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October 18, 2020

The days are shortening and changing leaves are in their full glory here in the Midwest, which means it’s time for pie, apple cider, bonfires, and most importantly, voting.

Now 16 days away from the election, it’s the final countdown for reading up on local and state ballot initiatives and gaining familiarity with all the candidates that may be representing us beginning next year. There’s still time to cast your ballot (I already voted by mail in Wisconsin!), to call or write family and friends to encourage them to have their voices heard, and to double check that your community has enough poll workers signed up to help those voting in-person on Nov. 3rd (or earlier, depending where you live). Best wishes as you partake in your civic duties this fall!

—Alyssa Hartman, AGC Executive Director

Hazzard Free Farms began in 2007, and since then, Andy Hazzard has become a known force within the small but growing movement for old varieties of beans, corn, and grains. She’s presented and spoken about seeds in many places, including a panel with seed sovereignty leader Vandana Shiva. Fans of Evanston, IL bakery Hewn may be familiar with Andy’s collaboration with Ellen King to grow Marquis wheat, a Canadian variety that was popular in the early 1900s. Now, Andy is focusing her considerable plant breeding energy on a Glass Gem corn project. She’s been crossing seeds for several years, selecting for cob size and uniformity. This year, she had 13 beds averaging 125 feet in length, and is confident in her results. Most of what she saves will go to growing out a seed crop—a crop that will be sold for seed—although she will be milling some for her customers, too.

Andy is the first woman in her family to run a farm operation on her own, working on 35 acres of land in Pecatonica, IL that’s been passed down for several generations. Though her family is supportive of what she does, Andy is forging a path unlike her ancestors by direct marketing (and both growing and milling) heritage grain. She producers corn, wheat, rye, barley, oats, and some vegetables, keeping her crop rotation front of mind to prioritize soil health. Within the next year or two, Andy will be adding intensive rotational grazing to the farm, leveraging livestock’s power to create and spread their own fertilizer as manure. In a recent interview with AGC, Andy said, “That’s manure I don’t have to spread!” Which is good because she would rather spread ideas.

Farming is a job that lends itself to lots of thinking, thanks to time spent, often alone, in a field. Since Andy began farming--a decision made to align her work with her beliefs about life and the environment--she’s continued to find ways to share herself and her thoughts. That sharing has taken many shapes: connecting youth to farming through on-farm educational partnerships, speaking about seed saving, and advocating for women farmers in various channels. Currently, she’s working with another AGC member, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, on an initiative to create a farmer caucus that will become a voice to policy makers on issues that affect farmers.

Collaboration is a continuous theme that crops up with Andy, pun intended. As this spring changed everything on the marketing side of farming, she lost 90% of her sales, which had historically gone to restaurants. Luckily, she drew on a past CSA effort as a model for aggregating a curbside pick-up virtual farmers’ market. Now, a dozen producers are getting their foods to the surrounding community through The People’s Market. (Flour Power Bakery is selling Neighbor Loaves & other baked goods through this platform, BTW!) That coordination has sparked further opportunities, and the producer group is now working with the Chicago Market, an emerging food co-op that’s currently operating as a pop-up. Andy’s even venturing into cooking videos to help familiarize Chicago Market’s grain box customers with what they are buying and how to use it.

Creating The People’s Market was energizing, and Andy was glad to be involved in this work as the late spring and early summer unfolded. She’s excited by the awareness of our food systems's—and broader society's—flaws that COVID-19 has exposed, and for the prospect of necessary changes.

Find her grains and flour for sale through her website and the People’s Market, and follow her on social media to keep up with life on the farm and elsewhere.

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Brewing & Distilling Working Group: Barley Research

On Wednesday, AGC’s Brewing and Distilling Working Group—a cross section of folks working across the grain beverage value chain, much like AGC itself—met to talk barley. Barley breeding, to be specific. This group meets on a bi-monthly basis to share updates and challenges, and also to learn. Our most recent meeting featured presentations from small grains breeders Lucia Gutierrez (UW-Madison) and Kevin Smith (U of MN), where we learned some interesting things about the differences between craft and commodity beer, including the fact that “everyone” in the brewing industry is now following the craft beer trend of preferring “2-row” barley—a type with a lighter arrangement of kernels on each seed head. [You can watch the full presentation here.]

The popularity of 2-row barley means a lot of growers in the Midwest are learning (or being forced to learn, depending who you ask!) how to shift from the 6-row varieties they’re accustomed to growing. There are lots of very particular details involved here, but we’ll leave it at this: more regional 2-row barley is wanted; it takes great skill to produce quality barley and quality malt; we need more craft maltsters, geographically positioned for craft brewers; and we need consumers to think about what local beer means: is it just brewed locally, or is the brewer also using locally-grown, locally-malted barley?

If your fall-time activities involve a brew or a cocktail, take a few minutes to consider where the grain that you’re drinking originated, and encourage your favorite brewhouses and distilleries to seek out a craft maltster from whom to purchase malt. We love this resource from AGC-member North American Craft Maltsters Guild, which makes identifying malthouses that use local grain a cinch.

How exciting to see Eric, Katie, and the rest of the Muddy Fork Farm and Bakery team featured in the Fall 2020 issue of Edible Indy's collaborative print publication, Edible Kentucky + Indy + Ohio Valley. It's a great article by Charity Singleton Craig that digs into the origin of Neighbor Loaves, exactly how the program works at Muddy Fork, and even offers a recipe.

Photo: Megan Cowans 

As we wrote in our last newsletter, CRAFT's virtual Grains and Revolution conference is coming up on Nov. 5th—did you get it on your calendar yet? So many great panelists will be speaking, including AGC members Rachel Bernier-Green ('Laine's Bake Shop), Fresh Roberson (Fresher Together & Chicago Bread Club), and Amy Halloran (@flourambassador). The panel topics are Community Grain Projects, Seed Saving and Food Sovereignty, and Conversations with Women of Color in Grains. Learn more and register here.

 

Civil Eats recently published a story about the University of Minnesota-led #KernzaCAP work that includes AGC and many other partners. They interviewed Bang Brewing, The Land Institute, A-Frame Farm, Birchwood Cafe, and Jacob Jungers, assistant professor of agronomy at the U of MN and lead researcher on the grant.

Photo: Jacob Jungers

AGC member Big Green is featuring grain this month through their virtual programming, Big Green at Home. The monthly family engagement program shares activities, recipes, and tips for families to grow food at home, maximize food resources, and support their exploration of food literacy. You can sign up here to receive Big Green's monthly emails, including this month's grain-focused resources, some of which were provided by AGC members. Check it out and consider sharing with others to help spread grain awareness!

Don't forget: you're invited to another fun evening hangout to talk about all things bread tomorrow, from 7-8pm CT. Whether expert, novice or fan, we'll join together with the Maine Grain Alliance to belatedly celebrate World Bread Day. Amy Halloran will host and offer her take on the metaphors and realities of sharing bread; when you sign up you'll find some recipes to seed our discussion!

Photo courtesy of Beth Dooley's Kitchen

See you in two weeks!
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