Small Grains: A Growing Movement

Farmer + miller + hospital = one example of Illinois’ growing small grain movement.

by Erin Meyer and Golda Ewalt
The Regenerative Farm to Hospital Pilot team: Harold Wilken, Golda Ewalt, Erin Meyer, Lenore Beyer and Carol Hays at Janie’s Mill
The Regenerative Farm to Hospital Pilot team: Harold Wilken, Golda Ewalt, Erin Meyer, Lenore Beyer and Carol Hays at Janie’s Mill. Photo by Jill Brockman-Cummings

The local small grain movement is growing, and Harold Wilken, a fourth-generation grain farmer in Ashkum, Illinois, is leading the way. Harold is a forward-minded farmer, both in his care for the rich, black soil he farms in east-central Illinois—rated among the best soils on earth—as well as his care for the people who eat what he grows. 

In addition to growing food-grade grains, Harold operates Janie’s Mill, which takes organic wheat, corn, soy, rye and buckwheat and mills them into a variety of flours. In 2019 he began exploring the growing market for organic oats used in snack bars, granola, oat milk and oat cereal. Processing food-grade oats to preserve nutrient density, taste and shelf stability requires a specialized piece of equipment made in South Africa to heat-treat the oats. He expects to offer organic oats this spring. 

With Harold’s new equipment, organic oats are moving into the mainstream in central Illinois—facilitated by a dynamic partnership. Basil’s Harvest, a nonprofit organization focused on the system connecting food, farms and health, is working with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH, a global nonprofit), Janie’s Mill and OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center to source and serve locally grown and milled oats into their hospital food service menu in 2020. The initiative is part of HCWH’s Regenerate Land and Health Initiative to demonstrate successful procurement relationships between hospitals and farms practicing regenerative agriculture.

We plan to serve the best bowl of oats in Peoria! Besides serving oatmeal for breakfast, we envision oats being used in catering and community education to encourage support for local farms and mills at the community level. Below is a recipe for a savory oatmeal dish with mushrooms and eggs. 

Asian oats with mushrooms and eggAsian Oats With Mushrooms and Egg
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup oats 
  • Water according to cooking
  • instructions for oats
  • Pinch of salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced mushroom
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 eggs, cooked to your preference
  • Minced chives or chopped green onion and black sesame seeds for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan and add the minced ginger, sauté for 30 seconds and add the water. Bring to a boil, add the oats, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, reduce heat and simmer until the oats are cooked according to the directions on the package.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add the sliced mushrooms and garlic, cooking until the mushrooms are golden brown, about six minutes. When the mushrooms are cooked, remove from heat and stir in the soy sauce.
  3. To assemble, divide the oatmeal between two bowls and top with mushrooms and eggs. Garnish with chives or green onion and black sesame seeds. PM

Chef Golda Ewalt, MS, RD, CEC is director of food and nutrition services at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center. Erin Meyer, MS, RD is executive director of Basil’s Harvest. To purchase or learn more about the grains and flours from Janie’s Mill, check out janiesmill.com. Follow Basil’s Harvest on Instagram @basilsharvest_foodfarmhealth and Twitter @foodfarmhealth1.

 

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