Brandon Jaeger and Michelle Ajamian noticed local farmers lacked the equipment needed to turn their seeds and grains into edible products. They decided to step in by creating Shagbark Seed and Mill.
Shagbark, at 88 Columbus Rd., creates various foodstuffs from locally grown products that businesses across the Athens area are utilizing, and it has been in operation since 2010. Jaeger and Ajamian, owners of Shagbark, turn beans and grains from local farms into products such as pasta, crackers, tortilla chips and popcorn.
Businesses around Athens such as The Athena Cinema, Ohio University markets and Little Fish Brewery use these products in an attempt to keep food local.
Jaeger said he and Ajamian first thought of the idea for the mill when they went to farmer’s markets and saw a lack of beans and grains.
“We were traveling and visiting farmers markets, (and I noticed) with all this local produce, you almost never see beans and grains in local markets,” Jaeger said.
This, Jaeger said, is where Shagbark comes in. They take products from local farmers and, using a seed cleaner, ready the seeds to be made into anything from chips to pasta.
“There’s plenty of farmers growing great foods,” Jaeger said. “(We wanted) to get them access to markets, so we had to set up a facility.”
Other than being locally sourced, another difference Shagbark’s products have from commercial brands is that they are produced fresh and made simply.
“Aside from supporting farmers, we’re producing simple foods,” Jaeger said. “Our corn chips only have four ingredients.”
Since opening in July 2015, Little Fish Brewery has made it a priority to use as several local ingredients in their brews as they can, and they have been using Shagbark products since the beginning.
“Our mission as a small business in Southeast Ohio us to use local products in our beer,” Jimmy Stockwell, the co-founder of Little Fish, said.“We were the first brewery to use all Ohio ingredients in a beer since prohibition.”
Little Fish keeps Shagbark corn crackers in their taproom as a snack and offers a beer made from Shagbark grains.
“We use organic corn grits from (Shagbark) to make out Shagbark Pilsner,” Stockwell said. “We really like it; it sells pretty well.”
As part of their “Uniquely Ohio” products, Jefferson Market offers Shagbark corn tortilla chips.
Kroger on East State Street carries Shagbark chips as well, and that is where Melody Weary, a sophomore studying communications, buys hers.
Weary, an Athens native, said she prefers Shagbark chips to commercial brands because she likes to shop local. She also said she prefers the taste of Shagbark — she feels that commercial brand chips are too greasy.
“(Shagbark chips) taste like they’re entirely made out of real food,” Weary said. “I find that local food is better quality and less processed.
Weary said she hears positive things from students about Shagbark’s chips.
“I’ve noticed college students liking (Shagbark's) chips more,” she said. “I think they’re getting bigger.”