The long-winded version of this story really starts with Molly’s grandpa John R. McDonnell, who left 87 acres of his Wallace Township farmland to his daughter Peg McDonnell Breslin. Just let that marinate in the back of your mind while we give you the rest of the set-up.
The father in this father-daughter operation is John Breslin, a “retired” fly casting instructor and jack-of-all-trades.
Once upon a time, he lived in the country and had a huge garden where he grew tomatoes and peppers and squashes galore. Then he moved to town and got busy working on other projects. Many years later, he and his wife, Peg, joined up right away when a nice family moved to the neighborhood to start up a vegetable CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. Eventually that family decided to concentrate on raising animals for meat and eggs, and they let out their vegetable land to a nice young couple. John, always interested in learning new things, volunteered to help out with the organic vegetables. He learned so much and proved so useful that they hired him for the next year. John simultaneously helped his brother start and set up a vegetable farm in northern Wisconsin. He remembered that he loved growing things.
The daughter in this father-daughter operation is Molly Breslin.
She started out growing yellow beans in her dad’s garden (green beans were gross!) at a very early age. She hated beets. Then she moved to California and started cooking with all kinds of weird foods that she hadn’t known about before: chard, sunchokes, kohlrabi, quinoa. She worked in a housing co-op kitchen, purchasing from local organic farmers, learning what organic meant and why it was important, and then explaining that to a lot of college kids. She learned about urban agriculture and seed saving. When she moved back to Chicago after a stint in the northern Minnesota wilderness, Molly decided that she needed to do something that let her be outdoors, was intellectually and physically challenging, and would save the world. In other words, farming. She worked at an urban farm in Chicago and sold organic apples at Chicago farmers markets. She learned to like beets.
Peg is the hero of this story.
Her 87 acres was a good investment with a steady rate of return, but she thought that it might have greater possibilities. She grows and cooks beautiful things, but she didn’t want to be a farmer herself. She agreed to let her husband and daughter try their hands at becoming farmers on a much larger scale than they had ever contemplated.
They knew that they wanted to farm organically, but they didn’t know what to grow. All their experience was in vegetables, but 87 acres of vegetables seemed like a huge project to start with. They took a great farm business class that led them to analyze what was lacking in their local area and aim to fill that need. Molly and John are both bread bakers, and they noticed that they could buy just about anything from a local farmer at a Chicago farmers’ market, but not flour. Or, come to think of it, beans. And so Breslin Farms was born in 2010.
See? Told you this was the long-winded version.