Greg Johnsman is passionate about preserving traditional Southern foodways on the South Carolina Sea Islands. He and his wife Betsy farm and mill heirloom ingredients at Marsh Hen Mill on Edisto Island, where Betsy's family has farmed for generations.
Greg Johnsman has been milling in his mind for his entire life. As a boy in the upstate he learned the process of milling grits the old-fashioned way from a third-generation miller named Jack Brock. When he discovered a 1945 mill and separator in Saluda, SC owned by Lamar Berry he needed just the slightest encouragement from Betsy to bring it to their Edisto Island home. The mill is Greg's pride and joy. The antique equipment is slower than modern mills which keeps it from heating up the grain and destroying the natural oils and flavors. You can smell the difference when you open a bag of Jimmy Red Corn.
Greg and Betsy grow Sea Island Red Peas, Carolina Gold Rice, Jimmy Red Corn and other southern staples on their Sea Island farm where they also mill to order each batch of cornmeal and grits.
Greg and Betsy started the farm as a passion project on the weekends, taking the name Geechie Boy Farm which had always been associated with their land and was painted on the barn. In 2020, after the hobby had grown to a business and was attracting attention, it was time to honor Geechie Gullah cultural heritage by re-naming their business. One morning as Betsy gazed at the freshly washed rough cypress boards of the little roadside market in the summer haze the golden brown hue brought to mind a little hen set down in a field. The smell of the nearby marsh filled her senses and the name Marsh Hen Mill flashed in her mind. Greg agreed that the unassuming little bird with the distinctive call is a fitting representative for an unassuming little mill nestled on a sleepy sea island.