Alliance Member, Andy Hazzard, Forges Own Path

Andy Hazzard, a farmer at Hazzard Free Farms and Alliance leader, was highlighted in the Artisan Grain Collaborative’s newsletter, The Crumb. Andy is working with other farmer members in the Alliance to build and grow our Local Food Producers Caucus

The Crumb features stories, opportunities, and resources for growers, researchers, and industry partners in the Artisan Grain Collaborative. Shoutout to Alliance partner and AGC director, Alyssa Hartman, for powering this collaborative work. Check out Andy’s story below and subscribe to The Crumb for future stories like this at: https://graincollaborative.com/newsletter/.

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.

Subscribe to AGC’s The Crumb for more stories like this at: https://graincollaborative.com/newsletter/.