Family Farmers

My wife and I have a small family farm, in Grundy county Illinois where we raise organic and non-GMO grains. Unhappy with the introduction of GMO’s and the direction agriculture was taking in the 1990’s, I started experimenting with organic methods. We raised our first certified organic sweet corn in 2007, starting small, and have expanded to include organic oats, wheat, popcorn, peas, soybeans and buckwheat. When selecting varieties for food crops, I try and choose taste first; this leads to using older, many times, heirloom varieties.

Sometimes people ask “Why do you have a horse as your emblem if you don’t even raise horses?” The answer is simple. When I first started farming on my own, my grandfather came out to my farm with iron tracings of horses that hung on his barn. “You’ve got to hang these up on your barn”, he told me. When I asked him why, he said, “Because my father had them hanging on his barn.” The answer was, tradition. Doing things the way our grandfathers and their fathers did them. Not that that applies to everything. I like combines and tractors and everything else. But to try and grow the crops and varieties they grew, that tasted good (because that’s what they ate), without chemicals or GM’s (because that’s what they fed their families) using methods that have been used for hundreds of years. Tradition.

Great-great grandpa Lars Severson immigrated from Norway in 1866 and eventually settled in Garfield township, Illinois where he farmed and is now buried. I immigrated west a few miles to Goodfarm township in 1989.
Lars with his family. Great grandpa Severt is young man standing in rear, right.

Does it make a difference if the farmer and miller are the same person? I think so. By seeing the product from start to finish, it makes me think more about how the crop is raised. The type of ground the crop is raised on, where in the multi-year crop rotation it falls and the fertility used can affect it’s taste. How it was harvested and stored affect each other and the crop’s quality. It also can change how and when it’s cleaned. What I mill and sell also have to fit into the farms overall crop rotation. It thus turns it into an art, seeing the crop from start to finish, from the seed all the way to your table. Enabling me to control and change even small things along the whole chain to make something I’m proud to put my name on.

Our Family From Right to Left:

Our son Joel is the one who raises the animals. Next is Luke who handles the milling and website. My lovely wife Karen (middle front) does most of the paperwork and packaging for orders. Behind her is the farmer himself, Brian. Daughter Sarah (left middle) has finished a culinary degree and is responsible for most of our baking and selling at the Green City farmer’s market. Next to her is Seth who currently lives out of state with his wife Anna (far left) where he follows his dream of being a pilot.

I began by raising corn, soybeans and pigs. After a few years I met a pretty girl who not only loved me but the farm also. I have quit raising pigs, and in addition to corn and soybeans have begun raising organic field peas, wheat, oats, popcorn, buckwheat, and the best crop of all; kids.