A Moniteau County farmer has earned regional recognition for her work in organic farming.
Liz Graznak, owner of Happy Hollow Farm just outside Jamestown, was recently named Organic Farmer of the Year by the board of the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service.
MOSES is a nonprofit organization that encourages organic and sustainable agriculture by providing farmers with education, resources and practical advice. The Organic Farmer of the Year award recognizes Graznak's "outstanding organic practices and her efforts to expand awareness of organic food and build community around it," according to MOSES.
Graznak will receive the award, given to one farmer or farm family each year, Feb. 22 at the kickoff of the virtual Growing Stronger Collaborative Conference on Organic and Sustainable Farming.
Graznak and her wife, Katie, bought their farm in November of 2007; Graznak was farming full-time by 2010. The land was previously owned by the Cassil family — the Graznaks' farm neighbors are JT and Mary Cassil.
"They're neighbors and friends of mine, so that's really cool," Graznak said. "The farm has been in the Cassil family, I think, JT told me since the middle of the 1800s, a very long time."
Graznak described Happy Hollow as a small-scale, diversified, sustainable, certified organic vegetable farm. The farm sells to some community members locally, and Graznak appears 50 Saturdays a year at the farmer's market in Columbia. Some local restaurants in Columbia also purchase Graznak's produce.
The farm started small and has grown a little bit each year, Graznak said. She said she employs a number of people, some locally, and others that live in Columbia.
The highlight of the farm besides its produce, though, is its community-supported agriculture model. As a CSA, Graznak said members pay a fee each year to help support the farm, usually early on in the year around the time when she has the most expenses as she makes purchases for the year ahead. In return, those supporters receive vegetables from Happy Hollow each week, with their fee based on what type and amount of vegetables they receive.
"Without the support of my CSA members, I definitely would not have been able to continue doing this and to be here where I am today," Graznak said.
That CSA community was a driving force in earning Graznak that Organic Farmer of the Year honor.
Graznak said it was "unbelieveable" to hear she'd been even nominated to receive the award, let alone that she'd been selected as this year's winner.
"The people that receive this award are like stalwarts in the organic farming movement, not me," Graznak said. "I'm very humbled, it's pretty amazing."
As for what's next for Happy Hollow, Graznak said she wants to feed more people and help provide more opportunities for young farmers to learn how they can do what she does.
"Maybe serve as some kind of a role model so that other young, beginning farmers can see that it is possible if you are willing to work hard," Graznak said.
Having not grown up on a farm, Graznak said the amount of knowledge and skills one must have to succeed in farming is "astronomical." She said she hopes she can pass on some of that expertise to others who take an interest in sustainable and organic farming.
To that end, Graznak offers an internship program. She said none of her interns over the years have come in with any experience in farming, just like her when she had her first internship 20 years ago. Most come away with a wide breadth of knowledge of how to build a farm from the ground up.
Feeding people, of course, is a goal, too.
"I want to get my produce into the hands of many, many more people," Graznak said.
More information about Happy Hollow Farm is available at www.happyhollowfarm-mo.com or on the farm's Facebook page.