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Forefront Speaker Series

MCC's new Center for Agrarian Learning is bringing you innovative thinkers (and doers!) in the food and farm economy. With Forefront: Ideas in Food and Farming, we're showcasing entrepreneurs who are solving problems with their passion and skills.  Ideas abound and strategies are tried and tested as all are motivated to experiment and think outside the box. 

This speaker series is intended for farmers, landowners, chefs, local food enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the food economy. Get informed and be inspired each month, October – December.

All Forefront sessions will be held online. These sessions will not be recorded. Registration ends 48 hours prior to each event.

Whole Grain Supply Chain

Erin Meyer, Rachel Bernier-Green, Andy Hazzard

Sunday, November 15 at 1 p.m. via Zoom | Free but registration required

The local supply chain, that is. You may have noticed that flour was in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic. This, along with increased interest in personal health and the local economy, meant many who were baking at home turned to local, small scale producers to fill the gap.

Join moderator Erin Meyer of Basil's Harvest as she sets the stage for a baker, farmer, and food-system dietitian to discuss their personal experiences working with and growing specific grains, and explore the challenges they face doing so. Plus, you’ll hear details of how each business needed to shift, due to the pandemic.

Learn details about each business—Rachel Bernier-Green's innovative and socially-minded bakery 'Laine's Bake Shop in Chicago; Andy Hazzard's sixth-generation Hazzard Free Farm (and mill!) in Pecatonica; Erin Meyer's diet-conscious Basil's Harvest; and their combined work with the Artisan Grain Collaborative. You'll come away with a better understanding of the important relationship between farmer and baker, and about how the practices around regenerative agriculture and whole grains can improve soil health, human health, and impact local economies.

Register for Whole Grain Supply

 Meet the Speakers

  • Erin Meyer
    Erin Meyer

    The mission of Basil's Harvest is to support a sustainable and innovative community of regenerative farmers by helping to build soil health and aiding these farmers in accessing markets in which to sell their products. As a dietitian and chef with a master's degree in sustainable food systems, Erin uses her previous experience as an executive, a diabetes educator, food service entrepreneur, and educator to emphasize equitable access to regional foods into institutions, dietary shifts for community health, and environmental protection through experiential education.

  • Rachel Bernier-Green
    Rachel Bernier-Green

    Rachel is the owner and head baker at ‘Laine's Bake Shop, LLC and holds bachelor's degrees in finance and accounting and a master's degree in taxation. In 2013, Rachel created ‘Laine's Bake Shop, an online bakery catering company with a social mission. ‘Laine's Bake Shop was founded to create delicious, scratch-made treats with a focus on creativity, honest ingredients, and unparalleled customer service—and to revitalize urban communities, starting with the south side of Chicago.

    ‘Laine's has supplied corporate clients including the Obama Foundation, Google, and McDonald's, and now supplies products to Whole Food Market stores as well as several local restaurants and cafes. ‘Laine's opened a retail location in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago in the spring of 2019 and is currently building out a production facility in the Woodlawn neighborhood. Rachel is an alumni of the prestigious Good Food Business Accelerator at 1871 and previously served as Director of Resource Development for the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants.

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  • Andy Hazzard
    Andy Hazzard

    Andy is a sixth-generation farmer that grew up on a large conventional farm. In 2007, she began vegetable farming focusing on community supported agriculture (CSA), farmer's markets, and wholesale to the restaurant industry. In 2012, she started experimenting with smalls grains, and by 2013 she opened a small milling operation. After several years of running two operations at two locations, she now is focused completely on small grains and direct-to-consumer and wholesale markets. Her farm's niche is focused on heirloom varieties of corn, wheat and barley. She also grows oats and hulled grains. She is particularly interested in seed saving, improving open pollinated varieties, and developing new varieties.

Regenerative Agriculture: Details of a Profitable Journey

Gabe Brown

Sunday, December 13 at 1 p.m. via Zoom | Free but registration required

Nationally recognized North Dakota farmer and rancher Gabe Brown stands at the forefront of the regenerative agriculture movement. He is perhaps best known for popularizing the concept of cover crop cocktails as a key strategy for jumpstarting soil health and nourishing soil biology. Gabe is a farmer, rancher, author, and healthy food system advocate.

Gabe will share the story of how, after four years of hail and drought, he, along with his family, took a broken, degraded, and unprofitable farm and by following nature's principles, regenerated it into a healthy, profitable farm teeming with life.

Gabe will talk about how he learned that healthy ecosystems follow six consistent principles and that those principles are the same for farms, ranches, and gardens. Understanding how to work with these principles, instead of against them, not only leads to healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, and healthier people but higher profits as well.

Register for Regenerative Agriculture

 Meet the Speaker

  • Gabe Brown
    Gabe Brown

    Gabe Brown is one of the pioneers of the current soil health movement which focuses on the regeneration of our resources.

    Gabe, along with his wife Shelly, and son Paul, own and operate Brown’s Ranch, a diversified 5,000-acre farm and ranch near Bismarck, North Dakota. The ranch consists of several thousand acres of native perennial rangeland along with perennial pastureland and cropland. Their ranch focuses on farming and ranching in nature’s image. The Browns holistically integrate their grazing and no-till cropping systems, which include a wide variety of cash crops, multi-species cover crops along with all-natural grass-finished beef and lamb. They also raise pastured laying hens, broilers, and swine. This diversity and integration have regenerated the natural resources on the ranch without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides.

    The Browns are part owners of a state inspected abattoir which allows them to direct market their products. They believe that healthy soil leads to clean air, clean water, healthy plants, animals, and people. Over 2,000 people visit the Brown's Ranch annually to see this unique operation. They have had visitors from all fifty states and twenty-four foreign countries.

    Gabe and Brown's Ranch have received many forms of recognition for their work, including a Growing Green Award from the Natural Resource Defense Council, an Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and a Zero-Till Producer of the Year Award, to name a few. Gabe has also been named one of the twenty-five most influential agricultural leaders in the United States.

    Gabe recently authored the book, "Dirt to Soil, One Family's Journey Into Regenerative Agriculture."

    He is a partner, along with Ray Archuleta, Shane New, and Dr. Allen Williams, in Understanding Ag LLC. He is also an instructor for Soil Health Academy, which focuses on teaching others the power and importance of healthy functioning ecosystems.

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