Amy Randazzo, former accountant and mother of three, is now crunching numbers in a different way. She's drawing up crop rotation plans, taking inventory, and monitoring income and expenses for her new farming venture, Grani's Acres. Staff meetings are now held with her husband and children and her new office is the hoop house they raised last year to extend their growing season. It's not a fancy skyrise in the city, but you can't beat the view. We caught up with Amy to learn a little bit more!
1. When did you start farming?
2012 – the year of the drought.Not a great year to be a rookie farmer!
2. Can you tell us a little bit about your farm
We have 2 ½ acres of vegetables.We also have 200 chickens for eggs.In 2015 we raised a test batch of broiler chickens just to try it out.We didn’t sell any of the birds, we kept them for ourselves.We just wanted to start slow.We will raise more in 2016.We bought the farm from my grandparents.They raised miniature horses for 22 years.The people that owned the land before them raised thoroughbreds.My son Mitchell did an internship with PrairiErth farm in 2014 then moved to our farm.It was amazing to work alongside him in 2015!My brother retired from the Navy at the end of 2012.He’s been living there and helping out for the past three years.My dad – a former John Deere mechanic – lives just two miles down the road. He loves to help with anything that involves driving the John Deere tractor that he generously provided for us.
3. Tell me a little bit about the sustainable farming practices that you use.
We are adamant about crop rotation.We make note every year of what crops are going where, so that we don’t duplicate anything in one place too soon.We do not use any chemicals.We always over-plant so that the bugs can have their fair share.Our broilers were pasture raised and we will do that again with chicken tractors.Our layers are cage free, but they are contained to about an acre and a half.With Indian Creek running through the back of the property, we are frequently host to a number of chicken predators.We are currently putting up our first hoop house.We hope that being able to grow product year-round will encourage more people to eat locally year-round.
4. Why is it important to you to use the particular sustainable practices you mentioned above?
The current state of agriculture is simply unsustainable.I can’t change the world.But I can change the way my 2 ½ acres are a part of the world.Maybe if others see that you can have success on a small scale without mono-cropping, they will be encouraged to try it.
5. Why did you become a farmer?
I wanted to work in an environment where people appreciated what I was doing. Good food is always appreciated.
6. What is your favorite part of farming?
Weeding.I know, I know – not the most glamorous answer.But it gives me great satisfaction to look back at a bed when I’m done.Knowing that the attention that bed just got will make the plants better and stronger is the best!
7. What are the main ways we can find your products?
We participate in the Downtown Bloomington Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from May to October.We are also part of the cooperative, Legacy of the Land which will be offering a CSA in 2016.We sell wholesale to restaurants and grocery stores in Bloomington/Normal, Champaign/Urbana, Peoria and Eureka.Both Grani’s Acres and Legacy of the Land have facebook pages. Visit market.thelegacyoftheland.com to learn more about our CSA options. Wholesale customers can also order online from this website.
8. Tell me about a favorite or meaningful moment that happened on your farm.
I think that the opportunity to work with my son every day is priceless. To see him do the job that he was so very meant to do; it fills my heart with a special kind of joy. And, of course, to work with my brother and dad. We’ve been able to get three generations involved in only four years of farming.
9. Do you have any upcoming special events or products that people should know about?
Legacy of the Land will be hosting a CSA fair in the Hansen Student Center on the IWU campus.On Tuesday, January 26th from 4-6 pm, the public is invited to meet us and learn the benefits of buying directly from the farmer.The Garlic Press will be having a product demonstration with our winter produce and their bread.The Land Connection, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and the U of I Extension will also be on hand. We want the public to know how we are part of a larger farming community.