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March 29, 2020

All cloudy days have bright sides, and our current moment is no different. While there is great fear and uncertainty throughout the region, country, and world as the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened, individuals and organizations are working together to address the needs of their communities at the grassroots level. Here in the Upper Midwest, Artisan Grain Collaborative has launched Neighbor Loaves ℠ a program that supports farmers, millers, bakers, and eaters by promoting the sale and community distribution of locally grown and produced bread. And you can participate today from the convenience of your own home!

Here’s what to do:

  1. Find and purchase Neighbor Loaves in the online store of one of the participating bakeries: Madison Sourdough and ORIGIN Breads in Madison, WI, Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery in Bloomington, IN, and Hewn in Evanston, IL.

  2. Bakers will mix, shape, ferment, and bake the loaves you’ve ordered, using at least 50% flour grown on local sustainable farms for each loaf.

  3. In partnership with area food pantries and emergency feeding organizations, bread will be distributed to your neighbors in need.

More than 1,000 loaves have been sold in just one week since the project launched. This effort is important not only because it keeps people in our communities fed and maintains sales opportunities for local farms and mills, but because it also supports bakeries in maintaining their capacity to employ people during this challenging and uncertain time. For example, because of this project, Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery in Bloomington, IN, was able to offer additional hours to their three part-time staff that were recently laid off from other jobs.

More bakeries will be joining the project in the coming weeks. We'll keep you posted and will continually update AGC's Neighbor Loaves webpage as new bakeries join. Buy a loaf today! And if you’re a baker who’d like to participate in the program or a food pantry in need of bread, send AGC a note at to get things rolling.

And finally: do not fear about a flour shortage. Your local farms and mills have got you! AGC compiled a list of resources last week for where to buy grain, flour, bread, and other Upper Midwest foods and agricultural products during the pandemic and beyond. Though you might not see it in your grocery store, there is plenty of grain and flour to be had within local and regional food systems. This is what food security and resiliency looks like.

Resources for Craft Breweries in Times of Crisis 

AGC recently spoke with Matt Tanaka, Founder & Creative Director of Stout Collective, a marketing and design studio focused on the beer industry, to ask his advice for how breweries should market themselves in a crisis. Stout has generously offered to provide complimentary strategy sessions to breweries to talk about branding, marketing, design, or whatever else might be helpful at this time and recently launched a worldwide industry fundraiser with Other Half Brewing Company that both breweries and consumers can participate in. In addition, the Brewers Association is offering all nonmember breweries a free temporary membership to have access to critical updates and member resources. Email for more information.

Also check out the North American Craft Maltsters Guild Coronavirus Resource Center. In the next few weeks, they’ll be publishing a blog post from the perspective of a malthouse owner on their process of applying for a SBA Disaster Assistance Loan. And for beer drinkers, check out's Nationwide List of To-Go Beer Options by Brewery to continue supporting your local brewery while in isolation.

Spring has sprung at Funks Grove Heritage Fruit & Grains! 

Jonny Funk, Katie Funk, and Jeff Hake are founders and partners of Funks Grove Heritage Fruits and Grains, a nine acre farm located in historic Funks Grove, Illinois. Follow them at the links below for gorgeous images of farm life including stunning woodland fungi (upper right), strawberries mingling with last year's sunflower stems (lower right), and spring plants peeking their heads out of the soil in recent weeks. You can currently order their products through the Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup website; their own will be up and running soon!

Funks Grove Facebook
Funks Grove Instagram
Farmers Fold Instagram

When we aren’t baking (and remember- there’s no flour shortage!! here’s a list of where to get it shipped right to your doorstep), we could all use an extra dose of positive activities and material these days! Here are a few recommendations that are equal parts educational, relaxing, and lighthearted.

Craft distilleries have come to the rescue to address hand sanitizer shortages as is detailed in this article in the New York Times and this one in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Loon Liquors in Northfield, Minnesota and La Crosse Distilling Co. in La Crosse, Wisconsin are offering sanitizer to the public while Koval in Chicago, Illinois is making sanitizer directly for the medical community and retirement homes. AGC Coordinating Committee member, Brian Jacobson, of the Food & Bioprocessing Pilot plant at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is leveraging U of I facilities to do the same. While you're picking up your sanitizer from your friendly neighborhood distiller, make sure to support them by ordering a few bottles, too. 
Sales of beans have risen exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic, though their popularity with consumers was already steadily increasing according to the New York Times. In fact, in 2019, Eater honored them as the "go-to ingredient for home cooks for this year." Here’s a summary from Bon Appetit Basically on how to cook them and a new podcast, Home Cooking, from Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway on the same topic. If you are looking for locally grown dry beans, two sources we know and love are Breslin Farms in Ottowa, IL and Driftless Organics in Soldiers Grove, WI. 
Looking to veg and clear your mind on a Sunday evening with something purposefully mundane yet beautiful? Slow TV might be just what you need. Originating in Norway, episodes feature long, uninterrupted takes of a single activity such as a six hour train ride or an 18 hour video of salmon swimming upstream. It won’t surprise you that we are partial to this relaxing ten hour video of a wavy wheat field. 
Cats play with dominos and it is pure joy. Plus, in case you missed it, an extremely bizarre video of Arnold Schwarzenegger hanging out with his pet donkeys. 
Thanks for spending time with us. Good things happen when people share (virtual) space. Let's do it again in two weeks. 
Copyright © 2020 Artisan Grain Collaborative, All rights reserved.

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