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Managing Risk in Organic Grain Marketing

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Janie's Farm Organics, 854 E 2300 N, Danforth, Illinois

(1.5 miles north of Danforth and 3 miles south of Ashkum on US 45)

September 8, 2016, 9:00am-4:00pm

Any farmer can tell you that you should have a market lined up for your crop before you put a seed in the ground. For organic grains, the story is more complicated than simply finding an elevator to drop your crop off at. Prices can vary widely, and opportunities for differentiation, value addition, and early contracts mean that organic grain growers have many factors to consider to get top dollar for their hard-won crop.

This workshop will be held on one of Illinois' most successful organic grain farms, Janie's Farm Organics in Danforth, Illinois. Owner Harold Wilken has been a leader for organic farming in Illinois since he began transitioning to organic production in the late 1990s. Much of his success has come from thoughtful marketing and value addition. His grains and beans have appeared everywhere from Chipotle burritos to Journeyman Distillery whiskey, and this fall an industrial mill will come online at his farm, enabling him and other regional growers to add value to their grain crops. 

In this workshop, participants will learn:

  • how successful Illinois organic grain growers have established consistent marketing channels for their crops, and worked to create or expand existing markets
  • how processing, such as milling or roasting, can add value to your crop, and what it takes to invest in and tap into such markets
  • how to establish pre-season contracts for organic and transitional crops
  • how farmer Harold Wilken has worked to establish a grain mill on his farm and what it will mean for his farm and others in years to come

If you would like to register for this event, please return to the main page here.


9:00 AM Introductions and coffee 
9:15 AMPresentation: Opportunities for Diversified Markets in Illinois and the Midwest Wyatt Muse, Clarkson Grain
10:00 AMWorkshop: Understanding Organic Grain Sales Contracts Dave Bishop, PrairiErth Farm and Barbara Barcal, All Star Trading
11:00 AMPresentation: Direct Sales and Branding the Farm    Andy Hazzard, Hazzard Free Farm
12:00 PMLunch 
12:45 PMPanel: Marketing Specialty Grains in IllinoisThe day's presenters
1:30 PMPresentation: Establishing Diversified Markets at Janie's Farm OrganicsHarold Wilken, Janie's Farm Organics
2:30 PMTour and discussion of milling operation at Janie's Farm OrganicsHarold Wilken, Janie's Farm Organics



Wilken, together with his wife Sandy and son Ross, are the proprietors of Janie’s Farm based in rural Iroquois County near Danforth, IL. The farm’s name honors Harold and Sandy’s daughter Janie, who was killed in a car accident in 2001. Janie’s Farm produces corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, pumpkins, black beans, alfalfa, popcorn, and seed corn. Most of the 2,370 acres Wilken farms are USDA certified organic (1,900 acres), with 370 acres in second-year transition, and 100 acres in first-year transition. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has named Wilken winner of the 2015 R.J. Vollmer Award for Sustainable Agriculture.


Wyatt grew up on his family's farm in Piatt County, Illinois and remains active as both a farmer and grain elevator manager. He is the 4th generation to live at the original Muse homestead near Monticello with his wife, Ashley, and son, Griffin.  They raise and direct-market beef, hay, and also contribute to the Muse Family's row-crop farming operation. After studying agribusiness at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and at Wagengingen University in The Netherlands, he started his career in the commodity grain elevator business. With several years of grain trading experience in both generic commodity and food grade grains, he decided to focus on food grade corn.  Since 2009, Wyatt has helped farmers earn premiums for growing non-GMO and certified organic grain, while connecting buyers to a consistent source of food grade corn from Clarkson Grain Company in Cerro Gordo, Illinois.  Wyatt is deeply involved in the food supply chain on several levels and is proud to contribute to a safe and healthy food supply.


Dave Bishop and his family own and operate PrairiErth Farm,  a 400 acre multigenerational, diversified, organic farm producing corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, alfalfa, vegetables, beef, pork, eggs, and honey. Most of their production is sold through local markets, Midwestern feed mills and dairy farms, a CSA, the Bloomington Farmers Market, stores, restaurants, and consumer direct.  The farm has an extensive outreach program, offering programs and tours to over 2000 students annually. Internships are offered each year to beginning farmers, who live and work on the farm from March thru November.  Research into sustainable farming practices is also a priority.  In 2014, 2 research projects are being conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois, and a SARE grant funded project exploring the use of vertical space to maximize food production on marginal lands is in it's third year. 


Barbara Barcal is a trader for All Star Trading, a grain merchandising company. She is an expert in feed grain merchandising, grain usage, and imports and exports.


Andy Hazzard began farming on her family’s land in 2007, growing vegetables for a CSA and for wholesale markets in nearby Chicago. Her father farms conventionally but she has worked alongside him to transition some of his land over to non-certified organic production. After a few years of vegetable production, she began growing more and more small and heritage grains, and now devotes most of her attention to growing grains on 30 acres, sold into direct and wholesale markets.

She spent 2012 and 2013 in research and development, and now has a small milling and cleaning operation that allows her to farm a smaller amount of acreage and direct market her value-added product.  She does not own her land but is hoping to acquire some soon, as well as her own equipment

If you would like to register for this event, please return to the main page here.