Here at The Old Mill Square, we have been mindful of how we use natural resources and what our impact on the Earth is, since 1830. The Old Mill itself still uses the very same renewable resource that it has used from the beginning. In 1817, the Little Pigeon River was dammed to divert water into a trough used to carry water to the Iron Forge. Just over a decade later, they used the same system to power the Grist Mill and then a Saw Mill. A new dam was constructed in the early 1900’s and water was diverted to the penstock that is located just under the dam, behind the big wheel that you see. There is a turbine in the penstock that is turned by the passing water and it then turns the stones. The big wheel you see on the front of the mill turns grain elevators inside the mill and moves corn to the stones. So, the entire process of grinding cornmeal and grits is still water powered! At one time, the turbine also powered a generator that produced electricity for the town of Pigeon Forge, but it’s not done that since the early 1930’s. Some of the equipment is still there though and you can see it on a guided tour of the mill.
The millers use mostly human power to complete the process after grinding, with the exception of the grits machine. They fill and weigh the bags out by hand and then tie them with a miller’s knot. They even prep each bag with its label and hand stamp the bag so you know what you are buying.
The Old Forge Distillery uses the sub-products of grinding grits to make its spirits. The corn flour and hull are perfect for their needs. The miller only bags the germ. The distillery’s spent grains are not totally spent when they are done distilling. The Old Mill Pottery House Cafe & Grille then takes the spent grains and makes a flour out of them. They have a bun, that they serve their Old Forge Whiskey Burger on, that is so tender and flavorful that you will never want another burger! One of their chefs also make Barker’s Dozen Dog Treats out of them and they can be found back over at the Old Forge Distillery, where you will see them packaged in recycled distillery jars.
Our Pigeon River Pottery uses gas kilns for the bulk of their firings in making pottery. It’s a much more efficient energy source. In the process of throwing pottery, if any piece is damaged before it is fired, they can reuse that clay. The same goes for any scraps of clay. They mix it back in with clay they have prepared to throw with and eliminate as much waste as possible. If a piece is fired and does not come out the kiln as a first quality, our Gardener uses them around The Old Mill Square in our gardens.
The Old Mill Farmhouse Kitchen works with local farmers and uses their berries and fruits in making our Heritage Line of jams, jellies, and preserves. The jars that they open to sample out to our customers are sent down to the Pottery to be used in making their Fusion Platters, which have a glass bottom. Both of our restaurants use pottery on their tables. Our Old Mill Restaurant has their own table setting of salt & pepper, sugar and flower vases, while the Pottery House Cafe also serves on our pottery. This helps the restaurants keep their supplies quickly at hand, ordering more when they need them and not having to store extras.
Making and using our own products helps reduce our footprint by reducing the number of shipments, which means fewer emissions and less packaging. What we do buy in, and what waste is created in our daily operations, is handled by our Sevier County Waste Management. They have a state-of-the-art system that sorts everything and they are able to recycle and compost 70% of all waste in the county. So, with over 10 million visitors to our area each year, only 30% ends up in a landfill!
We do what we can and we count on you to help with the rest. Remember to recycle, reimage and reuse what you can each and every day. If you are visiting us over this Earth Day Weekend, be sure and stop in the Old Mill Creamery or Candy Kitchen for a delicious Earth Day treat!