,” he said looking back. But noticing the corn’s sweet aroma, he ground some into meal to make cornbread.
“It was some of the best cornbread we’ve ever eaten,” Bill said. “So the lightbulb went off.”
Two years later he started selling ground corn in bags and it was the plowing in 2013 for crop that spring that found the historical sites on the farm.
Growing about 10 acres of Indian corn every year, Bill sells the meal at stores, markets, festivals and other venues and its brought enough success to buy a shed to house the curing and milling equipment.
He uses a 1935 Meadows Mills vertical stone mill powered by a 1947 Farmall H and the shed house a custom-made curing chamber for the corn before milling.
“It’s low-tech but it works,” Bill Savage said.
In 2010, Pungo Creek Mills’ corn meal won the Best New Food Product Diamond Award at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo in Richmond, Va.
“You meet a lot of people and have a lot of positive experiences,” Bill said. “It’s been an adventure.”
As the adventure into the archeological sites progressed, the brothers grew enamored with the pieces of clay and corn cob pipes they found.
Confronted with the thought that the pipes may well have been made on the farm, the brothers formed Old Dominion Pipe Company with the goal of recreating and selling smoking pipes from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
“We really wanted to keep the integrity of the pipes we were finding at the site and it just dawned on me one day,” Bob Savage said. “Wouldn’t it be neat to recreate these and preserve a part of history?”
With an ample supply of corn cobs from the milling, they started with corn cob pipes.
“We said the first year is going to make or break us,” Bob said. “We just, kind of like we typically did with anything else, and jumped in with both feet.”
Using 3-D scanning technology, Bob made digital representations of the pipe pieces they found and, aided by a computer programmer, developed pieces to fill in the gaps of what wasn’t found.
They used 3-D printer to make the mold for the clay pipes and were in production in early 2015.
Through their website, www.olddominionpipe.com, and pipe and tobacco shows across the country, the Savages have found success in the pipe venture in what they see as a renaissance in pipe smoking.
We ship pipes now to the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, all over the world,” Bob said. “The only thing holding us back is being able to ket the production up.”
That’s tough at times with both brothers working full-time off the farm along with Bill’s milling and the archeological sites.
But, the brothers added, the work brings a level of relaxation when they can devote much time to it.
“Everyone else goes to the beach,” said Bill. “You’ve got to love it or you wouldn’t be able to do it.”
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