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Factory Tours USA

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Factory Tours USA

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Nora Mill Granary Grist Mill & Country Store
7107 South Main Street, Helen, GA   30545
Map Location           Latitude: 34.6924   Longitude: -83.714019
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This tour is free

Nora Mill Granary - an authentic working grist mill that is nestled alongside the Chattahoochee River. At Nora Mill, we grind corn daily using either the original French burr stones that are water powered by the Chattahoochee River - or by our more modern "Meal Master" stone grinding system located on our second floor. Either way, all product is all natural and is stone ground.

Nora Mill Granary, Inc. Est. 1876

About the mill . . . .

Nora Mill Granary is an operational gristmill sitting alongside the Chattahoochee River in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains that stone grinds and produces all kinds of corn and wheat based products such as grits, corn meal, pancake & waffle mixes, flours, biscuit & bread mixes, pioneer's porridge, and the like. In addition, we have an old-fashioned country store & gift shop that we have named "Nora Mill Next Door," that is stocked with thousands of new items and even has a large kitchen built just for cooking & serving samples of our mill & store products.

A little history . . . .

The mill itself is a large four-story building that was built in 1876 complete with 1,500 pound French Burr Mill Stones and a 100 ft. wooden raceway that feeds water to a water turbine - not a vertical water wheel. The mill was constructed in 1876 by John Martin when he came to Georgia to mine for gold. Unlike most miners, Mr. Martin made Sautee-Nacoochee Valley his permanent home in 1902 Dr. Lamartine G. Hardman, governor of Georgia from 1927 -1931, bought the mill and named it "Nora Mill" in memory of his sister Nora. Nora Mill remained in the Hardman Family until 1998, when it, along with 300 surrounding acres, was purchased by a group of investors associated with Nacoochee Village, Ltd.

After a succession of millers throughout the years, in the early 1980s, Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ron Fain worked with the Hardman family and leased Nora Mill for him and his parents to bring back to life and operate. Ron became the Miller of Nora Mill. Over the years, Ron worked with his parents until their passing, and then brought his youngest daughter Joann in under his wing to learn the art of milling and work the Nora Mill business with him.

Ron and Joann together, developed and brought to market a number of corn & grain recipes that are famous to Nora Mill. Recipes such as "Georgia Ice Cream", "Dixie Ice Cream", "Pioneer's Porridge", and the like. They expanded the product offerings and opened the gift shop next door to the mill and named it "Nora Mill Next Door". Joann and Ron worked shoulder to shoulder until his recent passing in June of 2001.

Nora Mill is now in the third generation of the Fain family operation as Joann Fain Tarpley, with husband Rich, continues to manage and operate Nora Mill Granary. The fourth generation of the same family can be seen at Nora Mill Granary as the children of Joann and Rich are actively working with them at the mill.

Ron Fain and daughter Joann

There have been many changes over the years, but the main idea is still the same, to grind fresh grains with no additives or preservatives with old-fashioned quality. Nora Mill has recently gone through a major refurbishing. The dam, raceway, and penstock have been rebuilt. We have enclosed the breezeway and have built new porch & deck that overlooks our very own gigantic rainbow trout swimming in the beautiful Chattahoochee River. We have recently refurbished our grinding and milling machinery to ensure the highest of quality in the products that we produce, hand-bag, and offer on-site in our mill and through our Internet & mail order business.

More about today's operation . . . .

Managing and operating Nora Mill Granary today is Joann Fain Tarpley and husband Rich. Together, the two oversee all aspects of the mill from overall general business management to the grinding and milling operations.

Rich & Joann Tarpley

Prior to Ron's passing, Rich was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time with Ron to learn the rare art of milling and to learn the "inner workings" of the mill itself. Ron taught Rich how to "listen and feel" the heartbeat of the mill and how to adjust the millstones and flow of grain to achieve the perfect Nora Mill blend.

Over the years, every one has worked to develop a nice mail order business that began with the mailing of very simple brochures to the folks that sign our guest book as they visit the mill. Today, the mail order catalog is mailed out to over 30,000 "guests" that have either signed the book at the mill, or have requested a catalog via telephone or the web. To request a catalog, send Joann an e-mail with your mailing address or sign our mailing list form on this site.

Everyone working in around Nora Mill is considered family. We consider our work a labor of love and take great pride in everything we do. Whether taking an order on the phone for a single bag of grits or working with one of our wholesale accounts for a 2,000 lb order of stone ground products, we treat everyone the same! We love what we do and we love working with people.

Please stop in for a visit whenever you can. We would love to show you around. Nora Mill is open every day except Christmas & Easter.

Fain family history . . . .

The Fain Family roots began in Northeast Georgia area just a few miles from Nora Mill where Ron's father, George, resided until 1917 before moving to Ohio in search of work. While in Ohio, George met and married Florence McPherson and together raised 4 children. Ron, the youngest boy, was raised in Ohio where he met and married Rita Lepera. After graduating from the University of Akron and retiring from the US Army as a Lt. Colonel in 1979, Ron and Rita, with their 5 children settled in Helen, Ga. at his family homestead.

George & Florence Fain

Ron & Rita Fain

As Ron got involved with Nora Mill, he became so interested in preserving a bit of history that he buried himself in books and publications and sought help from knowledgeable individuals including long time miller of Nora Mill, Tom Farmer, and Clyde Keltner of Tennessee. As Ron received his on-the-job education of the lost art of grain milling by water-power, he became and stayed active in the Society of the Preservation of Old Mills.

In the early years, Ron & Rita and all of the children worked hard to keep Nora Mill running. Son David worked on the mill building, rebuilt the raceway and dam several times over. Oldest daughter Janet worked with Ron in the mill, came up with the idea of cooking and serving samples at the mill, and has published 2 Nora Mill Cookbooks which can be purchased on-line and/or at our mill. Daughters Joyce, Judy, and Joann all worked at the mill while in school. Like her father, Joann developed a deep love for the mill and has continued to work at the mill throughout the years and to present day.

Ron's spirit is alive and well within the walls of Nora Mill today. Ron's wife Rita helps whenever possible and when called upon. Ron has touched all of our lives. We are very proud to have been close to him. We all are anxious to share our most remembered "Ron Stories" amongst ourselves and with guests visiting as a number of the guests that return to the mill - visit not only to restock on the great products that we have - but also to sit and talk about Ron, who has left a great impression on their lives as well.

Nora Mill Granary is open every day except Christmas and Easter
Hours are 9-5 Monday-Saturday & 10-5 Sunday
(Open one hour later in the am January-April)

For site problems or suggestions please use the contact form HERE