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Susquehanna Mills hosts outing in Pennsdale

By Carol Sones Shelter - | Apr 7, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED What is Josh Leidhecker up to? Well his head of course, in a field of sunflowers on the Snyder farm along Route 87. Known as ‘Farmer Josh,’ the entrepreneur founded Susquehanna Mills which processes several varieties of seeds into non-GMO oil.

PENNSDALE-Joshua Leidhecker has traded his construction hat for a farmer’s cap after deciding to work with local agriculturalists. The owner of Susquehanna Mills is providing an outlet for foods grown by local farmers at the mill’s epicenter in Pennsdale. From farm to processing, packaging and sales, it doesn’t stop there; additionally, some of his crew of six aid in hosting community events.

Since entering the world of agriculture, the entrepreneur said, “I have a whole new appreciation for farmers, there aren’t enough of them.” He continued by saying, “People like to know where their food comes from, folks of all ages seem to know the importance of locally raised non-GMO food products,” he said.

At the mill, oils are extracted from the seeds of sunflowers, canola and hemp. They are received, dried and put through a rotary cleaner to get the ‘garbage’ out. “As for Canola, the seed contains 42 percent oil distracted from the tiny seeds. The oil is collected in vats sending the pulp on through tubes pushed out in a long continues flow. This bi-product is dried, cut into small lengths for farmers to incorporate into animal feed. “Kitzmiller Farms of Unityville are one of many farmers using the product to feed their cattle herds,” Leidhecker said. He added that, “Those raising chickens on the bi-product have found a niche in the market by advertising it as non-GMO,” It’s an example of ‘waste not, want not.’

Hemp seeds ground into flour can be used for baking bread and in pasta. Pennsylvania farmers have launched into hemp growing since the state lifted the ban in 2018. In one of many indoor tanks, temperatures are lowered to 38 degrees for a period of 12 to 18 hours. This process called winterization, cools the hemp oil so wax and metal filter out. Many options are open for the use of hemp oil including in soaps, salves and creams.

Oil from sunflower seeds have a similar process in pressing, and along with canola, a much sought after oil for cooking. “Some oils are filtered as many as three times as consumers prefer a clear product,” Leidhecker said.

PHOTO PROVIDED A product display of oils from sunflower, canola and hemp seeds extracted at Susquehanna Mills in Pennsdale.

The public may have seen sunflowers destined for the mill growing in several areas including near Procter, at the Lynn Laurenson farm along 220 north of Tivoli, and along route 87 at the Dick Snyder farm. At the latter, people stopped, took selfies and strolled about the field. “We had to put up signs saying, ‘Don’t steal the sunflowers.’ Quite by accident, the notoriety caused us to offer a day of tours complete with food trucks, bands and guided tours,” Leidhecker said.

Regarding sales, the owner said, “About sixty percent of our customer base are colleges and universities. The remaining is shipped by distributors or sold direct to the customer.”

When orders are trucked to colleges, the used cooking oil is retrieved on the same trip, brought back and made into bio-diesel fuel, a fifty percent savings in transportation. This process is what got the former contractor into his current business, seeking lower cost fuel when prices were exorbitant.

And if all this was not enough work, the mill began making pop corn and ‘real authentic old-fashion’ potato chips. Done mostly during the summer season, they’ve put out 1,000 pounds a week. A loyal customer is Kathy’s Cafe in Hughesville, who not only offer the chips on their menu, but retails them as well.

Public events are being scheduled for the coming season. The first one will be held on Saturday, April 24, 2021 from 2 – 4 pm, at the mill site, 349 Village Road, Pennsdale. Several local food and beverage vendors will be on hand. Music will enhance the outdoor gathering. Keep up to date with information by googling Susquehanna Mills.

PHOTO PROVIDED Eric Deuel, shop manager at Susquehanna Mills, was in a happy mood as he inspects a tank noting operations are successfully moving along.