Brian Severson started driving a tractor once he was old enough to push the clutch at age 5. Today he’s raising organic sweet corn and small grains in Grundy county where his family has been farming since 1866. You might say that farming is in his blood. But when all of the farmers around him began switching to genetically modified crops, Brian started looking in a new direction. “I started like everyone else in the county raising corn and soybeans. While most farms started switching to GMO's, I started looking at organic farming. Though I haven't yet converted to all organic, I have never planted GMO's,” says Brian.
Above, a young Brian Severson and wife stand on the family combine for a wedding photo shoot.
Below, Brian's young children pose on the family tractor.
“I started raising sweet corn organically as something to do with my kids. I didn't want them in or around all the chemicals required to raise conventional sweet corn. It's grown into allowing more interaction with my kids when we're working together, rather than them being in separate tractors, and sometimes in different fields. They also get to experience how grandpa used to farm. My teenage kids today know what point rows are, how to run a front mount cultivator, and how to stack small square hay bales. They’ve been around a corn sheller and know first-hand how itchy oat dust is. How many other teenage kids can say they know about those things?”
In addition to sweet corn, Brian and his children have added blue, red, and yellow corn for flour and grits, wheat and buckwheat for flour, oats, and specialty heirloom organic popcorns.
“I've come to appreciate how and why grandpa farmed the way he did,” says Brian, “and the many rules of thumb that I used to hear, like that you have to work the ground 3 times before you plant corn. My college professors used to refer to that as “recreational tillage”, but when done correctly it’s a useful tool for controlling weeds without using chemicals. I'm also learning I can raise crops without the chemicals and maybe without all the tillage grandpa used to do. And the end products seem better. The oats taste better. Some people who get sick on conventional wheat flour can eat mine without trouble. Buckwheat pancakes seem more filling in the morning. Popcorn flour cornbread is good all by itself.”
Brian and his four children stand among their organic sweet corn patch
To make some of your own buckwheat pancakes or popcorn flour cornbread, or try out any of Brian’s other products, checkout his website and online webstore at www.qualityorganic.com. You can also find his products on Amazon, at the Green City Farmers Market in Lincoln Park in Chicago, or through a CSA they are starting in the Champaign-Urbana area this winter.
On a final note, Brian reflects that sometimes people ask "Why do you have a horse on your logo if you don't even raise horses?" The answer is simple he says. “When I first started farming on my own, my grandfather came out to my farm with iron tracings of horses that hung on his barn. ‘You've got to hang these up on your barn’, he told me. When I asked him why, he said, ‘Because my father had them hanging on his barn.’ The answer was, tradition. And that’s what I want to carry on, doing things the way our grandfathers and their fathers did them. This doesn’t apply to everything. I like combines and tractors and everything else, but at the heart of things, I want to grow the crops and varieties they grew. The ones that were grown because they tasted good. And I want to grow them without chemicals or GMOS, because that’s what they fed their families, using methods that have been tried and true for hundreds of years. Tradition.”