Will Glazik from Paxton, IL is a second generation organic farmer and crop advisor. Will was raised on a mixed row crop and livestock certified organic farm before he studied Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. After graduation will went to work in agriculture retail sales prior to share crop farming 1000 acres. Currently he is utilizing some no till organic practices on his farm as well as consulting for organic row crop transition farmers. Will is a cofounder of the IDEA Farm Network which is a learning community for organic and conservation minded farmers in the Midwest. He raises corn, soybeans, oats and wheat as well as specialty grains like open pollinated corn and grains for brewers and distillers. Along with his brothers Clayton and Dallas, Will is a founder of Silver Tree Beer & Spirits LLC. Through Silver Tree Beer & Spirits, LLC the family is able to market products like Down East Vodka and whiskeys directly to the consumer utilizing grain grown on the farm.
My Next Crop is Farmers!
"We are raising a diversified group of crops, like a mutual fund, to create a steady return for profitable farm operations."--Will Glazik, farmer, Paxton, IL
We're talking about catalyzing a farm to food system vision for regenerating community health, wealth, resilience and well-being.
In this interview I talk with east central Illinois farmer, crop advisor and founder of the IDEA Farm Network Will Glazik. Will is a second generation organic farmer who has a big vision for making small farms profitable, creating opportunities for young families to make a living farming.
Will compares our current system of farming only two crops--corn and soybean--that dominates American farming to an investor putting 100% of their money in highly volatile stocks to make a living. While it could produce a high return, it's highly risky. He believes most farmers would prefer a steady return like a mutual fund investment. With only two crops, farmers are at the mercy of the commodity grain buyers, who can set prices just above break-even, meaning farmers barely make money and the rest of us get cheap food. This system also makes it impossible for young farmers to make a living and stay out of debt and is an important contributor to the dramatic decline in the number of new farmers.
Will is building a more resilient farming system of diversified crops and value added enterprises that like a mutual fund, will create a steady return. His enterprise stack begins with healthy soil that reduces or eliminates the need for costly chemicals--fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides--that can eat up much of farm income in a conventional system. Instead he relies on a rotational mix of cover crops to smother weeds and support beneficial insects that keep the problem insects at bay. His operation is organic, so he doesn't pay for costly GMO seeds. He has integrated tree crops and a variety of small grains, with a regular rotation of cattle that graze the grains--and are a valuable revenue stream.
Will's goal is an enterprise stack that can support the farm on fewer acres. Land prices are also a barrier to new farmers. If Will can show that a farm can be profitable on a smaller footprint, then he can attract new farmers and their families to his community of Paxton. Like many rural agriculture supported communities, Paxton has lost farm families as new generations can no longer afford a conventional farming lifestyle without owning and renting larger and larger pieces of land. Will wants to knit together a community smaller, right-sized farms where they can work together to build and attract new investments in infrastructure and processing that can support enterprises such as flour milling, brewing, malting, distilliing and meat processing. Will's corn, wheat and oats are currently going into bread, beer, whiskey, oatmeal, and vodka! And his cover crops are not only feeding the microbes in his soil but are also feeding his grassfed cows.
Will's vision of returning to a landscape of smaller family farms would not just mean profitability for his family and the farms around him, but would return prosperity to the entire community, helping to address the issues hat have befallen many rural towns, as farms have gotten bigger in land size, fewer people are able to farm and less income remains in the community.
To make his vision reality, Will says he needs people. He needs people who want to farm and he needs people to buy from their local food economy--flour, bread, beer and spirits, meats, eggs, milk, fresh produce. He believes that farmers can be profitable with a smaller operation and without crop insurance and other subsidies and he aims to show them how. Will leads the IDEA Farm Network that helps farmers learn from other farmers and he wants to develop an on-farm apprentice program that will teach new farmers a profitable crop rotation and how to market the crops and value added products. His request? Come farm alongside him in Paxton, it's a life you won't regret.
Please enjoy my conversation with Will to learn how we can catalyze and support a regenerative farming and food system that works for everyone.
Don't forget, I’ve created a special Our Food Is Our Future Facebook Group where you can join the conversation and share your reflections, questions and ideas about creating a healthier farming and food system.
Here's to a healthier farming and food system for us all,