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Stories from the valley

Northern Star Mills

Contributed by Steve Beckley

Northern Star Mills, an independent feed, grain and farm supply store is located just north of downtown Chico on the Esplanade.  I’ve driven by the distinctive 100-year old brick building they are housed in many times and never had stopped.  On a recent Saturday I rectified that mistake and stopped in for a visit. 

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Walking into the building brought back memories of visiting feed and grain stores as a youth when I raising livestock for 4H projects.  Two of those particular businesses are Griff’s Feed and Seed in Colusa and Sutter Orchard Supply in Yuba City.

The current location of Northern Star Mills, which was founded 1898, carries on the great legacy of agriculture in the Sacramento Valley.  They have been in this location across from the Bidwell Mansion since 1933.  The building was originally constructed next to John Bidwell’s flour mill by the Sperry Flour Company.  Northern Star Mills had a feed and flour mill for many years in another location in Chico.

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The baby chicks and ducklings were the big attraction that day as adults and children stopped in to look at them and some folks made purchases to add to their flocks.  Other customers were purchasing garden supplies, feed, straw, and pet food.  I asked several customers why they came here to shop and they all mentioned the service and that company gave back to the community.  It seemed that the staff knew most of their customers and their pets by name.

As I wandered through the store, I was amazed by the inventory they had on hand.  Who knew that there were that many different poultry waters and feeders?  Having spent many years in the fertilizer business, I was impressed by the selection of fertilizers and soils.  The number of various brands of pet food they carried was mind-boggling. 

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I noticed that they had live ladybugs for pest control for sale at the checkout counter. Any place that considers ladybugs as a notion is my kind of place.  As I was leaving one of the staff was putting bales of straw in a Ford Escape and I learned that you can get three bales in the back.  That’s good information for me one of my cars is a Ford Escape.