Evan and Rochelle Schnadt farm with their family near Lodi. Together, they raise, harvest and process specialty grains through their processing business called Heartland Craft Grains. Their products are enjoyed at family tables, restaurants and bakeries across Southern Wisconsin.
A commitment to soil health, regenerative practices and responsible water usage are all reasons the Schnadt family is this month’s Leaders of the Land® highlight.
As young farmers, it is important to the Schnadt family to be sustainable. They are mindful of their environmental impact and strive to be good stewards of the land. They also recognize that they have to be profitable in order to sustain their business for the long-term.
Additionally, they want to be supportive members of the community and support other local businesses. The ultimate end goal is to create a product that is healthy for their family and their customers.
The Schnadts grow unique varieties of grains for food and beverage. They have to be very mindful of the methods they are using to produce their high-quality, nutritious products. They have implemented cover crops during and after the growing season to make sure they are always harvesting energy from the sun.
“In some ways, you could say that we’re sunlight farmers and the grain is just a byproduct of that,” shared Rochelle.
Regenerative practices help the Schnadts ensure they are taking care of their land and providing a high-quality product. In addition to planting cover crops, they no-till. They want to avoid disturbing the soil as much as possible to build a good soil structure and support the ecosystem in the soil. No-till has reduced the weed and insect pressure and eliminated the need to apply chemicals on their products.
“It was a challenge initially in managing weeds and other critters that find our grains very tasty, but ultimately it has led us to become better farmers on our land,” Rochelle said.
Rochelle likens their soil health efforts to a sourdough starter. Just like the active cultures in sourdough starters, they want to support the healthy microbiome of the soil to make sure there is balance and a healthy product at harvest time.
The Schnadts balance growing ancient grains with the use of modern technology and practices. Reviving heirloom seed varieties requires careful hand labor to clean and process them into a value-added product. They use technology wherever they can to be more efficient in handling and processing their product. Regular soil testing is one tool that helps Evan and Rochelle be efficient and intentional. Soil testing writes a prescription for their soil so they can precisely care for each acre of their land.
The Schnadts have several water sources on and near their property. They are very mindful about what they do on the land and how it impacts the water supply, including the well their family drinks from for the water source in their home. Using cover crops helps to absorb more water. During dry years, cover crops were a great tool to retain soil moisture and provide a shade barrier for the soil.
Evan and Rochelle aim to inspire their customers with the ingredients they grow. Each grain is a testament to the care and quality throughout the process from growing and raising the crop to harvesting and processing and ultimately finding a place at their customer’s table.