14 Lacey Milling Company

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  • Lacey Milling Company. Hanford, Kings County.

  • Twenty-four hours a day, six-and-a-half days a week, the Lacey Milling Company turns wheat into flour. The entire time, the wooden floors of the rambling brick factory tremble with the constant shaking of rumbling grain rollers and sifters; the vibrations have been known to lull employees to sleep. Shaking out of every crack and seam—seemingly out of the building itself—is flour. It’s on the floors and on the walls and in your hair and inside your socks. There is a tired broom vainly stationed around every corner.

    The mill has been doing this more or less without pause since 1887, when it was started by the great-grandfather of the current generation running it. Back then, a time when water here came only when it rained down on you or was pumped out of a river, the San Joaquin Valley was wheat country. Every town of any size had a flour mill.

    Of course large-scale water projects and irrigation have transformed the Central Valley into a landscape of high-value crops like almonds and grapes, where wheat is second-tier. Most of the old flour mills are long gone, and today Lacey Milling is the last independent one in California.

    Oddly enough, its survival has come partly as an indirect result of that change. The Valley’s modern crops require a vast force of laborers, and that has attracted countless immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. These workers have repopulated struggling towns throughout the region, and emptied downtowns have become lighted again with businesses catering to Latino tastes. On Lacey Milling’s 125th anniversary, the vast majority of its customers are tortilla factories in the Valley between Stockton and Bakersfield—and business is booming.

  • Lacey Milling Company. Hanford, Kings County.

  • Lacey Milling Company. Hanford, Kings County.

  • Mike Coelho, miller, Lacey Milling Company. Hanford, Kings County.

  • Lacey Milling Company. Hanford, Kings County.

  • Sifters, Lacey Milling Company. Hanford, Kings County.

  • Chuck Lendrum, president of Lacey Milling Company. Hanford, Kings County.

  • Benjamin Mendez, packer, Lacey Milling Company. Hanford, Kings County.

    Ben Mendez has worked at Lacey for ten years. "Really, my job title is 'all of the above,'" he told me. "We do it all here. The only thing we call for help with is when we need an electrician."

  • Lacey Milling Company. Hanford, Kings County.