Grundy County specialty farm harvests heirloom grains for modern customers

Brian Severson and his family. (Photo provided by Brian Severson)

Brian Severson’s farming methods and crops reflect his Norwegian ancestors while offering tastes of the past with heirloom grains and grain products.

A fifth-generation Grundy County farmer, Severson and his family operate Heirloom Organic Grains and Flours near Dwight. Visit their website or the farm’s Instagram account. Brian and Karen Severson grow diverse organic and non-GMO crops that include popcorn, various food corns, wheat, oats, peas, soybeans, buckwheat and sunflowers.

“We’re finding the old grains that people had lost. There are differences in what they grew a century ago,” Severson told FarmWeek.

The Seversons also operate an on-farm stone grist mill and roller mill to process their grains into various flours, meals and rolled oats. Their rolled oats and Pennsylvania Dutch butter-flavor popcorn are among the top-selling products. Other popular products are all-purpose flour and red flour. Online ordering offers convenience for customers who don’t live nearby.

When the COVID-19 pandemic happened, the Seversons found their products in demand with increased interest in local food and many people cooking at home.

“When it happened, everybody was staying home and baking,” Severson said. Heirloom Organic had difficulty keeping up with all the orders, especially for flour that was in short supply elsewhere. Demand and orders have slowed some since then, he added.

The farm’s markets have shifted with the business restrictions. The wholesale market to restaurants dropped, while Heirloom Organic added some new store customers. The farm also gained some subscription farms when community supported agriculture operations added flour to their customers’ weekly shares.

As for his products going directly to customers’ tables, “it’s really nice seeing the emails from people who order,” Severson said.

The farm’s future seedlings are growing in the footprints of great-great grandpa Lars Severson who immigrated in 1866.

“We’re a small family farm,” Severson said. “I have two sons and a daughter who want to come back and participate in it. I enjoy farming more like my grandpa farmed.”