The classic side dish to serve with chili is of course cornbread, so perhaps you’re thinking, how boring. But this year’s Super Bowl party could have a compelling twist; completely local cornbread. Harvested and ground here, local cornmeal is a growing trend in Maine’s marketplace. So much so that it might even qualify as the new thing.

“It should be a thing,” said Marada Cook, who recently purchased Fiddler’s Green Farm and its mill with her sister Leah. They moved the mill up to Vassalboro, where one of their two other companies, Crown of Maine, is based and are grinding Maine cornmeal for both companies (the Cook sisters also own Northern Girl processors in Aroostook County). “In the heyday of Maine agriculture there was a mill in every town. I see no reason why that can’t work well here in Maine again.”

Richard Morgan of Morgan’s Mill in East Union was the forerunner in the rebirth of the Maine milling business. He said he has been grinding local corn since the early 1980s in his water-powered, 1803 mill with granite stones.

Much of what he sells goes out in bulk.

Local cornmeal, ground in a mill that fed past generations of Mainers in the 1800s fits with the philosophy he brought with him to Maine in 1979. He wanted to make whole grain flours.

“I came out of the ’60s, where people were waking up to the idea of eating whole foods,” he said.

But whereas he used to be a solo act, new Maine growers and millers are getting into the cornmeal business.

Topsham’s Fairwind Farms started selling it by the bag at the Brunswick Winter Market last fall; they grow their own Floriani Red corn and grind it with their own mill.

At Songbird Farm in Starks, Adam Nordell and Johanna Davis have been producing cornmeal for the last few years and outsourcing it for grinding. This summer they ran a successful indiegogo online campaign to buy a $2,500 stone mill, raising enough to buy the mill and put some aside for a new corn harvester.

Now they’re grinding their own cornmeal for distribution, including at Barrels Community Market in Waterville.

At Maine Grains, Amber Lambke hopes to start producing cornmeal and polenta at the Somerset Grist Mill in Skowhegan soon. They’ve got samples of flint and dent corn out for testing to make sure what they’ve got meets the standards for human consumption. “If all goes well it could come out of our mill in the next few months,” Lambke said. “We’re committed to figuring it out.”

They’ve already got interest from Maine bakers, as well as a potential new tortilla maker in Portland, she said. “There is demand there,” she said. “And also as cornmeal or polenta for home cooks and chefs.”

For anyone eager to buy local, the attraction is obvious. It’s not just a cultural thing, but rather a matter of taste. My first bag of Maine cornmeal came from Fairwinds Farm, my usual stop for beyond-carrots and greens items like wheatberries. In November, when I spotted brown paper sacks of the Floriani Red, I knew immediately I’d be making cornbread and chorizo stuffing for Thanksgiving. The skillet bread it made was hearty and colorful and the leftovers from the bag (Fairwinds recommends refrigeration or, if you’re not using the cornmeal within two weeks, freezing it) made for several batches of warming polenta, flecked with red.

Staff Writer Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at [email protected]