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July 26, 2020

As summer rolls on, I’m continuing to enjoy hearing harvest updates from our region’s farmers, and eating any and every imaginable combination of seasonal fruit and local grain. I hope that readers are staying cool, and that your homes are similarly filled with the joys of this season—whatever those might be for you and your family—despite the challenges and uncertainty of this time.

—Alyssa Hartman, AGC Executive Director

Husband and wife-team Eric Schedler and Katie Zukof started Muddy Fork Bakery at their farm on the outskirts of Bloomington, IN in 2010, shortly after the state approved sales of home-baked goods. Their creations were so popular that their home bakery quickly bloomed into a local enterprise that now employs seven people. 

Eric developed a love for bread when he was a high school exchange student in Germany and took up sourdough baking upon returning to the States. When he and Katie—who has a background in foreign languages, food production, and sustainability—started baking for the farmers’ market, they began with fresh flour from a mill 30 miles away in Seymour and never turned back from that local imperative. Now Eric and Katie source grain mostly from Janie's Farm in Ashkum, IL, and fresh mill their own whole grain flour in their bakery. If a recipe calls for sifted flour (which is whole kernel flour with some of the bran and germ removed), that comes from Janie's Mill. (Side note: Muddy Fork and Janie’s Mill partnered last month on a talk for the Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition: Navigating Online Sales. You can watch it here.)  

Wood-fired baking is as important to the bread production process at Muddy Fork as fresh milling. The bakery was such an immediate success that before the first year passed, they were able to build a wood-fired oven in a new building on the farm to house the business. Unfortunately, four years in, that building burnt to the ground (no one was hurt!); within months, Eric and Katie rebuilt, a testament to their strong community support.  

Muddy Fork was one of the first bakeries to join AGC’s Neighbor Loaves initiative, baking bread for a local food pantry, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. Doing so not only stabilized operations for the bakery, which has been consistently producing 75 Neighbor Loaves each week, it also allowed them to increase hours for their part-time bakers who’d lost work elsewhere due to the pandemic. 

Click to enjoy this fun depiction of how Eric, Katie, and their team—including Laura Wanner who produced and stars in this video—turn 60 lbs of organic Illinois-grown wheat into Neighbor Loaves for Bloomington’s Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard food pantry.
Music by Eric, accordion, and Brian Lindsay, violin.

As much as the community believes in the bakery, this bakery believes in their community. When the partner of one of Muddy Fork’s employees was exposed to COVID-19, the potentially affected worker was given sick pay for quarantine. Like many of their peer craft bakeries across the country, Muddy Fork is as committed to being a good employer as they are to making wonderful bread.

Following the murder of George Floyd, Muddy Fork started donating $1 from each online-purchased loaf to racial justice groups and also participated in the Bakers Against Racism Bake Sale last month. The primary beneficiary of these funds was Chef Adrian Lipscombe’s 40 Acres and a Mule Project, which has raised over $100,000 since early June. Adrian will use the funds to buy farmland in Wisconsin to provide area restaurants with an additional source for locally-grown crops and to preserve Black foodways.

Check out Muddy Fork’s website and social channels at the links below to stay up to date with Eric and Katie’s goings on. Besides discovering photos of beautiful bread, you’ll learn the intimate details of their baking process, and have an opportunity to sign up for an upcoming virtual class. The next two on the schedule cover artisan baking at home and a primer on how to make your own croissants. We're so thrilled that Muddy Fork is part of the AGC community and our first Indiana member!  



Thanks to the assistance of Shannan Hofman Bunting of Solstice Communications in Chicago, Neighbor Loaves has gotten some great press coverage over the past few weeks. On Tuesday, July 14, AGC Executive Director Alyssa Hartman was interviewed by Brittney Payton on Good Day Chicago. On Friday, July 17, Sandra Holl of Floriole was interviewed on The Jam TV Show (the interview starts at 35 minutes in). And most recently, the nationally-syndicated ABC segment Localish covered Neighbor Loaves on Tuesday, July 21.

The Localish crew visited Chicago's Lost Larson to interview owner Bobby Schaffer about his role in Neighbor Loaves production, spoke to Alyssa from her home in Madison, WI, and included some footage from Meadowlark Organics in Ridgeway, WI. Take a watch and let us know what you think!

AGC was please to be one of the first guests on The Blue Flame Radio HourAli Berlow's new show about food and cooking, hope, change, and deliciousness. The conversation, which feels like a comfortable chat at the kitchen table, covers fundamentals like how AGC came about and why we’re rising to the challenge to expand row crop diversity in the Upper Midwest and connect communities to locally grown food-grade grains. The interview also covers the fallout of the loss of grain cleaning, storing, and processing infrastructure on the landscape over the past century, the failings of existing crop insurance policies, and dives into the Neighbor Loaves program and its role in ensuring steady demand for our regional grain supply chain. It’s a nice in-depth conversation for sharing with folks who might be new to small grains. 

And for a little more background on Alyssa, check out this blog post from Vermont Law School (Alyssa and Ali’s alma mater), published last week.

Did you join us on July 16th for our @chicagoregionfoodsystemfund Instagram Takeover? We shared photos, videos and other educational content, including debuting our Grains Glossary. We started with five need-to-know grain terms, and look forward to expanding the list in the coming months. Email if there are particular words you’d like to see defined.

Image: Jeff Hake, Funks Grove Heritage Fruits & Grains

Our Instagram Takeover began with a video intro, and finished with this visual representation of where we'd like to be with cumulative Neighbor Loaves sales by the end of the summer. Do you know of bakeries or tortillerias in the Chicago area that might be interested in taking part? Send us a note with your thoughts. The more bakeries we can promote, the more we can share the message of local grain and what it does for our environment, farmland, and regional economy. 


An update on the Du Nord Riot Recovery Fund launched by Chris and Shanelle Montana: they've reached 75% of their $1M goal. As reported in this July 7th New York Times article, the couple began the fund to help Minneapolis-area businesses owned by people of color that were affected by the aftermath of the George Floyd murder.

Image: Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

Also from The New York Times is a welcome opinion piece from Columbia University law professor Timothy Wu: That Flour You Bought Could Be the Future of the U.S. Economy. He says, "If King Arthur is basically a medium-size, employee-owned corporation that tries to be good, a regional mill like Maine Grains represents a more radical vision: the return of true agricultural localism." He also cited author, advocate, and AGC member Amy Halloran (@flourambassador), who told him "these companies are making an effort to deliberately ignore the single-minded approach of the commodity market in favor of “best practices” for their regions."

Image: Hilary Swift for The New York Times

See you in two weeks!
Copyright © 2020 Artisan Grain Collaborative, All rights reserved.

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