Photo of a loaf of bread made with local grains by Hewn Bakery in Evanston, Illinois
In many places across the country, we're entering our second month of sheltering in place. In this time, we have adapted to a previously unthinkable reality and have become increasingly aware of the fragility of our food system. The movement to buy direct and buy local has exploded, not only because we are looking for items that our stores are out of, but also because we are turning to cooking, and especially baking, to cope with this crisis.

For more perspective on why we are turning to baking in times of stress, anesthesiologist and former Great British Bake Bake Off finalist, Tamal Ray writes in the Washington Post, "I bake because, in a time of unprecedented upheaval, it is uniquely comforting. Perhaps it’s that reassuring and familiar cadence of a recipe: Add one cup of flour, half a cup of milk, stir until the world melts away and you forget your troubles. Or being able to see a clear beginning and end when everything in the rest of our lives seem so uncertain; the structure of a recipe provides order to those cut off from their usual routine."

We're sharing the stories of two of the farms we work with who sell flour milled from organically grown grains, Janie's Mill and Meadowlark Organics. They have both seen huge increases in demand for their flours and are shipping them to home bakers across the nation.
Rebuilding the regional grain economy
Janie's Mill
Left: Jill, head miller at Janie's Mill, and Sylvia working to fill flour orders for shipping. Right: Harold Wilken, farmer at Janie's Farm and co-owner at Janie's Mill with Ellen King, co-owner of Hewn Bakery .
The team at Janie's Mill has been working tirelessly to fill the constant stream of orders coming from around the country. The mill is reaching more bakers than ever after being highlighted by Food & Wine magazine, The Kitchn, Food52 and more as a place where people can still find flour and support a small, independent business. Here's what their experience has been supplying organic flour during COVID-19:

Janie's Mill didn't plan on doing so much retail business –– prior to COVID-19, they mostly sold grain and flour to bakeries, distillers, and brewers throughout Chicago and the upper Midwest. Since March, they have experienced an incredible increase in retail sales and are now supplying home bakers across the nation with the flour they can't find in grocery stores. Head miller, Jill shared that "although it's a bit overwhelming to be growing at such an intense rate, we're all so grateful for the outpouring of support we're seeing." On what surprised her most, it's that many people who call the mill immediately ask whether they still have flour. When she responds that they do, there's usually an audible sigh of relief, followed by the question: "Wait -- why do you still have flour when no one else does?" The answer is in their unbreakable supply chain.

This pandemic has shown the resilience and creativity of local food supply chains -- in the case of Janie's Mill, the distance from farm to mill is only the matter of a few miles down the road. While the global food supply chain is flailing and shelves remain empty, Janie's Mill has been nimble and able to meet huge increases in demand because they are small and have a secure supply chain.

Managing growth during this time has meant scaling back what they offer from 3 dozen to 2 dozen varieties of milled grains because of the time it takes to clean the mills between, for example, cornmeal and their best-selling all purpose flour. They've also faced a shortages of some of their bags and labels, but are making do and finding creative solutions to these challenges.

Janie's Mill is now running 24 hours a day, with millers working long hours to mill –– sometimes, they are milling up to 6,000 pounds of grain a day! Terra Brockman, who manages communications for Janie's Mill and is sister to head miller, Jill, writes, " What we're seeing and hearing on social media is that people are coming to understand that short supply chains like ours come through for them when global supply chains fail. We are hoping to not only hook people on the quality of our products, but also on the relationship, and the fact that we need them and they need us -- not just in a crisis, but every day."

Iroquois Valley has worked with the Wilken family since the beginning -- in fact, Harold Wilken was Iroquois Valley's first farmer. We purchased land for lease to the Wilkens in 2007 and have continued to reinvest in their operation. We work with two generations of the Wilken family and bought more land to lease to the younger generation, Ross and his cousin Tim, in 2020.

For baking ideas, check out recipes from Janie's Mill here.
Meadowlark Organics
Left: Flour orders going out to customers Right: Paul Bickford and John & Halee Wepking with their children. Paul, John, and Halee farm at Meadowlark Organics.
The team at Meadowlark Organics has also been busy working to fill orders of flour and beans available through the farm's online store.

Here's what their experience has been supplying organic flour during COVID-19:

"It's been kind of crazy!" shares Halee Wepking. Pre-coronavirus, Meadowlark Organics sold most of its flour to bakeries and wholesalers in their region, with only a small portion through their online store to retail customers. They have received four times as many orders in March alone than over the lifetime of their online store. They are so grateful for the support and to be providing a service to people in these trying times. With so many people learning to bake or taking their skills to new levels, they are grateful that they can be a part of that process through their flours.

Still, Halee says that "no one writes a business plan anticipating this much exponential growth". They made the difficult decision to temporarily close their online store as they catch up on orders and implement better systems to handle their growth. They hope that because this pandemic has helped people in their region (and beyond) find them, that it also helps people in other regions find their nearest mills and connect to local grains. It would be amazing for customers to continue supporting their regional mills even when more convenient options become available again, not only because it supports a regional grain economy, but also because local grains are more fresh and better tasting. Ultimately, they hope people begin to see that staple foods, like grains, are important parts of the farm to table movement.

This crisis has motivated Meadowlark Organics to create a grain CSA, which would feature two mainstay products, like all purpose and bread flour, along with rotating specialty flours. The details of the CSA program will be shared in the Meadowlark Organics newsletter, (sign up on their website). While the concept of a CSA or community supported agriculture is popular for farms selling vegetables, and even meat, it's uncommon within the grain world. Meadowlark Organics hopes that their CSA program will offer customers a consistent and stable grain supply while maintaining the connection built between their farm and bakers.

Meadowlark Organics partners with nearby Lonesome Stone Milling, where their grains are milled into flours, and then returned for direct marketing. Meadowlark Organics is in the process of building a mill of their own, which will allow them to vertically integrate and manage the entire farm to flour experience. They hope to have the mill operational by fall 2020.

Iroquois Valley provided a mortgage to Paul, John, and Halee in 2018. The mortgage allowed them to expand their business and secure their land base. Meadowlark Organics is in the process of building a mill of their own that should be operating within 2020. Meadowlark Organics is a multi-family, multi-generational organic operation growing staple foods like milling grains and dry edible beans.

For baking ideas, check out recipes from Meadowlark Organics here.
Neighbor Loaves
Both Janie's Mill and Meadowlark Organics are participating in the Neighbor Loaves initiative launched by Artisan Grain Collaborative, which supports the Midwestern grain supply chain during the pandemic.

Neighbor loaves supports:

  • bakeries by providing revenue and to continue operating during this downturn
  • local farmers by securing their markets, and
  • emergency feeding organizations that are no longer receiving many donations from retailers because of increased customer demand that leaves less product to donate.
We are so glad that Artisan Grain Collaborative put together this effort to support the local grain economy. Chicago area participating bakeries Hewn and Lost Larson source flour from Janie's Mill and Madison's participating bakeries Origin Bread and Madison Sourdough source flour from Meadowlark Organics.
Support Our Work
Iroquois Valley's REIT Equity Shares and recently updated Soil Restoration Notes are open for investment. Investments in Iroquois Valley enable us to support farms like Janie's Farm and Meadowlark Organics –– farms that are essential to regional food systems that grow healthy food in healthy soil. Learn more about investing on our website or contact us at
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The information contained on this website is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, insurance product, or service. Any product or service discussed in this website is intended for and is only appropriate for accredited and institutional investors and other qualified purchasers as determined by current SEC regulations and orders. The information available on this website is for informational purposes only.

Securities involve risk, and investment may result in a partial or total loss. Some of the statements herein may constitute forward-looking statements under federal securities laws. Such forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including those described in offering circulars prepared for the purpose of offering and selling securities by Iroquois Valley. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Any historical returns, expected returns, or probability projections may not reflect actual future performance.

Iroquois Valley and its affiliates are not liable for any investment decisions by its readers or subscribers. It is strongly recommended that any purchase or sale decision be discussed with a financial advisor, tax advisor, broker-dealer, or a member of any financial regulatory body. The information contained herein has been provided as an information service only. The accuracy or completeness of the information is not warranted and is only as reliable as the sources from which it was obtained.

In particular, Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, PBC is offering its common stock for sale pursuant to Tier 2 of Regulation A+, and as such intends to be exempted from state qualification pursuant to federal law. Offerings are only made through our  Offering Circular , available here. No offer to sell securities or solicitation of an offer to buy securities is being made herein or in any state where such offer or sale is not permitted under the blue sky or state securities laws thereof. No offer to sell securities or solicitation of an offer to buy securities is being made in the following states: AL, AR, ND, OK, and WV.
As a corporate guideline,  we do not look for specific farmland to purchase or finance. We develop relationships with farmers, mostly young and organic, who want to grow their farm business. We move forward when we have a ready, willing and able farmer. 
Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT | Public Benefit Corporation  
 Certified   B  Corporation | Est. 2007

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