So You want
a to be a Miller?
Question 1: What training or education is necessary to become a miller?
Question 2: What advice would you give a student regarding education
in this field?
Question 3: Are there any programs that you would recommend?
Traditionally a person became a miller through an apprenticeship program.
If your father was a miller and then trade was handed down, and learned
by one of his children. So a miller's children would learn the trade by
helping out in the mill when they were young. When commercial merchant mills
became larger milling operations into the modern era it became more of a
profession. There then became milling text books, trade journals and schools
that taught milling as a science. Today in in the United States there is
a School of Milling Science at Kansas State University at Manhattan, Kansas,
where you can get a degree in Milling Science. The Association of Operative
Millers (A.O.M.) offers Home Training Courses in Flour Milling.
There are a number of different countries that have schools of milling.
The Swiss School of Milling is in Gallen, Switzerland. This Swiss School
holds classes alternatively in German or English languages. The international
flour milling machinery company Buhler also operates a school of milling
in Switzerland. The one country that produces the most highly technological
advanced milling machinery is produced in Switzerland. They traditionally
would have limited resources and a limited supply of grain so they have
developed the tradition of doing the best that they could ever possibly
do with it. They build the flour mills to operate like a fine Swiss watch.
The milling schools also teach traditional flour mill as well as modern
milling science. Most milling schools are like medical schools they only
teach what is current.
The German School of Milling at Braunschweig, Germany trains millers and
millwrights. You need 5 years relevant experience, including a successfully
completed an apprenticeship and effective passing of the vocational school
exam just to enter the school. The German children's song: "Das Wandern
ist des Mullers Lust," talks about a whole way of life of the past
that is behind this traditional song, which cannot be rendered by a translation.
The following is a very poor interpretation of the song.
Question 4: What advice would you give a student regarding education
in this field?
That is a tough question, because if you go to most libraries their is little
or nothing on the field of flour milling. Unless you are located in one
of the grain growing and flour milling areas of the country that would have
a lot of reference material on flour milling. I guess today the internet
is the best and fastest source of information.
Are there any programs that you would recommend? That would depend upon
where the student lives. If you are a student in Germany the school system
in place may decided your pathways in life for you. It is almost a similar
thing in England and some Scandinavian Countries with higher education,
the system decides even if you go on beyond high school beyond a certain
The type of programs in a milling program would be milling and baking, chemistry,
and mechanics. For the most part, the modern flour milling industry just
teaches you how to operate modern flour mills. It is like the medical field,
they don't teach you what is passed. Generally no one teaches old time flour
milling that uses millstones as the primarily grinding apparatus in the
mill with the exception of the Dutch and one of the Swiss schools teaches
modern roller milling along with traditional millstone milling.
Question 5: What is the best way to get into the milling industry?
I guess the best way is to go to school and get a degree in milling science.
You could also take the Association of Operative Miller's home correspondence
course in flour milling. It is broken up onto four parts. You have to complete
each part before you can purchase and go onto the next part. When you complete
the entire course you don't just get a certificate like most home study
courses, you get a diploma in milling science.
I am not sure that they have isolated the gene that would make one interested
in flour milling, but certainly it is something that is in the blood. It
is almost an addiction like the addiction to drugs that is hard to shake.
It is perhaps worse that being addicted to drugs. The flour dust gets into
your covers the outside of you must have an effect upon your insides.
Question 6: What are the job opportunities available to flour millers?
In the United States an industry publication called Milling and Baking News
is the best source of positions for flour millers.
In the last ten years or so across the country has sprang up combination
of the old mill and the corner bakery. These modern bakeries have electrically
driven stone grind mills and they often grind organic grown wheat from Montana.
The process of learning how to operate these flour mills becomes a trial
and error. Either you let this piece of 10 thousand dollar window dressing
sit in the front picture window or you learn by yourself who to switch it
one, pour in the 50 pound sacks and adjust the texture of the grind. The
baker or the bakery worker in this case becomes the part time miller. It
is not really training it is just part of their job to produce freshly ground
flour on-site that is made into that days bread.
Of course many people have this idea in their head that it would be neat
to own an old mill or live in one. Many of the people who have the money
to buy and restore an old mill have no idea what to do with it once they
have it and it often becomes an expensive toy-toy. In England various milling
groups train people who by a mill and don't know what to do with it once
they have it. I understand that they have to turn people away from these
courses each year because the demand is so great. In places like Germany
and Holland they take milling more serious. They have strict programs to
train millers and volunteers who work and operate historic wind and water
mills. In Holland mills are considered national treasures and there is a
system set up to restore mills and to train qualified mill workers.
Question 7: Who hires them?
The larger commercial flour mills. There are still a number of small operating
flour mills that grind organic stone ground flours that have developed a
huge business in producing flour.
Question 8: Is there a region, area, or country where the jobs are
Mainly the mills are located in the Midwest in the larger grain growing
centers of the United States and Canada. There are still a number of mills
in the east. Buckwheat is mainly grown in Pennsylvania and New York State
as well as parts of West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and Michigan, so naturally
the mills that would mainly grind buckwheat would be in or near these states.
Look in local phone books, and the Milling and Baking News published one
a year a guidebook to the industry with machinery sources and lists of flour
mills of any large scale operation size.
Question 9. How did you become involved in this field?
My grandfather was a millwright. His real trade in life or family trade
in life was the making of violins. As a child you sometimes rebel against
family trades and that you are forced to learn beginning as small child.
So you may develop an interest in learning something else. He never got
to really do that something else he wanted, like being a artist, so he developed
his mechanical ability and could do or make anything. When I knew him he
had retired from working in several mills and industries as a millwright.
My grandfather and another man had built a small mill to operate and to
play with in their old age. One of the kids in the neighborhood burned it
down. The newspaper simply reported it as a barn that had burned down. My
father had build several mill dams back in the 1930's before I was born
and their were many mills still operating in the area. There was a water
wheel powered cider mill and a number of water powered flour mills. I would
enjoy seeing them as a kid. When I went to collage to become an art teacher.
On my own I began working on a sketch book of rural buildings. Naturally
the mills section grew to be larger than any other and a college professor
said since you know so much about mills why don't you write a book about
them. I went to the local college library and to other libraries in the
area and found little or nothing on flour mills and milling in general.
The problem with libraries it that they are boring, you can't drink, smoke,
eat or play music while you are there. So I decided to go to the source
of what I was writing about and learn about that first hand. I was at least
lucky because there was several places to go within my area still. So I
began hanging around and asking questions of these men who had been in the
milling business most of their lives. Several of them were in their 80's
and they had worked in the milling business for over 55 years. Then after
a while I began helping out and after a while they began to pay me. I have
still as yet to get my book on flour milling published but I have had a
number of articles published.
I have known people who work as millers all of their lives and to them it
is just a job. They go home and they do not think about mills, or have an
interest to see another mill. A close friend passed away last week whose
family had been in the milling business for several generations. When he
retired and shut down his families mill, he did it to go out and see other
mills. He was in his 80's and wanted to leave his mill to his son, but his
siblings wanted liquidated his assets before he passed away and one of the
things they took and sold was the old water power flour mill. I guess he
died of a broken heart. And I can tell you lots of similar stories about
these old timers who have an old mill and the family sells it out from under
them to avoid inherence taxes.
Question 10: What do you find most challenging about this career?
I have worked in a number of operating flour mills both commercial and ones
that are restored and open to the public. I have also worked as a millwright,
millstone dresser and milling consultant. So I build, restore and maintain
flour and grist mills. Meeting the people in charge, the architects, the
building contractors and others to try and make them understand the requirements
for what needs to be done in a specific job. Unless you stand over them,
repeatedly make them understand what I want or what is required of a job,
hold their hand. If you leave them for any length of time no matter how
many times you explained it to them, make drawings and plans, have piles
of photos, notes and memos. The will do it wrong. Then they come back to
you and say "Oh, well I guess we have to live with it." "No
buddy," I often would like to say to them, "I don't have to live
with it. You screw up, You spent thousands of dollars doing something that
I repeatedly told you not to do. I don't have to live with it. I get to
go home, and go onto another project. Hopefully they won't screw up as bad
as you did. I don't have to live with it. Unless you want me to come in
and make it work for you. It is not my mistake."
What do you find most rewarding? Making something. Making flour is a lot
like making pottery. I became greatly interested in making pottery when
I was in college. The frustration at that time was you could not even give
it away let alone sell it for the asking price. Since I gave it up now everyone
seems to be making pottery all around the country. I guess the big frustration
comes when you love something so much and can't seem to make a living at
There is a big fascination with mills writher they are old mills or modern
flour mills. Mills represent a tangible technology. Many towns were built
as a result of a mill being build there first in the wilderness. And unlike
the so much of our rapidly advancing modern technology, old water, wind
and tidal powered mills are of the earth. Mills make a basic staple of life.
It produces a basic food staple. The process of flour milling today is the
same as it has been for over the last hundred of years. The only difference
is that they added to the miller's brain by the introduction of computers.
You can eliminate the computers and mills are operated the way they have
been for thousand of years with your senses of touch, smell, sight, sound
and vibration. The technological changes that occurred before the introduction
of modern flour milling occurred two hundred years ago. And before that
the process of flour milling had not changed in 2 to 3 thousand years. The
old methods and materials for milling flour are still the best. Modern industry
has improved on some of the materials but the process still remains basically
the same. The flour is milled and then it is sifted. Any other process is
nice but you still can produce flour without it.
For example, the farmer takes love and care to plow the fields, plant the
grain and watch it grow until it is time to harvest. Then, the farmer takes
the grain to the mill, where the miller has taken such love and care to
keep his machinery tuned to work to produce the best product that he possibly
can. Then he places the grain for the millstones or the roller mills to
grind. After the flour is ground, the miller can tell just by feeling it
between his fingers when it comes out of the machinery, whether or not it
will make good bread
Question 11: How would you rate the job outlook for millers -- good,
Well, since World War Two the individual consumption of flour has greatly
declined in America. This is one of the factors why the majority of small
rural flour mills have closed their doors and disappeared for good, besides
the system of supply has greatly changed. Industry today used flour for
more products than ever before. That depends upon if you can convince people
to eat more grain products? I find that question hard to answer. I like
and love mills but I don't like or use the products of the modern flour
milling industry. I hear that grain and flour is no longer classified as
a staple of life makes you wonder what folks are eating these days?
There is a saying that goes: "The lighter the loaf, the faster you
go. The whiter the bread the sooner your dead."
Well if I had been a graduate of milling science from Kansas State University
and had worked in large commercial milling companies I would have recommended
reading: "Flour for Man's Bread: A History of Milling," by John
Storck and Walter Dorwin Teague, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
(1952), 382 pages, illustrations by Harold Rydell. Walter Teague, the noted
industrial designer, supervised the production of the illustrations. The
first comprehensive study of the history of milling. Another book would
be an industrial publication like, "From Wheat to Flour."
I am from sort of the old-school, I learned the milling business by working
in mills from an early age from men who spent their lives working in flour
Question 12: Can you give an example of a dilemma one might fact in
Modern technology has not found a better method of producing flour other
than with the use of millstone or roller mills. Back in the early 1960's
they tried running the grain over stainless steel plates and exposing it
to high pressure burst of air to break it apart or reduce it into smaller
particles. In more recent times they have tried lasers upon the grain and
have discovered no new modern technology or method to better to produce
flour and meal from grain. So because we are basically using obsolete methods
to produce flour and meal, and in time will eventually the whole industry
become obsolete? Some of the materials have changed no longer is wood the
most common element in the construction of flour making machinery, chutes
and equipment in a mill. Technology has not really increased production,
in flour mills to increase production we still have to build larger building
with more machinery to increase production. Other than the introduction
of computers the biggest advancements in the flour milling industry occurred
200 years ago with the improvements of Oliver Evans and his system of automated
flour milling. Since the process is obsolete to we abandon using its products
and find other uses for grain like producing fuels. Henry Ford eventually
wanted to produce an automobile that was completely constructed out of soy
bean products (from plastics, to tires to the engine) and powered by a soy
bean fuel. Since flour dust is 35 times more explosive than coal dust and
more explosive than gun powder perhaps we should be making bombs out of
grain products. There is no radiation or contamination involved. What they
teach you in spy school 101 is now to flatten a building using a tuna fish
can full of gasoline and a bean can full of flour. Just think of all the
farmers and farm land that would have not disappeared in the last 100 years
if farmers were producing products for warfare rather than human consumption.
Question 13: What are some changes you've seen in this industry over
I have seen the small rural flour mills either water power or by some other
method disappear and go out of existence. When I was born there was mills
that could produce 125 thousand to 600 thousand pounds of flour in a 24
hour period. Now there just seems to be less of them. At one time many third
world countries that had the most primitive milling methods now have the
most technologically advanced mills in the world. At one time there was
an underground movement going on in this country that involved organizations
tied up with church groups that bought old milling machinery (they also
did medical and dental equipment), reconditioned it and shipped it off to
third world countries. But now they have money and they don't want our used
obsolete hand-me-down junk. We have learned more about what we should be
eating or not eating. I don't like the products produced by the modern flour
milling industry. I try and only eat natural flour and meals without any
artificial ingredients (that goes for artificial chemical enrichment). I
never like white (marshmallow) bread. Now we are told cut back on grain
and bread products and eat more fruits and vegetables.
Question 14: What are the occupational hazards of woking in this Industry?
Traditionally there was the "miller's cough," a common
respiratory complaint caused by the inhalation of dust in a flour mill.
This complaint was mainly found in pre Oliver Evans mills of the 1700's
that had open bin sifters. There were in the 1700's all sorts of strange
mixtures of various things that when drunk claimed to cure the "miller's
cough." Some of these were even printed in books and magazines. A lot
of flour dust was put into the air. With the coming of Oliver Evans machinery
the grain and flour was always contained within the machinery and mills
gradually became less dusty places to work. That mainly depended up the
standards of housekeeping that the mill maintained. As time passed they
developed machinery to contain and eliminate the dust. It also helped when
they discovered that flour dust was the main problem of dust explosions
in mill. Mills are not the dusty noisy places that one would think. There
are no more people hurt in mills than I would say any other industry. A
good miller has respect for the power behind the machinery, and he know
what it can do to you if you get in its way. There seem to be more accidents
and deaths in rural mills years ago because of carelessness upon the miller
or his regard for the safety of child labor.
For centuries the miller wore white clothing. He did not have a means of
cleaning grains until the end of the 1700's so if he maintained a general
white clean appearance perhaps his product was the same way. Back in the
1300's the baker was recorded to take on the costume of the miller. Today
in modern mills they would have climate controls to keep the mill below
a certain temperature to eliminate the problems with insect infestations
they also contain and eliminate the problem of dust. Most people that work
in the milling industry or become millers are pretty happy with the working
conditions and environment.
Question 15: Is there anything else you would like for others to understand
about this field?
I had a friend the late Charles Howell who had began working in his family
mill at the age of 14 in England. Back then one of the requirements was
that you had to be able to lift a 200 pound sack of grain because that was
also basically the weight of flour in a barrel. He often said that he could
trace his family back to 1375. Most generations were involved in the milling
business in one way or another. At one time his family operated 5 water
power mills in England. The mill that he and his father worked in is now
a restaurant. Today his nephew (also named Charles) operates the last of
their traditional English flour mills. After Charlie Howell suddenly passed
away in 1993, they crated up his Midget Marval Mill that he had stored in
a barn in New York State for many years. Now it is operating making flour
back in the Howell Mill in England. So I guess a bit of the master miller
Charlie Howell is still making flour somewhere still. That nephew who operates
the mill with one Charlie Howell's brother George who is 80 years old makes
Indian breads. There is such a huge Indian population in England today this
traditional English country mill now makes traditional bread flour for immigrants
from India. I know of a flour mill in New York State that was constructed
in 1788. It is powered by water turbines and it has 5 pairs of millstones.
Its big business is making bulk Kosher flour that trucked down to New York
City for making matzo at Passover. I guess that teaches us that we need
to learn to adapt, and go with the flow, or you just might end up like the
Professional job definition: Grinder Operator 521.682-026
Alternate Job Titles: feed miller; grist miller; mill operator; roller-mill
Operates bank of roll grinders to grind grain into meal or flour: Opens
and closes slides in spouts to route grain to various grinders and sifters.
Turns wheels to adjust pressure of grinding rollers for each break (passage
of grain between rollers), according to grain size and hardness, and adjusts
feed chutes to regulate flow of grain to rollers. Inspects product and sifts
out chaff to determine percentage of yield. Adjusts rollers to maintain
maximum yield. Replaces worn grinding rollers, using hand tools. May sift
and bolt meal or flour. May clean and temper grain prior to grinding. May
direct workers who drain and temper grain and bolt meal or flour. May be
designated according to grain milled as Corn Miller (grain-feed mills).
May operate burr mills instead of roll grinders to grind grain and be designated
Burr-Mill Operator (grain-feed mills).
Association of Operative
Correspondence Course in Flour Milling
Kansas State University
International Grains Program
201 Shellenberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506
School of Milling Braunschweig, Germany.
The Swiss School
of Milling St. Gallen, Switzerland
National Grain and Feed Association
1003-1250 Eye St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20005-3917
Association of Operative Millers
College Blvd., Ste. 104
Leawood, KS 66211
Australian Association of
A page of milling-related links from all over the world
American Association Cereal Chemists
Milling & Baking News
Sosland Publishing Company
Milling, by E. S. Posner and A. N. Hibbs.
The American Association of Cereal Chemists
How to Order
Grains of Truth About...
Offers fun and informative facts on various grain products
Find flour mills and brands here, as well as industry news
Explains how grain dust becomes explosive
Lots of information on milling history and restoration
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