The Grateful Graze Farm to Table Experience

written by

Robyn Bottens

posted on

May 7, 2023

Farm to Table restaurants have been popping up in cities all across the country over recent years. Typically the chef or owner have a desire to connect their customers with fresh local food. It’s rare to find a chef who actually spends time on a farm or with the animals. Until now. Meet the Grateful Graze Chef, Matthew Mulder. 

Matthew started working in restaurants when he was 14 years old and was inspired while working  as a line cook at The Deck in Geneseo to pursue a culinary career. He graduated in 2003 from Scott Community College under the instruction of Chef Brad Scott. He did apprenticeships at Miss Mamies and Five in Moline and learned from two other influential Culinary Institute of America chefs during his early years. It was during his time at TPC Deere Run where he learned how to bake bread and enjoyed experimenting with all kinds of sour doughs. His most recent culinary positions were as Executive Chef at assisted living facilities. He enjoyed engaging the residents in the food preparation but after Covid with staff shortages and watching the residents being forced to stay in their rooms he decided to take a break and focus on his farm animals and do a house remodel.

Matthew had been told by a mutual friend that he needed to meet Monte Bottens. One Saturday morning at our small farmers market in Cambridge Illinois Matthew had an opportunity to meet and have a lengthy discussion with Monte about how he was doing regenerative farming and using Gabe Brown’s business model. Matthew decided then and there that he wanted to come to work on our farm and learn all he could about how to raise animals in this way. 

It just so happened that the farm was in need of extra hands as we would be receiving our first batch of pigs soon. Matthew signed on and our journey began. It seems that every time we are in need someone comes along to fill that need and Matthew not only filled the need but he was a natural with the livestock.

Another little piece of our background is that I have always told Monte there are two things I won’t let him do. One, own a dairy and two, own a restaurant. I’ve always been very supportive of everything he wants to do but I know what kind of commitment is involved in those two businesses. 

Monte and I enjoy fine dining and great food. At the beginning of this journey he commented that he would love to be able to enjoy our meat prepared in a fine dining establishment. I knew what he was hinting at. One night I had a brain storm and shared with him the idea of doing Farm to Table dinners in a rented facility on an occasional basis. I thought it was a grand idea to satisfy his restaurant dream and utilize Matthew’s talent all while providing our customers with a great experience.

Our first dinner was a Valentines dinner and the response was incredible. We made plans to host another dinner and then everything came to a halt when Matthew injured his back. We weren’t sure if he would be able to return to the farm or do another dinner. The healing process was slow and painful but we are thrilled to have him back at the farm caring for our livestock. 

We are also excited to be hosting our next dinner this Saturday night, May 13th at 6:00 pm at the beautiful Central Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast in Geneseo. Because it’s the day before Mother’s Day we have marketed it as a Mother’s Day event but it’s simply a Farm to Table dinner for anyone to attend and enjoy. The tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased by clicking the link below. Central Schoolhouse is managing ticket sales on their website. 

Chef Matthew will be preparing a six course dinner with locally sourced ingredients and featuring many items from the Grateful Graze farm with the main course a Roasted Airliner Chicken Supreme. In between courses Monte will share with our guests insights on how we move and care for the animals, and the benefits of regenerative farming. It’s more than a meal. We want you to enjoy a really great dinner, gain firsthand knowledge about the future of farming, and leave knowing that the money you spent made a difference. Whether or not we continue to do dinners depends on your response and attendance. We want to focus on things that bring attention to regenerative farming and provide leadership utilizing our gifts and talents. 

We really hope you will join us. Seating is limited and we want to fill it up so don’t delay in getting your tickets purchased before sales end at midnight on Wednesday, May 10th.

See you at the table!


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Digging Deeper

Digging Deeper! I’ll be honest, I haven’t told you everything about us and our farm. Now is the time for the rest of the story. I hope to educate and inspire you to choose healthy food from healthy soil, answer nagging questions, and debunk myths or half truths that you hear. But first, let’s play a little “Did you know?” followed by so what and who cares! Did you know that we grow crops in addition to raising cattle, chickens, and pigs? We farm 2500 acres of Non-GMO Corn, Non-GMO Soybeans, Winter Wheat, Triticale, Winter Barley, Summer Forage Cover Crops, and Winter Cover Crops. ½ of our corn is milled and sent to Italy to make Barilla brand products and ½ of our corn is exported (mostly to Japan) for livestock feed or human consumption. 80% of our Soybeans are exported and 20% are high protein and used for food products. Winter Wheat goes to make bread, triticale and winter barley is for seed production for cover crop seed. Our summer forages feed our cattle herd and the winter cover crops protect our soil from erosion, hold nutrients in the field, help prevent weeds, and improve soil health. Did you know most of our farm is dedicated to practice and product based research? Almost every field is comparing a planting technique, products and rate trials, crop rotation and many other experiments. We used large acreage, replicated tests to validate the best practices so we can share our results with other farmers.  Did you know I’m a crop consultant and I started California Ag Solutions to help farmers adopt minimum tillage and better nutrient management? Here are some of the crops I have worked with:  Cotton (upland, hybrid, Pima), Tomatoes (processing, market), Corn (Silage, Sweet, Yellow, White), Wheat (Forage, Durum, Spring), Triticale Alfalfa, Onion (dehydrated, fresh), Garlic (dehydrated), Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Garbanzos, Wine Grapes, Almonds and several species of cover crops. I also developed or was a key part of several farming innovations including preserved bed cotton, min till and strip till tomatoes, cover crops for tomatoes, Strip till and no till planting equipment for forages, equipment and cover crops for Almonds, Pistachios and Walnuts.  Many of which have become standard production practices today. Did you know I developed biological based products to improve soil and crops while reducing fertilizer inputs? Our crop nutrition approach focuses on soil health and is based upon using the most efficient nutrient at exactly the right time and place. We focus on optimization, not ease or cost.  This leads to maximum profitability while minimizing negative impacts. I get to work with a team of amazing chemists, biologists, and formulators to develop products to fit farmers’ needs. Did you know I started Ag Solutions Network to allow farmers across the country to utilize our products and techniques? We currently work with farmers from Indiana to California helping them adopt the soil health principles within their own farming context.  I have visited several farms and worked with their local consultants in CA, AZ, MT, CO, NE, KS, MO, IA, IL, IN, and MI. Did you know that I started the AgEmerge podcast and conference as a way to merge Ag Technology Startups and the Regenerative Ag Movement together to create the farming of the future? I have been blessed to get to know many thought leaders, innovative farmers, researchers and downright interesting people involved in food.  Now I get to have them speak at our conferences or be on our podcast.  While the podcast is aimed at helping farmers think and farm differently, you might enjoy listening to the podcast. These amazing connections have certainly expanded my thinking. Did you know that I am an angel investor in AgTech startups and provide advisor services to many AgTech Startups? 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Ask it, if it is something I can speak to with experience or authority, I will. If I can’t, I might be able to point you in the right direction. Simply email me: As always, thank you for being a customer and making our regenerative farm possible. We simply could not do it without you. Let’s go deeper! Monte Future Blogs Piggy soy questions Comment was deleted but it was about the unintended consequences of GMO/editing.


It’s my favorite time of the year. The trees here on the farm turn beautiful colors and as the breezes of Fall begin to blow, the trees release their grip on the leaves and they become a blanket of color for the earth below it. We humans experience seasons too and for me it’s a season of change.  When Monte and I decided to explore being a vendor at the QC Farmer’s Market in Rock Island it meant someone other than Monte would need to take on this roll as he would continue at Freighthouse. That someone would be me. I remember Monte and Alyssa getting up in the dark many Saturday mornings to load our meat and take it to market, turn around and bring home what didn't sell, and do it all over again the next week. In the early days it was the best way to build our business and bring awareness to our regenerative farm. Never once did I wish that I could be the one hitting the alarm button at 5:00 am and doing market but in April of 2022 I loaded my first van of coolers and headed out in the dark.  For the next 99 weeks I was the one responsible for attending and building relationships at the Rock Island market. The Spring of 2023 brought about another team member change and Monte was back in the tractor planting all our fields so we were faced with the decision to pull out of the Davenport market. Unsure of what would happen to sales the reality was we could only be in one place at a time. Our customers did not let us down. We had a great market season with customers pre-ordering for easy pick up, new customers purchasing items at the market and familiar friends from Davenport following us across the river. This Saturday the market season changes to its winter market hours. You will find us in Rock Island all winter from 10:00 to 12:00. Notice I said us, meaning Julie and Treyten will be at market this winter as I am officially retired from market duties! Some things we finish in life we are really happy about and have no desire to ever do again and some things we will truly miss being a part of. I will miss the market and I will think of you all often as I enjoy my coffee and a morning fire in the fireplace this winter.  I’ve met so many wonderful people at QC Farmer’s Market. It's gone way beyond market vendor and customer. We’ve talked about life and loss. We’ve shared our struggles and health problems. We’ve exchanged recipes and ideas. We’ve built real friendships and I will miss seeing each of you every week. But I know it’s the season, it’s time for me to move on to another part of our farm that needs my time and attention.  I hope you all know how much Monte and I genuinely appreciate the support we receive through your purchases, social media posts, kind remarks, and referrals. While we know without a doubt that raising livestock is the very best thing for the soil, for you and your family, it is not easy. Many days present unexpected challenges and opportunities to fix and improve processes. Honestly, some days are discouraging but if you know us well, you know it’s not over until we win. We will continue to get up every day and keep going. Keep educating. Keep telling our story. Keep filling your orders and coming to market. We just need you to do your part…stay healthy, keep ordering and keep sharing Grateful Graze! Cheers to an unforgettable season! Robyn