Straight to the Consumer

By Brandon LaChance

Local Farmers Change Their Business Strategy


The world is always changing and moving towards something different. Even in farming. Once upon a time, a farmer raised animals, grew vegetables and oats, and then sold them to a big company for them to distribute and place the items into stores. Slowly, this is fading as farmers are now going straight to consumers. “We’ve gone more organic and we’re going straight to the consumer. When I started, we’d go to the big commercial businesses like ADM and Continental,” said Brian Severson, who has led Brian Severson Farms just north of Dwight since 1988. “Now, we’re going to the individuals who consume it. I think we’re bypassing the conglomerate middle-man. We’re going back and finding heirloom grains that taste good. They don’t have patents on them, so we don’t have to depend on the seed on the one end and we can go directly to the consumer on the other end. “When I started, there wasn’t any GMOs (genetically modified organisms). That’s the biggest thing. There is less pillage. No one really cultivates anymore. It’s all chemical control. It’s less pillage and more spraying.” Severson, an organic farmer, started the organic process because he wanted to be able to farm with his children. Producing conventional corn and using chemicals made him sick and he did not want his children to experience the same. Three of his children Luke, Joel and Sarah (Seth is pursuing his dream to be a pilot) help Brian farm organically and they have all seen the value of going straight to the consumer, both figuratively and lucratively, as they fill mail orders from their website and Amazon, sell to a multiple small distributors and open up shop at farmer’s markets in Chicago. Not only are they able to build a client base that believes in their product, but all profits go to them instead of to another company. “We have a flour mill on the farm, so we’re raising specialty grains,” Severson said. “We have different corns. We have red, blue, white and yellow corns. They’re all heirloom corns. We grind them into corn meal or into grits. We are selling three different kinds of wheat. We have Minnesota wheat (bread wheat), Kansas wheat (all-purpose) and Illinois wheat (pastry wheat). We grind them into flour whether it’s bread flour, pastry flour or all-purpose flour. We also have buckwheat and oats. “Sarah graduated from culinary school about a year ago, so she’s taking the next step and is popping the popcorn, making the wheat into breads and making corn bread. We have a sourdough bread where everything comes from the farm except for the salt. We can go all the way from the seed to the bread.” The Severson Farm is not the only local farm adopting a new way of doing business as Boucher Farms and Winding Creek Farm and Nursery have also made changes.

Marie and Matt Becker have turned Winding Creek, a couple miles north of Dwight on Goodfarm Road, into a successful business on many fronts. “Before, we were selling privately. We were selling a half or a quarter beef or half or whole hogs,” said Marie Becker, 41. She moved to Dwight when she was in fifth grade. “My father plants corn and soybeans, so that’s what we were mainly doing beforehand. We wanted to try to get into a different avenue, a different (continued on page 12) market. “I love anything that has to do with agriculture including learning new ideas and new technology that goes along with the field. I just like being on the farm. This was something I wanted to do and my family has been very supportive.” The couple have taken their passions and put them together as Marie grew up raising animals on her father Dave Mantia’s farm and Matt has his own lawn care and landscaping business. “We sell beef, pork, chicken and fresh eggs. We do have some produce. We don’t have much to bring to farmer’s markets at the moment, but we hope to do more for next year,” Marie Becker said. “We have different cuts of meat as far as ribeye and T-bone steaks. We have the roasts like sirloin tip roast and chuck roast. We sell full chickens for grilling or roasting. We have bacon and it’s all cut up. “We have a list of all of our cuts and the prices per pound on our Facebook page.” In august, Winding Creek market. “I love anything that has to do with agriculture including learning new ideas and new technology that goes along with the field. I just like being on the farm. This was something I wanted to do and my family has been very supportive.” The couple have taken their passions and put them together as Marie grew up raising animals on her father Dave Mantia’s farm and Matt has his own lawn care and landscaping business. “We sell beef, pork, chicken and fresh eggs. We do have some produce. We don’t have much to bring to farmer’s markets at the moment, but we hope to do more for next year,” Marie Becker said. “We have different cuts of meat as far as ribeye and T-bone steaks. We have the roasts like sirloin tip roast and chuck roast. We sell full chickens for grilling or roasting. We have bacon and it’s all cut up. “We have a list of all of our cuts and the prices per pound on our Facebook page.” In August, Winding Creek will offer different cuts of chicken, and turkey will be a selection come November. On the nursery side, mums and pumpkins will be available this fall and the plans are to have annuals, perennials, bushes and shrubs next spring after the construction of a greenhouse is finished. The Beckers started going to markets and selling directly to consumers in the last year. One-on-one interaction between the seller and the buyer and the buyer and the product has been fantastic for Winding Creek. “I think it’s been worth it. We’ve had a lot of people comment and tell us how good the quality of the meat is,” Marie Becker said. “They know where it’s coming from and the way it was raised. We try to take preventative measures so we’re not using any kind of medication or anything for the animals. “For example, for our chickens we use free choice garlic and put a little vinegar in their water to keep parasites away. We are taking those steps so you know the meat is free of anything harmful that can sometimes get into our foods.” Brandon LaChance can be reached at (815) 876-7941, blachance20@gmail.com or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.