URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Beer enthusiasts at Riggs Brewery Saturday were oblivious to a bumper crop of small grains enthusiasts more focused on the wheat and barley test plots on the east side of Urbana. Owner Matt Riggs hosted Small grains researcher Jessica Rutkoski and her followers, but there is a great family story brewed from it as well.
“I am sure it’s hard for every family that is running a business, together,” Riggs said. “It takes a lot of communication. Some people are better at it than others, and you’re doing something when there’s a failure it hurts everybody.”
That’s Matt Riggs, one of the two sons of Sidney farmer Dennis Riggs, but did he raise farmers or brewers?
“I’ve raised intelligent young men, and they have turned into both,” Dennis Rigg said. “They turned into beer makers first, I might say, and now they are turning into farmers because we are trying to find a way to integrate our family farming operation into a new commercial venture, which of course is beer-making.”
And father Dennis says the family farm is responding.
For the last 4 or 5 years we have been scaling up and scaling up to match their production needs,” Dennis said. “And we’re up to, I don’t know the bushels, but we’re over 40 acres of our farm that used to be no grains at all, is the barley, some wheat, and also some white corn for the production.”
But it was not an easy start.
“I think he alluded to the fact that it was crazy,” Matt said. “And we eventually through persistence, convinced him to, essentially we started with 1 acre, and over the years we have ramped that up as we have demonstrated, hey, this works. It’s not perfect, it’s not easy. But he’s at the point now where I think he’s all on board. But that took years, but that’s not a bad trait for a farmer to have.”
And Dennis also found some additional benefits.
There’s a lot of environmental reasons to do this,” Dennis said. “The soil, the runoff, and I like all those things. As we try to integrate those things into our operation and make it more environmentally friendly, its working out great.”
And a lot of folks will drink to that. That’s our harvest heritage report. I’m Stu Ellis with WCIA-3, your local news leader.