Rural Living & Local Food
An American Icon Broken Wagon Bisonâ€™s Koeppen family works to protect the national mammal
Bee Public Riley Family Farm South Circle Farm
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A monthly publication of AIM Media Indiana, Farm Indiana offers the local news and views of Indiana’s farming world, including features about local families and their farms, agriculture businesses, equipment and technological advances, educational outreach programs and more. Farm Indiana promotes and celebrates Indiana’s rich history and tradition in farming; serves as a conduit of information among growers, producers, farmers, retailers, farming organizations and local food consumers; educates readers about the nutritional, social and financial importance of local food support and consumption; and highlights Indiana local foods and agritourism.
PUBLISHER Chuck Wells EDITOR Sherri Lynn Dugger CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Liz Brownlee, Katherine Coplen, April E. Clark, Katie Glick, Cheryl Carter Jones, Shawndra Miller, Jim Poyser, Ryan Trares, Twinkle VanWinkle, Catherine Whittier, Robin Winzenread Fritz, CJ Woodring COPY EDITOR Katharine Smith SENIOR GRAPHIC ARTIST Margo Wininger Advertising art director Amanda Waltz ADVERTISING DESIGN
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Farm Indiana // July 2016
Comments, story ideas, events and suggestions should be sent to Sherri Lynn Dugger, The Republic, 333 Second St., Columbus, IN 47201, call (812) 379-5608 or email email@example.com. To advertise, contact Mike Rossetti at (812) 379-5764 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to Farm Indiana, call (800) 435-5601. 12 issues (1 year) will be delivered to your home for $50. Back issues may also be purchased for $5 per issue.
Contents July 2016
Riley Family Farm
5 Field Notes Tips and advice
6 South Circle Farm 10 Bee Public 14 Heritage Farm 20 Riley Family Farm 24 Lifeline Farms 28 Broken Wagon Bison 32 Hide-A-Way Farms 34 Food Security Commission 36 Franklin Street Bazaar
38 Farm to School 41 From the Field Columns by growers
45 Continuing Education 46 Local Food FoxGardin, Roasted Tomatoes
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Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
The Feeling Is Mutual
Liz Brownlee writes in her Nightfall Farm column this month about the concept of “mutual usefulness,” and as I reread her piece before sending this publication to print, it occurred to me that nearly everything I see, hear, read and discuss in the local farm world lately relates to this idea. People are serving in mutually useful relationships all over the place. My husband and I recently attended the premier screening of “Food First: Indy’s Food Story,” a documentary that showcases the many developments taking place in the local food scene around central Indiana. We published a story about this documentary in our June issue of Farm Indiana, and because of what I’d read while editing that story, I wanted to check it out. (There are still two more screenings scheduled in July; visit deliberatemediallc.com for details.) As the documentary came to a close, I felt encouraged, inspired and eager for the coming changes in our state’s agricultural landscape. The film highlighted many of the relationships being formed throughout the region that are leading to new local food initiatives, businesses, farmers markets, successful small farming operations and more. It’s exciting stuff. And we’ve written about this exciting stuff for years here. As I left the documentary, I felt inspired. And that’s exactly how I feel after editing each issue of this publication. This issue is no different.
Farm Indiana // July 2016
Inside these pages you will find stories about many fruitful relationships developing throughout Indiana. Our profiles on Heritage Farm (p. 14) and Broken Wagon Bison (p. 28) both discuss how the farms’ owners teach new and beginning farmers about their industry. We feature Kate Franzman and her Bee Public organization (p. 10), who is working with Jim Poyser, Earth Charter Indiana’s executive director, on educating the public about the plight of honeybees. And we profile South Circle Farm’s Amy Matthews (p. 6), who is partnering with Matthew Jose at Big City Farms to increase both farms’ production and efficiencies. If you look for it, you’ll see these mutually beneficial relationships among Hoosiers throughout this issue. I could go on and on about the many wonderful partnerships that are developing around us on a nearly daily basis, but you’ll have to wait … for next month’s issue.
By Catherine Whittier
Supporting the Soil
Midsummer is a good time to begin thinking about how to replenish the soil for increased production next year. Scott and Erica Hensley of Pleasant Street Produce have been experimenting with the use of cover crops, aided by instruction from Kevin Allison, urban soil health specialist, at the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District. In late August, or early September, after the harvest has been taken, Scott and Erica will cover their permanent beds with about an inch of compost, where they then will broadcast a mixture of hairy vetch and cereal rye seed. The seeds will sprout and plants will begin to grow before freezing temperatures occur. The Hensleys will leave the plants intact over the winter, and growth will resume in the early spring, when plants will reach as high as 5 feet tall. Just as the rye begins to pollen and the vetch begins to flower, Scott will use a sickle to cut the plants to the ground. What’s left is a “thick mass of roots — a biomass on top of the ground,” he says. At that point, holes can be cut in the mass of roots, and annual plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, or others, can be planted directly into the dead vegetation and roots. The dead roots create channels for water and serve to aerate the soil, and the dead vegetation, above ground, serves to hold moisture and regulate temperature, and even is a good weed suppressor, Scott explains. The combination of hairy vetch and cereal rye also serves as a “nitrogen fixer that becomes available to the subsequent cash crop,” says Scott, who will use this method for the second time this fall. Pleasant Street Produce can be found at the Garfield Park Farmers Market at the corner of Shelby Street and East Southern Avenue on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Hot Compost Making fine compost can be difficult and burdensome, explains Damien Appel of Native Roots Farm in Westville. Appel used to keep his compost heap off in a shaded corner of his farm, where he would add to it, turn it and wait. “It took longer than I wanted,” he explains. Appel made a couple of changes that resulted in his making high-quality compost more efficiently. First, he relocated the compost to one of the paddocks he uses for his pasture-raised laying hens, which also happens to be more easily accessible. Then, Appel put his laying hens to work, by releasing them on the compost to accelerate the decomposition process. “Chickens want to scratch, look for bugs and provide fertility to soil,” says Appel. “I realized they could be utilized as a workhorse on my farm.” If you let chickens scavenge over a fresh pile (which he typically does in the spring), they’ll spread it out, until it is “just a six-inch layer on the earth,” he says. The chickens “do what chickens do — they scratch and scratch, shredding the material further, and turning the pile.” The chickens eat worms, centipedes, salamanders, grubs, caterpillars and more, which not only improves the quality of their eggs, but it further breaks down and improves the quality of the compost. After the chickens finish their work of spreading the compost out, via scratching and pecking, he pushes the material back into a pile with a tractor. Then a week or so later, he will bring the chickens back into the pile to work it again. Or in the case of a pile that has heated
up, he will wait for it to cool down before reintroducing the hens. “Our piles get between 120 to 150 degrees,” he explains. “By using chickens, the compost breaks down faster, becomes a better quality compost for my vegetables, gives the chickens something to do, enriches the chickens’ health and eggs, and is a much better alternative to buying composted chicken manure from factory farms, which is standard in farming,” says Appel. His chicken pastures are divided into four quadrants, one of which is home to the compost pile. Appel moves the chickens from one quadrant to the next, allowing grasses to recover between pasturing time. This rotation also allows life to build back up in the compost pile, before the chickens return, explains Appel, who allows the chickens to work the compost as often as necessary to achieve a finished product that he is satisfied with. A super enriched compost is the result. “It’s just letting them be chickens, which works out really well.” “I grow lots of green veggies, which is why chickens and their nitrogen rich fertilizer is so important for my farm,” he explains. “We also clean out the deep bedding chicken litter in the coop and put it on the fields for fertility. It feels so good to be able to produce some of my crops’ fertility needs.” Native Roots can be found at the Valparaiso Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., in Valparaiso, and at the Coffee Creek Farmers Market in Chesterton on Wednesdays from 3 to 7 p.m. For more information, visit NativeRootsFarm.org.
Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
South Circle Farmâ€™s Amy Matthews remains dedicated to developing efficient growing practices By Katherine Coplen // photography by josh marshall
Farm Indiana // July 2016
Hannah Cootz, Matthew Jose and Amy Matthews
Cootz harvests produce for market.
South Circle Farm’s produce is the stuff of farmers market dreams. Its berries are plump, beets vibrant, sugar snaps crisp. And everything is produced on a little over an acre of urban land on South Meridian Street in Indianapolis. “We are small enough that we have to be sure that what we’re growing is … better than something else someone can buy from the store,” founder and farmer Amy Matthews says. “That’s important for our survival. “We really love beautiful vegetables, too, and it’s a lot more satisfying to be selling really beautiful vegetables,” she adds. “We’re always experimenting with new production methods that can make things that much more beautiful.”
After growing up on Indy’s south side and attending Xavier University in Ohio, Matthews served in a variety of social work jobs in Cleveland and Chicago, both communities with large urban agriculture support systems. This exposure piqued her interest in starting her own growing operation. After returning to Indianapolis six years ago and finding the small plot already zoned for agricultural use on South Meridian, Matthews got to work. “The first season was tough because we were building the farm up,” she says. “We had to bring in an acre’s work of mulch; on top of that, an acre’s worth of soil (and) compost and build up the soil so we could grow good crops. Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
Matthews helps Jose unload his truck from Big City Farms.
“It took a good year to get the soil into shape, and it took four seasons before the farm was actually finished from fence to fence with growing plots.” The now-defunct Concord Community Development Corp., which owned the land, dissolved the rental contract during her second season, leaving the operation in flux. “The land was in the city’s hands for a while, and now it’s owned by Gennesaret Free Clinic,” she says. A local health and homelessness prevention nonprofit, Gennesaret opened a transitional home for homeless and very low-income women just south of South Circle. “I know that had we not come in there when we did, Amy may not be there today,” says Rebecca Seifert, executive director of Gennesaret. Indianapolis is lacking in agricultural land trusts and support mechanisms for urban agriculture, Matthews says. It’s one of a few complications urban farmers navigate. “The three big things on how (growing) urban is different: production techniques have to be intensive; the land has to be environmentally sound; and as a producer, you have to have a secure tenure,” she says. “On this site, we operated in limbo for two years,” she explains. “We kept the business going and we kept growing, but that wasn’t a sure bet. That’s not a sustainable way to grow — not just a business, but an industry. We don’t really have any policies that incentivize protecting the land that we do have in Marion County. There is still really 8
Farm Indiana // July 2016
good agricultural land in Marion County, and there’s absolutely no land trust that is working on urban agriculture land yet.” If the city has small farmsteads like South Circle, “there has to be some policy level work to figure out how to keep those around. People want access to this sort of thing. It doesn’t have to be a lot of land. You can set aside two acres, and that’s a viable site to grow on.” Over the years, Matthews has worked the land as the only full-time employee with a part-time employee and several volunteers. This year, she partnered with Matthew Jose of Big City Farms to co-manage both South Circle and Big City, located across town. By joining efforts, “we gained efficiency and took advantage of the skill set that each of us has, as well as the space and infrastructure each of us has developed over the years of running our own operations,” Jose says. “We share staff; we share markets; we share our work plan,” Matthews says. “We’re able to bring more to market and offer more to customers that way. Now effectively we’re managing a little over two acres together.” “On a very practical level, she’s incredibly organized,” Jose says. “From both a grower and consumer perspective, her standards are, I would say, higher than anyone else that I’ve met. … She’s a remarkable grower.” Beyond the growing responsibilities, Matthews also organizes several outreach programs for
neighborhood residents. One of those programs is KidsGrowGreen, which is a partnership with Concord Neighborhood Center. “We’ve offered that the past five years,” Matthews says. Once a week, groups of students from the neighborhood center come to the farm to spend time with a dietitian. “She helps the kids garden, and they prepare meals and snacks with things from the garden. They’re learning some cooking skills, some gardening skills. Some of the same kids have done it year after year. At the end of the summer, they bring their parents down and cook for them.” South Circle also plays host to programs organized by community partners like Purdue Extension, Slow Food Indy and the Indiana Historical Society. But Matthews is quick to point out the time-consuming nature of her undertaking: “Our main focus is and has to be getting efficient. We’re not a nonprofit; we don’t have grant funds. We just have to focus on getting our growing methods better every year.” For more information, visit southcirclefarm.com.
4329 North Highway 31, Seymour, IN 47274 812-522-5199 Monday thru Friday 8am to 5pm Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
bee friendly Kate Franzman educates the public about pollinators
By Robin Winzenread Fritz Photography by Josh Marshall
Bees come and go from their hive on the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple.
Farm Indiana // July 2016
From her humble beginnings on an abandoned DeKalb County farm to her present status as a full-on honeybee advocate and urban farmer, Kate Franzman, founder of Bee Public, is on a mission. And it’s not about the honey. For Franzman, saving bees, a vital aspect of Indiana’s food chain, starts by raising awareness. Through her organization, Bee Public, she’s doing it one school, one hive and one city at a time.
Growing up on a farm in Indiana in the 1970s, I remember honeybees were everywhere, but we just don’t seem to have them like we used to. Do you have memories of encountering bees as a child? »Yes, that’s how my childhood was, but how soon we forget, right, that the world used to literally be crawling with bees, and to be stung as you were running through the clover was just something that happened? It wasn’t a big deal, because bees were everywhere. Where I grew up, we had fruit trees, the fruit would fall to the ground and begin to rot and attract all kind of bugs, including bees, and it’s just something I grew up being around. I was totally a free-range child, running around on this abandoned farm. But when I do presentations at schools, from talking to kids today, that’s just not the case. Even, I think, for their parents, maybe my age or older, it’s a big fear for them that their child is going to be stung where, not that long ago, 20-, 30-plus years ago, bees were everywhere here in Indiana. Your organization, Bee Public, aims to make Indianapolis a more bee-friendly city. Where does Indiana as a state and Indianapolis as a city stack up in terms of their bee friendliness factor? »It’s kind of this strange juxtaposition in that Indiana is an agricultural state, that is our heritage, that is our identity, and yet there’s such a difference between what is sustainable for pollinators and what is, sort of, unsustainable. And this is a whole other conversation as farming and the agricultural industry have changed so much just in the last 50 years. I think Indianapolis has the opportunity, because we have this agricultural identity, to really step it up and say we want to be a friend to pollinators, and hopefully, other cities in our state will follow suit.
Kate Franzman at the Public Greens restaurant farm site at 64th and the Monon Trail.
What is the current state of colony collapse in Indiana? Is anyone out there keeping track on whether it’s getting better or worse? »Colony collapse disorder is specific to honeybees because they live in this colony, this society, very different from the way other species of bees and pollinators live. And it’s definitely not subsiding. But all of our data is coming from commercial beekeepers. So it’s difficult to say because a beekeeper can, let’s say, have two hives, and if one dies, they can
take the other hive and split it and still have two beehives. So it’s difficult to say. And as much as I’m sure commercial beekeepers are trying to recoup their losses, at a 44 percent die-off rate from colony collapse and other factors, imagine if a beekeeper is making his or her living off of honey or selling their pollination services. They don’t want them to die, they want them to survive. But much as they’re trying to preserve their commodity, they’re losing 44 percent of their bees a year.
I can’t think of any other segment of the agricultural industry where, if they were dealing with a 44 percent average annual die-off rate, producers wouldn’t immediately be vocal about eliminating the causes. »Exactly. If 44 percent of your cows died, that would be a big deal, right? I don’t know if this is the cause for that, but maybe people see bees as expendable. Maybe they just don’t look at bees in the same way they look at other creatures. Maybe they just have less reverence for bees than other creatures. I take the opposite view.
their own devices, they will go to seed or bolt or flower and that’s when they are pollinated and can reproduce. I like to offer this perspective when I’m talking to kids or adults, to really point out that we think that we are running the world, but really plants are running the world. They can’t get up and walk across the yard to pollinate so they have developed, over thousands and thousands and thousands of years, attractive flowers and tantalizing smells and shapes and colors to attract the pollinators, and they’ve developed this incredible relationship with pollinators.
Commercial beekeepers aren’t the only ones impacted by colony collapse, though, are they? How does this disorder affect the average Hoosier? »I manage two urban farm sites for a nonprofit, and we have a farm stand. And the number one question I get from people who may be new to gardening is, why didn’t I get any squash this year? And then I have to explain to them it’s because, for whatever reason, maybe you treat the heck out of your lawn, but for whatever reason, maybe there were no pollinators in your backyard. There’s just like a two-day window for pollination. Well, if you don’t have a lot of pollinators visiting your plants, then there’s a good chance you won’t get any fruit from your squash plants. And that’s a glimpse into our future. If we lose all of our pollinators, we’ll have to do it by hand.
Bee Public was launched in 2012 with the objective of making Indianapolis a more bee-friendly city. How are you achieving this? »This year I helped set up five beehives at schools, and the schools will then take those beehives on as their own projects. But most of my energy with the public is speaking about bees to kids and adults. Originally, it was going to be about placing hives. But it really morphed from that into recognizing my mission is to use the skills I have to tell as many people as I possibly can about bees, and that’s what I’ve been doing.
And it’s not just squash we would have to hand pollinate, right? What other fruits and vegetables are most dependent upon bees as pollinators? »Honeybees definitely visit all kinds of flowers that are on fruiting crops. So squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, even things that we tend to harvest in small batches like herbs and lettuces and mustards, eventually they shoot out a flower because plants want to reproduce, and if left to
You’ve had some interesting partnerships such as with the Indiana School for the Deaf, but also with the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital. How do you work with these organizations to further your mission? »With the IMA, I have ongoing programming with them. They have their own beehives already, and last year I participated as a camp counselor in their grownup summer camp. So I took all of these grownups on a tour and showed them the beehives and talked to them about bees. And this year I’m going to do the same thing, and I’m going to do another family day and talk to kids about bees and do an activity with them. They (IMA personnel) haven’t really Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
The Public Greens farm site and bee hives.
talked a lot about the beehives there. They’re kind of tucked away where you can’t find them easily, and they’re just there. So I’m partnering with the IMA to not only come up with some programming, but to be the amplifier of what they’re already doing there. They’ve got such beautiful grounds there, all kinds of flowers, it’s really a pollinator haven. If organizations want to follow in the IMA’s footsteps, how do they sponsor or host a hive? »Sometimes I get contacted by an individual or someone with lots of land who asks, “Can you put a beehive on my property?” And again, originally that’s what I thought I was going to do. But then I realized that I can make the most impact by placing beehives where they’re going to be seen. For instance, the one at Public Greens is along the Monon Trail, and thousands of people are going by and seeing it. If I should partner with an organization, it has to meet those parameters. 12
Farm Indiana // July 2016
For instance, will there be programming surrounding it or will the hive be seen? I would love to have a hive at the racetrack or a hive on Monument Circle, for instance. I’m thinking really high impact. That’s where the public in Bee Public comes from. So Bee Public’s primary focus really is on educating the public, particularly young people, about bees. Tell me about your education programming. »Talking to kids, especially third, fourth and fifth grade, has become my absolute favorite thing to do, and this is not where I thought I was going with this at all. I thought I could only connect with adults because these are such big, complex subjects, but it turns out that kids get it, maybe even more so than adults do. I see the light bulb turning on, and I get thank-you letters from kids, these handmade letters, and they say things like, “I’m scared of bees and I will protect them. You changed my mind.” A teacher dropped off a bunch of
handmade notes at my house, and I was just sitting in my dining room crying because they are so sweet and so incredibly heartfelt and genuine and honest. To see this change happen right before your eyes, well, that’s what life’s about.
ago — he did Save the Monarchs — so he suggested this year, why don’t we do Save the Bees? And naturally I was like, “Yes!” So getting that grant really helped to get what I was doing and what he had done and put it on steroids. So we got the grant in the fall of 2015, and since then I’ve visited nearly 30 schools and given my presentation — and I’ve had a few schools come to me at one of the farms — and that’s about 1,800 kids. I’ve talked to all ages, preschool through high school. In some instances I talked to the entire student body all at once. Jim really helped coordinate with the Arts Council the art exhibit we did. About 20 schools participated. They made 3-D sculptures; we hung them in the Arts Garden in April and May — they’re down now — but they were so cute and creative. But we’re really partnering with art teachers and getting the students involved and displaying their art in a real gallery. I think art is an important component of any cause, so we really combined activism with education and art.
As part of that activism, you’ve taken a rather different stance than most beekeepers in that you don’t collect honey from your hives. What led to that decision? In the fall of 2015, you received a »As I got into beekeepNice Grant from ing, the more I became “So I decided that I wasn’t Smallbox, a fascinated and ingoing to take the honey; marketing firm vested, the less I really I wasn’t going to sell the in Broad Ripple, wanted to harvest the honey; it was just about to help support honey from the bees. pollination. Their odds are your Save the Also, as the projects basically 50/50 anyway. Bees Indiana started to develop, I I didn’t want to contribute project. Tell me realized that, really, to their demise.” more about this I want to put all of —Kate Franzman project and how my energy into the it enables you education aspect, and, to spread the word about honeybees. of course, I need to keep beehives, but really my energy is spent as an educator. »Save the Bees Indiana is a collaboration I also felt like I needed to approach it between myself and Jim Poyser of Earth differently because of what I was readCharter Indiana and the Arts Council ing about and seeing. For example, like (of Indianapolis). What we did is we the flow hives where you just basically took part of what Jim had done a year
have a faucet on the side of a beehive and you never have to open it or do anything; the honey just comes out, and that bothers me so much because that puts you so out of touch with the bees. And you really need to be incredibly in touch with these creatures. So I decided that I wasn’t going to take the honey; I wasn’t going to sell the honey; it was just about pollination. Their odds are basically 50/50 anyway. I didn’t want to contribute to their demise. But it’s been so hard to explain that philosophy to a lot of people. I have found, since making that decision, when people ask me, hey, where can I buy your honey, I can say, actually, I don’t take it. And they’re like, well, why? Why wouldn’t you? Well, I say, that’s the bees’ food. That’s what the bees eat. But a lot of people don’t realize that that’s what bees eat. And I’ve heard all of these stories from casual beekeepers, professional beekeepers about how people are taking all of the honey and the bees will die, and I just don’t want to be associated with any of that, really, that greediness. I support beekeepers who do it in a healthy way, but there are plenty of them who don’t. I like to be an example of another way to do things. So, as that example, part of your mission is to educate people that it’s not just about the honey? »We should know that there’s this ugly side of beekeeping, both in industrial and in hobby beekeeping. People are very greedy when it comes to honey. And it’s become this commodity and it’s really ugly, and so I’m taking the opposite philosophy and then sharing that philosophy when people ask about the honey. I use it as an ice breaker to say, well, actually, I don’t, and here are all of the other ways bees benefit us beyond honey. And did you know that the reason we have food — one in three bites of food you eat — is made possible by bees? Most people don’t know that.
A Helping Hand for Honeybees Research continues on the causes of colony collapse — a mysterious disorder that prompts honeybees to suddenly abandon their hive — but past studies suggest a combination of factors. Advances in the use of pesticides and herbicides, a reduction in available forage, monoculture farming and invasive parasites such as the varroa mite are all thought to be contributing causes. But whatever the causes, honeybees remain vital to Indiana’s agricultural industry. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, roughly one-third of the food we eat is made possible by pollinators, with a particular emphasis on the honeybee.
To help support native honeybee populations, consider the following:
Limit the use of herbicides and pesticides.
Sprawling green lawns void of any stray weed or insect may be the goal of America’s weekend gardeners, but that impractical and labor-intensive perfection comes at a price. Healthy weeds such as clover and dandelions are a main food source for Indiana’s honeybees, thus eliminating these weeds through the use of herbicides not only introduces harmful chemicals into the food chain, it also significantly reduces honeybees’ food source. Instead, embrace the diversity and allow these beneficial plants to bloom. Heavy general pesticide use also contributes to the loss of honeybees, as chemicals aimed at ridding yards of mosquitoes, spiders, wasps and flies often don’t make a distinction between these bugs and honeybees. Instead, aim for prevention, such as eliminating sources of standing water, and embrace topical applications, such as spraying wasp nests with a mixture of water and liquid dish soap or applying topical skin lotions such as Burt’s Bees all natural line of insect repellent to discourage mosquitoes and flea applications on pets. But if you must treat your lawn and surrounding landscaping, avoid doing so when plants are in bloom. Treating flowering plants introduces harmful chemicals to pollen and nectar, which is then carried back to the hive, potentially affecting thousands of bees and contributing to colony collapse. Also, look for specially marked products that are not harmful to honeybees and follow the application instructions. Lastly, treat your lawn later in the evening when bees are the least active, thus allowing them to avoid any spray drift.
Include flowering plants in your yard.
Flowers provide honeybees with nectar and pollen, both of which are transported back to the hive and turned into honey and bee bread respectively. Without these food sources, honeybees will either leave the area in search of others or they’ll starve. To support native honeybee populations, add flowering plants to your landscaping mix. In addition to embracing clover and dandelions, make room for lilacs, sunflowers, cosmos, honeysuckle, fruit trees, and blackberries and raspberries, as well as flowering herbs such as oregano, mint, sage, verbena and lavender. Additionally, common garden plants such as tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins and cucumbers also attract and support pollinators such as honeybees. Like all creatures, honeybees need water, too, so fill a shallow dish or birdbath with water and scatter some small rocks that protrude above the surface in the dish to provide a landing space for honeybees. Just be sure to change the water every other day to avoid attracting mosquitoes.
Seek local sources of raw honey.
For more information visit beepublic.com
Finally, recognize that not all honey is collected in sustainable ways. Do your honey homework and seek beekeepers who use sustainable practices. Local farmers markets can be a great source of raw honey. Additionally, contact local beekeeping associations for recommendations.
Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
Fringe Alpacas are raised for fiber and meat at Heritage Farm By CJ Woodring Photography by Josh Marshall
Farm Indiana // July 2016
Tim and Beth Sheets
Tim shows the appeal of the suri fiber.
Genealogy has become a lucrative global enterprise as families seek roots that anchor and ties that bind. In Indiana, those roots often were first planted in farmland and have continued to grow and flourish throughout subsequent generations. These rural ancestral ties most often include not just land, but also historic structures: farm homes that harbored generations of families, and barns that once dotted Hoosier landscapes. It was both the land and historic buildings that drew Tim and Beth Sheets to the 120-acre Flora farm on which she grew up. It is pride, heritage — and now a herd of alpacas — that make them stay. “We came up with the name, Heritage Farm, based on both our families’ agricultural roots and the historic buildings,” says Tim, referring to the brick, Federalstyle 150-year-old farmhouse, 1904 gambrel barn and 1850s hand-hewn log cabin relocated from a neighboring farm. “We just appreciate Indiana’s heritage and our own family heritage in farming, and we like to tell people about that. It’s very important to us.”
Planting ancestral seeds Beth grew up in western Howard County on the farm her parents, Bob and Nelda Lovelace, bought in the early 1950s; her husband was reared on a northeast Indiana farm near Nappanee. Following marriage, they lived in Indianapolis, visiting the Lovelace farm on weekends. When given an opportunity to buy the homestead, the couple readily left careers in health care and transitioned to being farmers. “Just after I met Beth, we visited this place, and I fell in love with it,” Tim recalls. “So it was a dream come true when I actually got to live here.” When selecting livestock, the couple purposely looked for the unique, rather than a traditional farm animal. The more they researched alpacas, the more
appealing the animals became; relative ease in raising them was also a factor. Alpacas are environmentally friendly, cleaner than most livestock and require little pasture and food. Intelligent and easy to train, they generally can thrive in both hot and cold climes, making them ideal Hoosier residents. In fact, there are about three dozen alpaca farms in Indiana, according to the Indiana Alpaca Association website (indianaalpaca.org). Tim and Beth began in 2004 with just three animals, acquiring more through purchasing and breeding, the latter which results in about nine births each year. Today their herd numbers about 70, including a few alpacas they board. The farm hosts annual events, including Shearing Day Open House in May, and a Foundations for Success seminar each June. The latter, which Tim says Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
“We came up with the name, Heritage Farm, based on both our families’ agricultural roots and the historic buildings.” — Tim Sheets
Farm Indiana // July 2016
is a beginning seminar for individuals considering raising alpacas and seeking more information, generally draws 15 to 20 participants. About half decide to pursue it, he says. Among those were Darrin and Brianne Haupert. They first became interested in breeding alpacas in 2005, Brianne says. “We both grew up on a farm and knew we’d want animals some day, and alpacas seemed very interesting. Not something you’d see or hear of every day.”
A visit to a distant farm led the couple to the Sheetses, less than 20 miles from their Frankfort home. They attended several seminars beginning in 2007, establishing Sur Heaven Alpaca the same year. One of the first two alpacas they bought came from Sheets’ stock. “The quality of their herd improves every year,” Brianne says. “They strive to keep up with the market and do what’s best for the industry.” The Hauperts sustain their farm,
which now includes a few cows and some chickens, assisted by 3-year-old Addie and 5-year-old Isaiah. Due to familial and occupational obligations — Darrin is an electrical engineer, Brianne a parttime dietitian; each also coaches school sports — they’ve taken a break from breeding alpacas. “We’re looking forward to breeding again and attending shows, and our kids and some 4-H’ers get to enjoy them as well, which is very exciting,” says Darrin, also a professional shearer who offers his
Did you know? »There are two breeds of alpacas: the more common huacaya (pronounced wahKI-ah) and the suri (SOOree), which constitutes just 1 to 3 percent of the world’s alpaca population. »Breeds are defined by their coat: Crimped, fluffy fleece makes the huacaya somewhat resemble a hooved teddy bear with a long neck. Suris’ silky, lustrous fleece drapes the alpaca like a luxurious waterfall. »Alpacas are members of the camelid family, and along with llamas, are two of four camelids that have no hump. »Alpacas were first imported from South American Andes Mountains in 1984. Suris were first brought to the United States in 1991. »Alpacas are friendly, pleasant little fellows.
services throughout Indiana and into Ohio. “We hope the industry continues to be successful and that the demand for fiber will continue to increase.” Brianne says Tim and Beth are very hands-on, willing to teach all they know about the industry and day-today operations. “They are a very caring farm that will jump in if you need them. They were a great resource for us when we started out and are great friends of ours today. They strive to learn all aspects of the
»Although they’ll spit at one another during territorial spats over food, the animals spit at people only when extremely upset. »Alpacas are smaller than llamas, weighing an average 100 to 200 pounds. Their life expectancy is 15 to 20 years. »Unlike llamas, raised to be beasts of burden, alpacas are bred for their fiber. »Member breeders reside in every state, supported by Lincoln, Nebraska-based Alpaca Owners Association Inc. (alpacainfo.com). »Suri breeders also gain support through regional associations and the Suri Network (surinetwork.org). »Indiana is among several states that boast their own association. The Indiana Alpaca Association website (indianaalpaca. org) lists 32 member farms; at least 20 breed suris.
alpaca industry, which really makes them knowledgeable during their seminars and when helping buyers start their herd.” On-site education Upcoming Heritage Farm events include Fall 4 Alpacas Open Farm Day, which draws 200 to 300 guests annually. This year’s event will be held Sept. 24. The Country Christmas Open House takes place Nov. 26, closing out the 2016 calendar. Tim and Beth host ongoing bus
Top, dyed fiber. Bottom, Beth Sheets wears a wrap for sale in the shop.
tours of international students from nearby Purdue University and welcome a Kokomo High School FFA group each spring. In addition, Tim and Beth operate an on-site shop that offers yarn, some of which Beth has spun and hand-dyed, along with items such as sweaters and gloves purchased from U.S. and South American dealers. “We love to show the farm and talk about alpacas, and enjoy having guests,” says Tim, who explains the couple’s biggest joy is the alpacas, in and of
themselves. “We love to just watch them, especially the young, which are called crias, learn, jump and play.” “Tim and I love sharing what we have been blessed with,” Beth adds. “We enjoy watching children swing on the tire swing, have a blast on the hill slide, run up and down the gentle hills and splash in the creek. “Many kids have never seen alpacas, and they get a chance to touch the soft fleece and lead an alpaca around an obstacle course. It’s satisfying to know they Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
An 1850s hand-hewn log cabin was relocated onto the property.
leave with memories of a great time on the farm and with a little more knowledge of farm life and alpacas.” Tim acknowledges the gratification they feel in seeing breeding decisions and purchases rewarded regionally and nationally: Competitive show entries have garnered them five champion/ reserve champion honors at Midwest shows, and in 2013 a national champion male alpaca won top honors at two of the largest shows in the United States. In addition, the couple’s passion for 18
Farm Indiana // July 2016
their farm and efforts they’ve put forth in preserving the barn have earned it a spot among top 10 historic barns in this year’s Bicentennial Barns of Indiana program, coordinated by Indiana Landmarks (indianalandmarks.org). The structure was selected from among 200 entries that best illustrate the Hoosier State’s classic barns (200indianabarns. com/top-10-barns.html). It will also be included in Indiana Barn Foundations’ (indianabarns.og) Third Annual Barn Tour, to be held Oct. 8.
A changing industry As with many of today’s industries, changes appear on the horizon for alpaca farmers, Tim says. “I think a lot of people still see alpacas as being unaffordable. Costs were inflated when we started, before the recession, because they were fairly rare. Now they’re quite affordable, so we’re seeing younger people get into the industry, a trend I expect to continue. The profit is potentially greater because you’re not investing so much.”
Perhaps a greater change will be reflected in the use of the animal itself: from fiber to food source, he says. “I think we’ll see more acceptance in alpacas for protein, but it’s been a kind of slow process because a lot of people began raising them because they didn’t have to slaughter them,” he says. “But it comes to a point when some aren’t able to be used for fiber anymore, so what do you do with them? “It never will be a primary purpose for raising alpacas, but there is an
A bathroom attached to the back of the cabin is entered from the outside.
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outlet for meat, which is quite low in fat and cholesterol and quite delicious. I think it will eventually take place, while at the same time their hides will be used for making wonderful rugs and other items.” Fiber usage will continue to grow, Beth says, but involvement of more farmers and ranchers is requisite before the industry can expand. “It’s exciting to see the growth of the cottage industry, but we still have lots of opportunities to expand into large-
scale commercial utilization of alpaca fiber, and it will take thousands more alpacas, producing many more tons of fiber, to get to that point.” In the meantime, Tim and Beth are living their agricultural heritage dream. “Our farming operation certainly looks different from those of our ancestors,” Beth says. “But I think they would be pleased by how we are still utilizing the old barn and pastures much the way they did.”
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Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
Lexi Riley, 9, feeds a treat to a goat.
A Niche Market
Edinburghâ€™s Riley family works together to stand out in the crowd By Ryan Trares // Photography by Josh Marshall
Farm Indiana // July 2016
Driving down the winding lane to Mel and Sandy Riley’s home, the picture of life on a small farm comes into focus. Tables full of rosemary, mint, basil and other herbs line the driveway. A tangle of raspberry bushes spreads out on one side. Apple and pear trees extend from the house in an expanding orchard. Nut trees and grape vines are planted on the property as well. A nearby branch of the Big Blue River provides water for irrigation, as well as a nice fishing hole where Mel can get away to relax. “We’re old country folk,” he says. “We do it the old way.”
On a small patch of rural Edinburgh land, the Riley family has established a throwback to the agricultural roots of Johnson County. The family raises fruits, vegetables and herbs to make its own jams and jellies. They sell their produce at local farmers markets and plan to set up a roadside stand later this year. “There’s nothing like living on the land — planting it, watching it grow, knowing that you put that seed in the ground, Sandy says. “God sends the rain, and then you can pick it and eat it and live.” Pens hold chickens and goats, which provide meat and eggs for the Rileys to sell as well. In late winter, hundreds of
maple trees are tapped and equipped with buckets to collect what will become Mel’s unique brand of maple syrup. The maple syrup operation is his specialty. He learned how to tap maple trees from his pastor about 15 years ago, mastering the process of drilling a hole in the tree, pounding in a tap and hanging a bucket to collect the sap that runs out. “That first year we did that, our church was having a pancake breakfast. We ended up doing that three years in a row,” he says. When the Indiana winter breaks and the sunny days raise the temperature above 40 degrees while still maintaining belowFarm Indiana // JUly 2016
Lexi Riley 9, Crissy, Devin, 11, Mark, Barbara Citron (great-grandmother), Sandy Riley and her husband, Mel.
freezing nights, it’s time to tap. The Riley farm has hundreds of trees — silver maples, sugar maples and ash-leaf maples — and in a good year, more than 300 trees will have a white bucket Where: 7505 E. Road 650S, Edinburgh hanging on them. Once the sap has been colOperators: Mel and Sandy Riley; lected, Mel and anyone who Mark and Crissy Riley wants to help cook it over an Farm size: About 40 acres open fire. The heat boils off What they offer: Herbs, jams, jellies, extra moisture in the sap, produce, goats, maple syrup giving it the dark coloring and the thick consistency that Where to find it: The farm has a booth syrup is known for. at the Franklin Farmers Market, 8 a.m. “You won’t find this maple to noon Saturdays through Sept. 3, syrup anywhere. We blend it downtown Franklin. together from three different Information: RileyFamilyFarm.com or maple trees to get this taste,” facebook.com/TheRileyFamilyFarm Mel says. “Then it gets that smoky flavor from the open fire.” The farm is owned by Mel and Sandy, who purchased it nearly 30 years ago. Mel had owned a landscaping business, and when they came to Edinburgh, the plan was to start a nursery. But that idea faded away, Sandy says.
Riley Family Farm
Farm Indiana // July 2016
With Mel’s retirement looming, they started looking for their next business opportunity. “He’s always loved doing a garden, so we started growing fruits and vegetables in the garden,” Sandy says. With his background in horticulture, Mel manages all planting and crop rotation. He’s the brains of the operation, says Mark Riley, his son. Mark, and his wife, Crissy, have taken a more active role in the farm in the past year. They have driven the marketing of the farm, setting up a website and Facebook page to keep customers upto-date on what the family is growing and where family members will be selling it.
Their children, 11-year-old Devin and 9-year-old Lexi, weed gardens, care for goats, help empty syrup buckets and do other chores after school and on the weekends. Though they live in town, they’re close enough to come out to the farm nearly every day. “We love being involved in it and learning from the ground up,” Crissy says. “We want to teach our kids that. They grow more individually just by having their hands in the dirt and not staring at an iPad.” Looking for a way to market and sell their syrup, the Rileys signed up for the Franklin Farmers Market last year. To draw in more customers, they also decided to sell perennials and other flowers as well. That has expanded to a product line that includes herbs, jams, jellies, fresh produce and other items that they coax from the farm. Small glass jars with homemade labels identify the creations that Sandy and Crissy cook up in their kitchen. Customers can pick from vanilla cantaloupe marmalade, spiced peach butter and white chocolate raspberry jam, among more than 20 flavors made almost en-
tirely from the farm’s produce. “We’re a unique family, and we all have unique tastes,” Crissy said. “We don’t do what you can pick up at the grocery store. We want it to stand out.” Jams and jellies have become the Rileys’ best seller, with the syrup available in limited quantities. Over the course of the summer, the farm also offers potatoes, Brussels sprouts, snow peas and more. The signature crop is Kentucky white half runners, a green bean that is difficult to grow. But the sweet beans are worth it to customers who have fallen in love with the vegetable’s taste. “We have people who come, saying they can’t have their family reunion without their white half runners,” Sandy explains. The family doesn’t sell nursery-type plants anymore, instead focusing on the products and plants that they are passionate about. “We decided we had to find our niche,” Sandy says. “We love growing things, so everything looks good.
But you have to find what you really love.” The next step is to open a roadside stand. Their rural location sees a fair amount of traffic from cars, but the farm is set back so far from the road that often people don’t know that it’s even there. A stand by the road would allow people to stop and pick up produce even when there’s no farmers market going on. But growth is going to be slow-going, Sandy says. The plan has always been to not get too big to the point that it stops being enjoyable. For the time being, they’re content to working together as a family. There is plenty of time to get bigger. “Family is everything for us,” Sandy says. “We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t something we could pass down.”
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Matt Hayes (left) and Kalob Friend build high tunnels.
Farm Indiana // July 2016
Alex Carroll of Lifeline Farms blazes a new trail By Shawndra Miller Âť Photography by Josh Marshall
Top left, equipment used to fabricate the hoops on site. Bottom left, harvesting implement. Below, Alex Carroll.
they’ve begun covering the structures with plastic, with plans to sow herbs, lettuces and other leafy vegetables. A small test plot of cilantro has allowed them to assess planting density. “Pretty much everything we do here will be (harvested) in the baby stage,” Marschand says. “So four to five weeks and then we’ll harvest. So we’ll be constantly turning it over.” That short cycle is another strategy for weed, pest and disease control. The farm’s owner, far-eastside Indy native Alex Carroll, has expressed ambitious plans for Lifeline Farms. “This is just the first phase, the first 20 houses,” Marschand explains. “Probably next year we’ll start the next 20 houses. We’ll have up to 65 to 80 houses total in this space. Alex is a big thinker, so this is just a drop in the bucket for what he’s got planned.”
While one customer wants an entire hoop house devoted to cutting flowers, the main output of the farm will be organically grown produce. Several food processing companies have expressed interest in sourcing through Lifeline, with a goal of marketing locally grown, organic produce in supermarkets. That dovetails with Carroll’s recent purchase of the uber-local produce processing company Husk. Since 2013, Husk has partnered with Indiana farmers to bring certified GMO-free frozen corn and green beans to local grocery store outlets. With its acquisition by Carroll, the company will expand the contract packing component of its business, offering certified gluten-free soups, sauces, granola and the like. Of course, Lifeline will be one of Husk’s pipeline suppliers. Carroll notes
Jimmy Marschand, farm manager at Connersville’s Lifeline Farms, is intimately familiar with each of the hoop houses set on the 16-acre plot just off State Road 1. That’s because he and his co-worker, Matt Hayes, spent the winter building and installing all 20 of the 3,000-square-foot structures that will enclose Lifeline’s crops. “We are not a prefab operation, so we don’t get these things shipped in already made,” he says, looking out over the farm from inside the newly constructed building that serves as office, processing center and storage facility. Out beyond the rows of rounded metal frames, a flock of ducks and geese ranges over a fenced-off area. They’re part of an overall strategy of organic practices — gobbling up insects and helping with weed control. The roughly 60 White Embden geese and 100 ducks (a Khaki Campbell-Pekin cross) may eventually be put to work up in the hoop houses, fertilizing the soil and cleaning out plant debris between harvest and replanting. But it will have to be in “supervised visits,” Marschand says, because the poultry tend to tear up plastic material. To build the high tunnel hoop houses, Marschand and Hayes started with straight pipe, bending it into shape and erecting each house in turn, all through the snow and cold. This spring Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
High tunnels waiting to be covered.
that the hoop houses constructed here are only the beginning. “We want to own this side of the Mississippi River when it comes to organic food production,” he says. “And we’re getting set up to do that. When this first space is complete, later this year and in 2017, we’ll have the capacity to grow 40 to 50 thousand pounds of produce a week. That just gets the techniques proven and set up.” After that, it’s just a matter of scaling up. An entrepreneur who cut his teeth on ag work, Carroll started a small tech consulting company just out of school. As the company grew into Lifeline Data Systems, with locations in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, he noticed a trend in his employees. “We’ve found that if we have employees with an exceptional ability to get stuff done,” he says, “they have an ag background.” 26
Farm Indiana // July 2016
“Growing up, what so many kids miss out on is the ‘I don’t care that you don’t feel good, I don’t care that you’re tired, you need to get this job done today (mentality),’” he says. “Farming instills that attitude into you somehow.” Perhaps his own can-do attitude stems from that same place. True to his interests, his plans for the farm meld technology with agriculture to boost efficiency. Carroll says automation is key to making an organic farm financially viable. “We learned that on the farm growing up,” he says. “You aren’t going to move a semi load of corn one wheelbarrowful at a time.” He plans to integrate automated drip irrigation with a system that monitors moisture content in the soil, to cut down on needless water usage. Additionally, the hoop houses are sized large enough
to allow mechanized tilling and harvest. Though not yet certified USDA organic, the farm is in the process of seeking certification. Its locale is in an industrial park, but the term is misleading as the plot was used for farming for years. As of May, it was three years since agricultural chemicals were applied to the soil. After that milestone, the farm moves forward toward organic certification. The goal is to streamline production through mechanization, reducing the price of organic produce while getting it into grocery stores faster — and fresher — than a similar vegetable trucked from California. “There’s not much market for organic in Connersville,” says Marschand, and he should know, because he lives there. “People can’t afford it. But
if we get the price down to where more people can afford it, they can get produce that’s free of chemicals and pesticides. Everybody benefits.” So when will the first seeds be sown? That’s the question folks in town have been asking Marschand (along with “What are all the ducks for?”). Though the farm is still in startup mode, this season will see some production.
for $1 in 2014 based on his track record Carroll notes that he’s kept the project with Lifeline Data Centers, anticipating moving at a deliberate pace to make sure job creation. (Carroll projects 10 total it’s set up to succeed. “You don’t want positions when the initial site is fully to start up so fast that you make a lot functional.) of stupid mistakes that cost a bunch of “We’re still big fans of Alex Carroll, money to fix,” he says. “You’re better off and we still have lots of confidence in taking your time, so when you come out him,” Parker says, noting that the acquiof the gate, you’re making as few mistakes sition of Husk only adds to the exciteas possible.” ment about Lifeline Farms. Not one to be bound by convention, he For his part, Marschand knows firstintends to blaze his own trail. One examhand what goes into getting an operation ple is the custom-designed hoop houses. of this size up and running. “Everybody “We are taking lessons learned from wants large industry to move in to their other companies,” he says, “and manucommunity and hit that home run right facturing them to our own specifications. off the bat,” he That’s taken a little says. “What people extra time.” need to underNature takes its stand is how much own time, too. The indirect employsoil where crops ment has been will be planted created off-farm.” is enriched with Carroll hired local finely chopped tree labor for the excalimbs from a local vation and buildcompany, after the ing of a processing mulch had a chance center, as well as to decompose for a for gravel hauling few years. and tractor servicHayes and ing. The farm uses Marschand have city water in its tilled in about 20 hydrants and purcubic yards of orchases feed from ganic material per a local feed mill. house, including Two hardware composted manure stores in town benand stall cleanJimmy Marschand, farm manager. efit from Lifeline’s ings that origibusiness. nated from Roberts “He’s a real asset to this community,” Park’s horse barns. “Piles and piles” of he says of Carroll. such material had stacked up at ConThe appreciation is mutual, as Carnersville’s Transfer Station and Recycling roll calls Connersville “a match made Center, according to Marschand, and the in heaven” for his goals. He moved with city was happy to have them haul it away. his family to the community soon after Dan Parker of the Economic Developlaunching Lifeline Farms. ment Group of Connersville and Fayette For more information, visit linkedin. County expresses satisfaction with com/company/lifeline-farms-llc or Carroll’s endeavors. The city of Connersfacebook.com/Lifeline-Farms. ville sold the unused property to Carroll
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Historic Preservation Herd of bison at sunset.
Broken Wagon Bison educates the public about the iconic animal By Cj Woodring | Photography by Josh Marshall
Farm Indiana // July 2016
The American bison has long been a national cultural symbol, its shaggy, iconic image adorning nickels, postage stamps and pottery, while depicted in Native American and contemporary art. The bulky image of the bison — often called “buffalo” — was familiar in early Western movies and, more recently, appears in documentary films chronicling the animals’ tragic demise and triumphant resurrection. Once roaming the land from Alaska to the Gulf Coast, from the Appalachians to the Rockies, bison were decimated by 19thcentury hunters, their numbers dwindling from tens of millions to fewer than 1,000, placing them at one time on the endangered list.
Now, thanks to preservationists’ and breeders’ efforts, there are 162,110 bison on 2,564 private ranches and farms in the United States, as reported by the National Bison Association (bisoncentral.com), citing a 2012 USDA census. In an attempt to bring the animal once more to the public forefront, legislators in 2012 enacted National Bison Day, observed annually the first Saturday in November. On May 9 this year, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act, designating the bison as the country’s official National Mammal. Bud Koeppen, co-owner of Broken Wagon Bison, along with his wife, Ruth, and brother, Wally, says the National Bison Association played a leading role in gaining the designation. “The NBA has been working for years to get this done, just to recount their place in history,” Bud Koeppen says. “There were once 60 million bison worldwide. Now they’ve been brought back from extinction, and there are about 500,000 bison in the U.S. and Canada. Their story is remarkable.” Third-generation farmers The Koeppen brothers’ roots were in farming corn, soybeans and a bit of wheat. After inheriting the 160-acre Hobart farm their grandfather owned in 1932, they decided
to do something different after visiting the Rockville farm of a friend who’d retired and begun raising bison. Now also retired, the duo is kept busy year-round, especially in summer when they bale and store hay grown on 80 acres of leased land. When they began the operation, Koeppen says, there were no fences, among other requisites that didn’t exist. The brothers have since installed four miles of 6-foot high fencing, along with water lines and roadways, while also planting pastures. Depending upon the season, about 90 bison call the ranch home. A bumper birthing this spring brought that number, which includes the ranch’s first twins, to 120. In 2015 Broken Wagon sold 6,000 pounds of meat, which was taken to Martin’s Custom Butchering (martins butchering.com), a state-inspected plant in Elkhart County’s Wakarusa. Although regular customers include two regional restaurants, a LaPorte orchard and area festivals that offer bison burgers, the bulk of sales is to walk-ins, who come from as far as Indianapolis, Koeppen says, stocking up on meat on their way home from a visit to nearby Indiana Dunes State Park. Citing the size of his operation, Koeppen says he routinely turns down requests from Chicago restaurants. “I can’t supply them all,” he explains. “I’m too small. And I’d rather supply local restaurants and not cut out clientele I’ve built up for 12 or 13 years.” One of those restaurants is Suzie’s Café & Catering. Locally owned and operated since 1996, the Valparaiso eatery serves breakfast and lunch, adding a Friday night cookout in an adjacent parking lot Memorial Day through Labor Day. The one-third pound grilled bison burger is a staple on the luncheon menu. Owner Suzie Bigott
Bud and Wally Koeppen
says she’s been buying Broken Wagon bison meat for about 10 years. “We’re their largest single purchaser and sell quite a bit of bison meat,” she says. “It’s delicious. Customers love it because it’s healthier than beef and locally produced.” Overall, Koeppen says, sales continue “to go through the roof. We thought we’d hit a plateau, but since 2005 sales have really taken off. We’re afraid to advertise.” ‘He’s extraordinarily humble’ Speak with Bud Koeppen for a while, and you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about bison: The bison bull’s average weight, how soon after birth a newborn can run and its projected lifespan in captivity. (Twelve hundred pounds, 12 hours and 30 years, respectively.) He’ll discuss the farm and introduce the bulls: Big John, Red Canyon and Touch The Clouds. And he’ll note several
times that he’s just a “small” operation. What Koeppen won’t mention is the lives Broken Wagon Bison (brokenwagon bison.com) has impacted through ranch tours, classes and mentorship. Or the fact that two years ago the Koeppens helped launch the Illinois Indiana Bison Association, an Urbana, Illinois-based regional support group. Koeppen also won’t tell you about the Member of the Year award the NBA bestowed upon him in 2015, which is presented to an individual who promotes the industry through volunteer efforts. But fellow Hobart farmer Jay Fahn stands as an able cheerleader. In 2007 Fahn and his wife traveled to South Dakota, where they fell in love with bison. Considering their Porter County acreage standing unused, the couple decided to breed the historic animal. Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
Fahn, now retired, was a banker in the greater Chicago area; farming wasn’t exactly his forte. “We had to figure out how the heck to do this, but didn’t want to go too far, so we looked around to see if there were any nearby ranchers to talk to. And we got lucky when we found the Koeppens. “If we hadn’t found Bud, I don’t think we could have done this,” Fahn says. “There were a lot of obstacles and an enormous amount of back-breaking work.” Koeppen didn’t assist with just physical labor and Bison 101, but taught Fahn the ropes about the industry, “the full spectrum, from A to Z,” he adds. The Fahns established their farm in 2010, offering breeding and consulting services. In addition to membership in the NBA, Fahn serves as director of the 30
Farm Indiana // July 2016
Illinois Indiana Bison Association (illinoisindianabison.org). “I think the Koeppens are incredibly generous with their time, expertise and experience,” Fahn says. “Bud and Ruth are kind of the gold standard for colleagues, friends, fellow ranchers. “Bud and Wally,” he adds, “what they’re doing, really, is helping to build and preserve the bison nation. Their commitment is really broader than ours, and they’re very active in the regional association. Without their mentoring, we’d have not had the successful enterprise that we do now. “Bud’s considered the go-to guy for small-scale operations and does an extraordinary amount of networking among ranchers. He’s as honest as the day
is long. Absolutely straightforward, no guile, extremely scrupulous and doesn’t misrepresent anything. And he’s extraordinarily humble, very modest. “A lot of people have knowledge and will help you,” Fahn says. “But they make you feel as if it’s an imposition. The Koeppens are the opposite: They embrace us.” Ranch tours Tours of the ranch are held June 1 through Sept. 30, offering up-close-andpersonal views of the behemoth from the safety of a Bison Tour Wagon. Nearly 1,000 guests arrive each year from as far as Russia and Australia. Visitors closer to home include home-schooled students and senior citizens who arrive on packed charter buses.
The ranch’s inclusion on Porter County Tourism Department’s Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail (indianadunes. com) also has spotlighted Broken Wagon Bison and its products, which include leather goods and jewelry, most handmade by Ruth Koeppen. “She makes the purses, pillows and most of the jewelry,” Koeppen says. “Another local artist paints Native American designs on pottery, wood, bowls and lamps, and another one makes stone knives.” Koeppen says he had never considered himself a people person, but enjoys hosting tours and introducing visitors to an animal most have never seen except within a zoo’s confines or on the movie or TV screen.
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Bud Koeppen feeds two calves.
Despite the fact bison appear slowmoving and docile, Koeppen says they are high strung and can hit 40 miles an hour in about six steps. “We’ve learned to respect them,” he adds. Respect is also an operative word for Fahn, who says his experience with the bison borders on spiritual. “Despite the back-breaking work, when you consider bison and their significance in this country — sacred, iconic, noble — it’s been a pretty spiritual experience. When we see new life, and I think of the tens of thousands of years going into that little baby, it’s pretty exciting and makes you proud.” Koeppen’s comments, when asked what he most enjoys about the work, reflect the same sentiments. “I like driv-
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ing out into the fields, and I’ll shut off my tractor out a way from the bison and just stand next to it,” he says. “Eventually, some calves will wander over, and I’ll put out my hand and they’ll lick it. Sometimes a herd of young bulls have to come over and say ‘hi.’ That’s when you have to retreat to the tractor, for safety’s sake. “Receiving the NBA award was very humbling,” he says. “But what this is really all about is sharing our knowledge, promoting the industry and helping new people get involved. My brother and I love this animal.” Broken Wagon Bison is located at 563 W. Road 450N, Hobart. Tours must be planned in advance. Visit brokenwagon bison.com for information or call (219) 759-3523 for reservations.
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A Special Place
Jim Aikman preserves 88 acres of his Hide-A-Way Farms through the Central Indiana Land Trust By Shawndra Miller
Jim Aikman and Firefly Supreme
im Aikman remembers the first night he spent at what was to become Hide-A-Way Farms. It was the winter of 1939, and he was just a boy. His parents had purchased 71 acres for $6,000 — rolling hills that straddle the county line between Marion and Johnson counties. With its woods and pasture, and Buck Creek flowing through it, the farm would soon become his playground, and eventually his passion. But that night, all he knew was that it was cold. “We slept in a corner of the old original house, and the fireplace was the only source of heat,” the 87-year-old remembers, indicating the 150-year-old farmhouse, now expanded. The house was so unsound at that point that the winter came roaring inside. “Mother and Dad and I got up the next morning and shook the snow off the blankets.” Aikman would grow up to work in a family business that marketed food service equipment to nursing homes, 32
Farm Indiana // July 2016
restaurants and hospitals. But in the decades since that introduction to the place, Aikman’s first love was always the farm. Going to school in nearby Acton and Franklin, and later to Indiana University, he knew where he wanted to spend his time. He started training horses in 1950 and 14 years later would move back to the farm permanently, swapping houses with his folks. By then the Aikmans’ land had expanded beyond the original 71 acres, becoming a horse farm specializing in American Saddlebred breeding, training and showing. Starting in the early 1970s Aikman owned stud stallions, which serviced brood mares from all over the country. Meanwhile he trained and showed 24 world champions, mostly weanlings (about 5 months old) and yearlings. His operation was successful enough to become a training site for others showing American Saddlebreds, and he produced a few DVDs and wrote a booklet
mony to Hide-A-Way’s many victories in on best practices. His success led to some the arena. One shows Hale and Aikman high-profile clients. Asked who his most working a colt together in the ring. famous trainee was, he says modestly, “In that field “Well, I taught right there, three (Star Trek actor) special horses are Bill Shatner.” buried,” Aikman More recently, Aikman and Molly says, gesturing to from his bungathe pasture where low office — a a few yearlings are site that used to visible. In its heyhold the family day, Hide-A-Way’s chicken house — hooved occuin 2003 Aikman pancy would have organized the All numbered closer American Cup, to 30. Adjoining a stallion show the bungalow is a and auction that’s barn, but it isn’t the been going strong original structure. ever since. In 1988 the barn On a breezy caught on fire May afternoon, when it was struck he sits on the by lightning, and a world-renowned bungalow porch with longtime friend stallion named Wild Country died, along John Hale and reminisces. Inside the with three of his weanlings. office, framed photographs bear testi-
All American Cup Champion Court Manor’s Top Brass and his mother, Shadow of a Kiss, running to him. Below, Aikman ‘s Air Force photo.
Then there was Firefly Supreme. That was the prize stallion whose first and last breaths were witnessed by Aikman — the horse he names as his favorite of all. There at his birth, Aikman recognized a future champion. The stallion not only won prizes himself, but sired many champion “futurity colts” — weanlings and yearlings that drew accolades in the ring. The night of the stallion’s death, Aikman remembers, “It was 20 degrees below zero. I walked in to see how he was doing, and he dropped dead right in front of me. He’d inhaled some cold air.” The barn today houses a new foal, only a few days old, and her mother, a chestnut brood mare. The two men walk over to check on the duo and watch the white-legged filly cavort along next to the mare in the field adjoining their ample stall. “John, if we can catch her,” the sharp-eyed Aikman says of the mare, “she’s got a halter over her ear.” A strap of the halter has pulled forward, looping in front of the mare’s ear. Hale walks toward the horse, who dances away with the high step of a showgirl, her young one tight at her side. The two men slowly encircle her until she reaches a corner of the paddock, where
Hale can reach up and flip the halter back into position behind her ear. The mare’s name is Call Me Grand, and the young one’s name has yet to announce itself. Aikman likes to wait until he sees a foal’s personality before naming it. “Sometimes they name themselves,” he says, “by the funny things they do.” He recalls a colt he christened Blazing Fire, because “he was always just a blaze when he showed off.” The level of mindful care that he’s always offered his horses — training with a gentle hand, making their show preparations more like playtime than work for the colts — Aikman extends to the land itself. He made a move early this year to dedicate 88 acres to a conservation easement in an agreement with Central Indiana Land Trust. The nonprofit organization works to preserve natural areas in central Indiana, and Executive Director Cliff Chapman says the legal agreement between Aikman and the trust is a win-win for all concerned. A conservation easement, while placing land use restrictions on a property, is set up according to landowners’ desires — allowing them to continue active use of the land, as long as that use is consistent with the easement conditions. The organization has created 13 conservation easements over
the last quarter century. Each of them remains with the property, regardless of change of ownership. Chapman says Hide-A-Way is special not just because of its glacial hills, but because of the steep slope cut by Buck Creek, a spot where centuries-old trees escaped a long-ago timber harvest. “There are ancient chinquapin oaks and really nice red oaks hanging on to the slope above the creek,” he says. “It’s an important part of central Indiana that needs to be preserved,” Chapman notes. “There is development happening out there, and we’re not opposed to development at all, but if a landowner says they have a special place and would like to do something to protect it, we can be there for them if everything aligns, and it did in this case.” Negotiations took two years to complete. The timing of the deal allowed Aikman to take advantage of a December 2015 bill signed into law by Congress that permanently increased tax incentives for donating conservation easements. “When you put so much time into a place, you want to preserve it,” Aikman
says, noting that portions of the land might be considered “prime building spots.” He calls the easement agreement “perfect” and expresses relief that the land will remain as it is in perpetuity. Even years down the road, if an anonymous purchaser takes possession of the land, the conservation easement will stay in force. “This place is very special to us,” Aikman says. “I always knew I wanted to protect it.” “When we signed the paperwork,” Chapman remembers, “there were tears that day. It’s really neat that we were able to do something that was so important for him. ... He’s not going to be here forever, but he knows that land will be there forever, and our job is to defend it and keep it that way forever. No matter who owns it.” Hide-A-Way Farms, 8949 Baker Road, Indianapolis, is open to visitors by appointment. Contact John Hale at johnahale@ sbcglobal.net for more information. For more information about Central Indiana Land Trust, visit conservingindiana.org. Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
A Group Effort
Purdue agricultural experts join food security commission By Katherine Coplen
In mid-May, Purdue University announced its role on a newly developed intercollegiate commission aiming to tackle issues of global food security. Three Purdue agricultural experts are represented on the commission, including Gebisa Ejeta, distinguished professor of agronomy and the 2009 World Food Prize laureate; Vic Lechtenberg, special assistant to the Purdue president and dean emeritus of the College of Agriculture; and Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample dean of Purdue Agriculture. The commission, called The Challenge of Change: Engaging Public Universities to Feed the World, is organized by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), of which Purdue is a member. The 31 commission members, including Ejeta, Lechtenberg and Akridge, are charged with developing strategies to ensure global food security by 2050. “The commission’s focus is to define the role of public and land-grant universities in addressing the issue of food security as we look to the year 2050,” Akridge says. “One of the founding areas of focus of land-grant universities is agriculture, so working on issues related to food and agriculture has been part of our agenda for 150 years.”
Farm Indiana // July 2016
The APLU — a research, policy and advocacy organization that counts 235 universities among its members — defined the commission’s mission in three parts: »“Identify and prioritize the key challenges that our public universities can successfully address that will advance food security in North America and the world.” »“ Recommend how best our public universities can align their resources to address the challenges identified by the commission.” »“Determine the resources required for our public universities to address the challenges identified by the commission.” The commission will have eight working groups broadly divided into topic areas, including sustainable production systems; plant and animal performance; soil health; food loss and waste; inclusive economic growth; human nutrition; food safety and sanitation; and knowledge and education. Answering the questions raised by the commission’s three objectives via the working groups will help stabilize and ensure the three pillars of food security, as defined by researchers: access, availability and utilization. Food security is a central focus of Purdue’s College of Agriculture, says Akridge. “We have a strong tradition of working globally, and last year our faculty worked in more than 60 countries around the world,” he says. “We are home to two World Food Prize laureates, the Nobel Prize of agriculture, which is awarded to the individual who has made the biggest impact in that specific year on food security globally.” One of those laureates is commission member Ejeta, who won the prize in 2009 for his work creating sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and the Striga weed, which have dramatically increased the production and availability of one of the world’s five principal grains, enhancing the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, World Food Prize organizers wrote. Ejeta is on the Challenge of Change commission’s executive committee.
After winning the prize in 2009, Ejeta says, “I knew that I now will have a voice that some may care to hear and wanted to use it to advance the cause of the poor through what I know, agriculture, science-based agricultural development, through human and institutional capacity building, and as well to promote awareness on the future of agriculture to ensure global food security for both poor and rich nations.” Ejeta is also the director of the Center for Global Food Security at Purdue. He says young people in particular should commit themselves to dealing with issues of sustainable food systems and that “global food security is among the most important challenges for humanity. … With the global population growing, and declining natural resources such as water and land, if we do not use the best available scientific knowledge and wisdom, and responsible judgments about the stewardship of our natural resources, the sustainability of our food system could be compromised.” Ejeta notes that Indiana is among the most important states in the United States for agriculture and food systems, and that with improved infrastructure and the growth of small and medium enterprises in food and health sectors, it may become even more important in the future. Akridge agrees: “Of course, the state of Indiana is a major agricultural state and home to many important national voices on agriculture, “The commission’s and deeply engaged in the research focus is to define the and innovation that it will take to feed role of public and 9 billion people by 2050.” land-grant universities Although the commission will in addressing the issue tackle global issues, Akridge notes of food security as we that the issue of food security affects look to the year 2050.” Hoosiers, too. — Jay Akridge “We certainly have food insecure people in our state, and local producers may well have a role in helping address that need, especially getting nutritious fruits and vegetables to urban spaces that may not have access to these,” he says. “Urban agriculture will be a part of the solution to the food security problem.”
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Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
Every Chord Counts provides a free weekly guitar lesson.
Logical Evansville farmers market and new online food hub unite to make small food magic By April E. Clark
When Evansville entrepreneur Karen Conaway started the Franklin Street Bazaar farmers market two-and-a-half years ago, she enlisted 40 local producers, vendors and farmers. Today, there are 140 participants selling their homegrown produce and handmade wares through the market. And she knows them all quite well. “Food and goods are very relationship-based,” Conaway says. “Food is exceedingly personal, so it has really been about building trust with the growers and producers while educating the consumer. We’ve also been working with area civic groups and nonprofits to build the event, and we’re now reaping the rewards from the relationships formed through the market.” Conaway estimates the Franklin Street Bazaar, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 17, draws anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 people each week. The popular grass-roots-driven community event offers fresh, southern Indiana-grown produce and Hoosiermade products. Marketgoers also pick from a host of handcrafted items, Indiana art, homemade baked goods and hot food for lunch as part of the weekly festivities. Even free yoga is offered at 9 a.m., along with Every Chord Counts guitar lessons at 11 a.m. “We also have live music, food trucks, and beer and mimosa gardens,” she says. “And family activities. July 9, for example, is Kids Day at the bazaar, and we have 36
Farm Indiana // July 2016
Grammy Award-winning artists Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band playing.” Conaway says the kid-friendly theme day will be considerably special for one half of the band, singer and actor Alisha Gaddis. The successful entertainer and producer, who is married to Diaz, is an Evansville native. The couple has won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Children’s Album, multiple Parent’s Choice Awards, and was picked for No. 1 Cool Kid’s Album by People magazine. Live music is one component of the Franklin Street Bazaar that makes it a fun, family-friendly event for the community, says Eric Cake, who lived in Evansville for 20 years before returning to live in Indianapolis this spring. Cake and his young son, Chance, routinely made weekly visits to shop at the Evansville market for handmade crafts and fresh fruits and vegetables. “The original live music from local bands, and the kids’ events are great,” Cake says. “It’s very family-friendly in a very community-
oriented part of town. It brings people out to support local business and really brings the community together to get out of the house to enjoy the day.” Cake says he and Chance enjoyed sampling the local produce and goods before buying. “We love the tomatoes, sugar snap peas and strawberries. They slice up samples right there for you,” he says. “I like it because you know where the food comes from and you get to meet the producers.”
That concept of an up-close-andpersonal relationship with locally grown food motivated Conaway to establish the farmers market in 2014 after making monumental life changes. “I made some healthy food choices and lost a little over 100 pounds,” she says. “I had a goal of making work what my life was about, and that was nutrition. I wanted to focus more on the locality of my food, and the aggregation of it was important to me. I wanted to find farmers who use a variety of growing practices, because what we offer here is transparency.” Within a few years, Conaway’s life direction via the farmers market led to her meeting fellow Evansville mother Erica Kissinger. Conaway says the high school biology teacher’s passion for gardening, cooking and maintaining a healthy diet helped grow an idea she envisioned when starting the Franklin Street Bazaar — to co-create a local food hub and online market.
Let us protect you... have great friends and family who see Together, the pair partnered to launch how hard we’ve worked and are truly ipickhere this spring, a localization inspired by the work we’re doing. It is initiative focusing on aggregating goods very humbling.” produced within a 100-mile radius of Conaway says through strong support Evansville. Products can be purchased from the local food community, ipickhere online and picked up at the farmers maris able to link farmers and producers ket and other easily accessible hubs. with customers buying their goods who “We want to help people make local, are interested in their food’s origins. On logical decisions about their food by ofthe ipickhere.com website, producers fering access to producer-direct goods,” host their own Conaway says. “With pages with photos, ipickhere, it’s twoOn the web updates, prices and fold. By utilizing oripickhere.com what’s in stock, while ganizational partner choosing specific markets, it provides gofundme.com/ipickhere delivery locations. the economy with the fallinlovewithfranklin.org At the Franklin largest measurable facebook.com/FranklinStreet Street Bazaar this impact, as about 70 EventsAssociation season, Conaway and cents of every dollar Kissinger are offering stays in the immedipickup for customers ate economy. Second, with a variety of locally sourced needs. goods ordered “We don’t want online through physical abilities our web-based to limit anyone. marketplace We will go and picked up around and colin one place lect goods and have the least get those ready environmental for pickup for impact.” people,” Conaway With education says. “Truly by sayfrom the Indiing we are making local ana Small Business logical, we mean it.” Development Council, The new food hub and online Conaway and Kissinger made market also serves SNAP, WIC and their dream of establishing themselves as Senior Nutrition Program members, and entrepreneurs a reality while raising and in the coming year Conaway and Kissbuilding futures for their children. inger hope to make the site bilingual. “We are females in ag, and we are The company also has its sights set on making that work for us as mothers. She expanding to other markets. has four boys, and we both have 5-year“We have some exciting things on the olds,” Conaway says. “We’ve made it horizon,” Conaway says. “It is a replihappen with hard work and by growing cable model, and we have already had the company modestly. And making use people reach out to us from Fort Wayne of the tremendous free resources readily and Columbus. It takes someone dediout there. As a for-profit we’re able to cated to the small food movement, and make very quick and swift decisions, we are more than happy to reach out to so we’ve been able to generate revenue, other communities.” and we are completely debt-free. We also
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Farm to school
Next Generation Farming Good Shepherd creates pilot project for school-based farms By Jim Poyser
Farm Indiana // July 2016
For the past five years, Good Shepherd Montessori School (GSMS) has staged an annual academic conference, planned and implemented by junior high students. Subjects over the years have included human rights, world religions, sustainability, agriculture and transportation. Seventh- and eighth-grade students deliver multiple presentations over the course of the day, just like a professional academic conference. The conference is so well-known and respected in Good Shepherd’s city of South Bend, numerous representatives from Notre Dame, Indiana University South Bend and the city of South Bend regularly attend, as these youths confront thorny challenges like climate change with innovative solutions. Plus, other local schools participate or attend, including Montessori Academy Edison Lakes and Jefferson Intermediate Center.
But as scholarly as this conference can be, these students also know how to get their hands dirty. Literally. I visit this school a couple of times a year, most especially this academic conference, and have noted how their garden continues to expand. This past May I learned not only how much that expansion has become integrated into the K-8 curriculum, but how this garden amounts to a pilot project, a partnership between the school and two area farmers. In fact, it could serve as a template for schools everywhere to engage in the act and business of growing food.
In May, the GSMS conference addressed the issue of transportation, exploring various subjects ranging from bicycle use to algae as a bio fuel to self-driving cars. During a break in the conference, one of the students, an eighth-grader named
Teo Reimbold-Thomas, took me on a tour of the school’s garden. Located just south of the Notre Dame campus, this K-8, faith-based Montessori School is housed in a church-like edifice — it is, actually, a former church — with six acres surrounding it. We started at the chicken coop, at that moment empty because their chickens were housed at nearby Bertrand Farm. Numerous raised beds were already full of lettuce and other greens. ReimboldThomas showed me the terraced, permaculture-inspired area of the grounds and the water catchment system, then guided me to another garden area. Off in the distance was the farm stand the students were building for their weekly farmers market. Throughout, Reimbold-Thomas was able to articulate all aspects of the farm, from its agricultural practices to the micro-economy these students are
ence, humanities and math — into the creating. But that’s no surprise when you work that is naturally needing to be done find out how thoroughly intertwined the on a farm.” farm is into the overall philosophy and Begun in 2002, GSMS now has about curriculum of the school. 165 students. In the beginning of the GSMS is a Montessori school, based school’s history, the population was only in an educational philosophy created by what they call “lower Els”: first through Maria Montessori beginning in the late third grade. Over the years, the school has 1800s. At the school, teachers are called evolved into a K-8 school, guides, and guide with each level engaged Laura Garvey talked to in a different aspect of the me about how the farm “It’s important farm curriculum. is connected to the that you not take Montessori philosophy. for granted all the “Maria Montessori On the farm hard work that was quite particular in Theri Niemier has conher assertions that the sulted at the school from goes into providing adolescent particularly the beginning. Niemier for everyone.” — should be connected is the farm teacher at Scarlet Fickett, 13, with and working with GSMS, and as director of student farmer the land,” Garvey says. Bertrand Farm Inc. she “Montessori called is in a contractual partit Erdkinder (Earthnership with the school. Children), the idea that the adolescent Her responsibilities include receiving the should leave the home and live at a “upper Els” (Grades 4 through 6) at her boarding school on a farm and have farm, located in Niles, Michigan, along daily work focused around their farm with spending one full day per week at work, tying all their curriculum — scithe GSMS farm.
The upper Els visit Niemier’s farm The lower Els visit a teaching farm one day a week, where they experience just south of South Bend, Prairie Winds a farm fully geared for food production. Nature Farm. According to Charlotte “At my farm,” says Niemier, “the upper Wolfe, farmer at Prairie Winds, “the Els come to learn more specifically where Good Shepherd kids get to come once a their food comes from and the enviweek during September, October, April ronmental issues associated with that.” and May so they get to experience the Niemier works a threechanging of the seasons year cycle with those and the progression of students to complement work during the year.” “I am really excited their curriculum work They experience myriad by the thought at Good Shepherd. “For activities, from animal of partnering instance, right now,” she handling (e.g., brushing says, “Good Shepherd’s and leading goats, holdbeginner farmers three-year cycle for ing salamanders and with schools that farm education revolves digging worms to feed have an acre or so around plant life one the salamanders, taking of land. “ year, then animal life and buckets of scraps from — Theri Niemier, then microbiology life. school to the pigs) to Bertrand Farm Those complement their map and compass readactual three-year cycle in ing (learning the four the classroom as well. directions, learning how “By junior high,” she says, “we’re addto locate themselves on a map). ing an educational component The students learn about the different in permaculture.” biomes — grasslands (prairie), wetlands Scarlet Fickett, 13, heading into and forest — and they identify trees as eighth grade, her third year at GSMS, well as study the garden to learn where is experiencing her first year working food comes from. on the school farm. “I really like being Wolfe even engages them in underable to be hands-on in the process of standing energy sources and uses: “We growing your own food,” she says. “It’s have electric fences where they can learn important that you not take for granted where electricity comes from. We visit all the hard work that goes into providthe windmill and have a drink of water, ing for everyone.” and we stack firewood for home heating.” Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
Each of the 24 junior high students works on the farm, focusing on a different function: marketing, social media, accounting, land works and value-added. “Within these five areas, kids choose their interests,” Niemier says. “Within each area, they have responsibilities, and then we meet as a group and report to the entire group about what each area has come up with. We are all equal members of the business.” “I am in the Land Works Committee, so I take care of the plants,” Fickett says. “My favorite part is (watching them)
Farm Indiana // July 2016
start from seeds and grow into a plant. I am amazed by the whole process.” Garvey explains the connection between the farm and the curriculum, saying it is remarkably easy to see “how beautifully and quickly and easily any and all of our curriculum can be related to our work on the land. For example, in our study of simple machines we don’t even need to provide them with a textbook. We can say, ‘Go outside and do the farm work and come back in and tell us how many simple machines you used, from the wheelbarrow to the shovel and the screwdriver.’”
She emphasizes: “Instead of reading it farmers have the problem of attaining in a textbook, they are literally seeing the land, and schools have the problem of benefits of using a simple machine benot having a trained person to make the cause it’s helping make their work easier landscape into an edible landscape. It’s a as they do real work instead of imagined win-win situation.” work in a textbook.” “The true larger picture is what we Fickett says working on the farm with care the most about,” says Garvey. “We fellow students “builds a stronger sense need to figure out how to grow our own of community to depend on each other food and how to create a community to take responsibility for what we’re all that can see food being grown on a busy doing as a group. I definitely made more intersection in the middle of a town. friends working at the farm.” “If we can ingrain these things in For Niemier, “what the kids are learnthem,” Garvey adds, “we stand more ing is that plants have symbiotic relaof a chance helping them see the larger tionships just like all relationships. Bertrand Farm Inc. In permaculture 3575 W. Bertrand Road, Niles, Michigan, we look at these (269) 695-3306, bertrandfarm.org relationships, and we try to optimize Prairie Winds Nature Farm them. When we 21439 Osborne Road, Lakeville, were planting our (574) 291-9943, prairiewindsnaturefarm.com orchard, we came up with a system Good Shepherd Montessori School that each layer 1101 E. Jefferson Blvd., South Bend, has a fertilizing (574) 288-0098, Gsms.org plant — a legume plant — as well as a nutrient dense plant that feed each other. And so these picture of the work that needs to be done systems when designed properly are as they get creative about how they’re supposed to mimic nature in its perfect going to deal with the food crisis that form. They also create a beautiful balance will happen within their lifetime.” that eliminates the need to have intensive “Doing the whole farm and learning labor in the long run.” about permaculture is eye-opening for the impact everyone has on the environment,” Fickett says. “Climate change and A model the way everyone is living now: It’s not Ultimately, Garvey, Wolfe and Niemier a sustainable system. It’s concerning to all see their partnership as a model for worry about all that and realize that so other schools to adopt. For Niemier, this many people are oblivious to the impact is what her work is all about: “Creating they are having. It makes me realize there educational partnerships and programs is a lot of work that needs to be done.” that connect kids to agriculture, but also in a bigger way to the environment. I am Jim Poyser is executive director of Earth really excited by the thought of partnerCharter Indiana. He can be reached at ing beginner farmers with schools that firstname.lastname@example.org. have an acre or so of land. Because small
From the field
The View at Nightfall
Compromise / Promise 2:
Mutual Usefulness By Liz Brownlee
This may not surprise you, but one of my favorite authors is a farmer: Wendell Berry of Kentucky. He writes fiction and essays about small farms and farming communities. Last Christmas, I received a collection of his recent essays. He summarized something I’d been chewing on for a while: That strong rural communities are the ones where people are useful to one another. This represents the second in a threepart series. We want to acknowledge the compromises — and celebrate the promises — of small-scale, local agriculture. Here’s what Berry has to say about mutual usefulness: “As recently as the middle of the last century, every town was a thriving economic and social center. Now all of them are either dying or dead. The people in these towns and their landscapes once were supported by their usefulness to
one another. Now that usetractors out onto the pasture, move fulness has been removed, 110 turkeys out onto pasture, muck and the people relate to the turkey brooder (where they spend one another increasingly their first weeks), take pigs to proas random particles.” cess, and haul a load of feed. We reNow, first, I should acally needed a truck that week. knowledge the downside Rather than rent a truck from some of mutual usefulness: It’s company, our community met the need. complicated. It can be hard Our CSA members buy meat from us on to figure out the logistics a monthly basis. Each month, we send an of borrowing equipment email reminding them about their pickup from other time at the farmers market farmers and give them a little update After years of gaining (they often about the farm. Then, at experience need it at about the same the CSA pickup, we often on other time you do). Any relaend up talking more about farms, Nate tionship takes work and the farm or their lives. We Brownlee and respect, both of which tie ourselves together. his wife, Liz, take energy. We get We were talking with moved back tangled up together. one CSA member on other to Indiana to start their own family But that’s also the business, and they offered farm, which they named Nightfall Farm. Here, they share stories of the beautiful part of being their truck. They saw that many trials, tribulations, successes useful to one another: We we had a need and that and failures in running a family depend on each other, we they could meet it. business. For more on Nightfall can see that we are useWe borrowed their truck Farm, visit nightfallfarm.com. ful to others, and we can for the week and comsee that our community pleted every task. In exis stronger for that interdependence. change we gave them a chicken share Here’s a clear example: Last sum(one 4½-pound whole chicken each mer, our old farm truck’s transmission month for 12 months). This was a small went out. We scheduled our truck for thank you, something we could proa new transmission. It would only take vide, meeting their need for chicken. a week, and yet it just so happened In being useful to each other, we tie that our to-do list that week was all ourselves together even more tightly. heavy lifting that required the truck. We feel that transactions like this are a We had to move two new turkey way to rebuild our rural communities.
Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
From the field
A Farmer’s Work is Never Done By Cheryl Carter Jones
I find myself in scramble mode most of the time, busy trying to get yet another project either started or finished. My good friends, Juan Carlos Arango and Robert Frew, started their farm about a year before mine. We all dream of the day that our farms are finished, but the irony of that discussion is that a farm is never done. There is always another season of planting just around the corner, another harvest, or another insect threatening to invade our crops. What we truly mean is that we long for the day when all of our infrastructure is in place and we are in somewhat of a routine. We both started farms with no buildings — just about 10 acres of open ground. While there is an attraction to being able to lay out the entire farm and put buildings exactly where you want them, trust me, you are money ahead when the structures are already in place, even if some restoration or modification is required. My farm, the food farm, and my friends’ farm, Sobremesa Farm, are both sustainable, permaculture
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Farm Indiana // July 2016
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endeavors. They are very labor intensive on the front end, but so worth it once established. Long term, our plantings will be able to endure the extremes that Mother Nature presents to us — heavy rains followed by drought and all the other surprises along the way. For me, I also have another challenge. I am determined to create my farm vision with zero debt — no small feat to undertake given the cost of, well, everything. There are days when I think of visiting my banker about a loan, but thus far, I have managed to avoid the temptation and plan to keep it that way.
Our year started off on a sad note with my father’s illness and then his passing. We started out two months behind in our work with not a single regret of the choices made. It caused us to make some decisions to postpone certain offerings, like Robert Frew and Juan Carlos Arango of Sobremesa Farm
vegetables, until next year when we get an early start. For this year, our vegetable production will be limited to family usage. However, due to the full-time hiring of one of my very best friends, Angel
you have a harvest in just a few months Watson, we are still moving forward and or even weeks. We have some varieties of starting to see the fruits (literally and berries that actually will not bear fruit figuratively) of our labor. Our young for a number of years. blueberry patch is taking shape nicely We optimistically keep the “pray for and is working hard to provide us with rain” sign out, but are anxious to get all a bumper crop, given the age of the of our rain catchplants. In order to ment measures into maximize usage of Cheryl Carter place with a goal of our land, we have Jones is an no watering coming planted strawberIndiana from our well in the ries in between the farmer and future. Of course, rows of blueberries. the president permaculture growAs the blueberries of the Local ing methods will keep grow to maturity, Growers’ Guild, the need for irrigathey will take over a cooperative of farmers, retailers tion down to a bare the strawberry rows. and community members dedicated minimum in future We are amazed by to strengthening the local food economy in central and southern years — another the size of some of Indiana through education, direct incentive to put in the the blueberries. support and market connections. hard work up front. Our red raspberFor more information on the guild, (Side note: We got a ries, black raspbervisit localgrowers.org. small rain today after ries and blackberhaving written this ries are offering a paragraph — hmm decent yield this … is that the key to rain?) When we do year, but next year should be substantial get the occasional rain, all the buckets given another year of growth. The many are lined up to catch the runoff from the other kinds of berries we have will not roof. We consider it another harvest. produce much this year, but again, are While no crop will be realized from in position for a strong yield next year. the majority of our nut trees this year, we Planting berries is a long-term investare expecting a very small yield from the ment in comparison to vegetables, where
almond and hazelnut trees. It is exciting to watch these young trees start to bear. It is amazing how quickly they are growing, despite the lack of regular rains. We do water them weekly. But we have years to wait for nuts from many of the trees — a legacy for another generation in some cases. Likely, the most significant single project of the year will be the completion of our 90-by-96-foot greenhouse. While small in comparison to what some produce farmers have, it is still a sizable structure. We are now hoping the outside will be finished by late August, just in time for the mad dash to get the inside finished for fall/winter planting. The north end will finish a little later, as yet another vendor will help us complete that end. In the fall, we will host a couple of weekend workshops on rocket mass heaters, which is how we plan to heat our structures. These will be handson classes. Our flowers have done very well this year. In the fall, we will bring many more perennials from my current home to the farm. I cannot wait to see it all come to life next year, starting with the magnificent spring showing of daffodils. We did not plan to add flowers to our list of
We did not plan to add flowers to our list of salable items; flowers are simply a passion of mine. But it looks as though that market may evolve naturally on its own at the request of clients. salable items; flowers are simply a passion of mine. But it looks as though that market may evolve naturally on its own at the request of clients. This is just a small snapshot into our lives on the farm this year. As I look around me, there is so much more yet to be done than there is on the done list, and yet I know firsthand the labor that has gone into this farm venture. I also know that there will be times ahead that it will appear we make great strides in short order when certain projects reach completion. In truth, many of those projects are months-long with the various stages offering no visible progress to the eye. Farming is not for the faint of heart, and no statement is truer than a farmer’s work is never done.
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From the field
Commit to the Clover by Katie Glick
n organization that has been around for over 100 years, 4-H stands for hard work, commitment, education, responsibility and development. For many people it’s about “summer homework” and hot, summer days spent committed to something other than yourself, culminating in a week of fun. It also empowers and teaches our young people and reminds us alumni of the power in our heads, hearts, hands and health. I will admit, just like most people, that I hated homework, so filling out my 4-H project books wasn’t my idea of fun. And the hot summer days really got to me, especially working with the pigs. We shaved our pigs one summer so they would look nice, and I will never, ever forget that day, what it felt like and what I looked like in the end. And fair week, Katie Glick while it seemed like grew up on hell for my parents, her family felt like a mini-camp farm in or vacation to me. I Martinsville got to see friends I and now lives with her husband on their saw only once a year. family farm near Columbus. She One of the great is a graduate of Purdue University things about 4-H is and has worked in Indiana politics. that it’s not just for She now works in the agriculture industry. She shares her personal, the country kids. work, travel and farm life stories on It’s for kids of all her blog, Fancy in the Country. kinds to be a part of something special, something greater than themselves, which has been a part of people’s lives for centuries. Sometimes I think about what would happen if more of our children experienced 4-H and had the summer homework, the commitment needed to get through the summer day and the lifelong friendships. What would happen
Farm Indiana // July 2016
if every child of ours was able to learn, recite by heart and commit to the 4-H pledge for a lifetime? I pledge my head to clearer thinking, My heart to greater loyalty, My hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world. I personally think we would be a better community, country and world. So as we approach fair week in our community, I am recommitting myself to the 4-H pledge. And as a 10-year 4-H alumna, I want my daughter to experience a long-standing tradition and commit herself to positive change through her head, heart, hands and health. I hope you will do the same for the program, yourself, the children and our community. If you never experienced 4-H, it doesn’t mean you can’t support the program with your contributions or skills. You can and you should, just as the alumni, encourage our young people to be a part of a tradition that will stay with them for a lifetime. When I see the 80- and 90-year-old men and women still visit the fair because of their commitment to the 4-H program and to our youths, I can only imagine the memories they have and their reasons for still showing up. With their aging heads and hearts, their worn and callused hands and their dwindling health, they are still committed to the clover just as we all should be.
Glick in the spring of 2004.
By Katherine Coplen
This month kicks off a six-session series on herbal medicine-making at White Pine Wilderness Academy in Indianapolis. If herbs and poultices aren’t to your liking, check out the two beginning farmer tours — one in Spencer and one in Oaktown. Two more courses for teachers in wilderness health and wellness are programmed, too. July 1
Crop Outlook Webinar
Chris Hurt, Jim Mintert and David Widmar present an updated crop outlook including the USDA’s June acreage and quarterly grain stock reports. Registration is free. T ime:
9 a.m. Location: Online. Information: ag.purdue.edu/commercialag
Top Farmer Conference
This conference features management experts and agricultural economists from a variety of universities and firms, including Purdue University and more.
Time: Varies. Location: Beck Agricultural Center, 4540 U.S. 54, West Lafayette. Information: ag.purdue.edu/commercialag
The Nature of Teaching: Health and Wellness Teacher Workshops
Learn about the benefits of connecting nature with health and wellness. This workshop is free for kindergarten through fifth-grade educators and provides the opportunity to earn 16 professional growth plan points and receive a $200 stipend for integration of the lessons into the classroom. Activities include “exploring with your senses, guided imagery, creative writing, introducing school gardens, educational hikes, animal tracking and wildlife viewing.” Time: Varies.
Location: Southern Indiana Agriculture Center, 11371 E. Purdue Farm Road, Dubois. Information: (812) 482-1782
This beginning farmers tour will showcase Harvest Moon Flower Farm in Spencer. Tour is free, but registration is required. Time: 10 a.m.
This series of Indianapolis-based workshops lasts for six sessions and covers a variety of natural and traditional medicine-making techniques. In the second session, water extracts are the focus. Equipment will be provided, unless otherwise discussed as a group.
Purdue Beginning Farmer Program Tour: Spencer
Location: Harvest Moon Flower Farm, Spencer. Information: (765) 496-2161
Herbal Medicine Making: Drying Herbs
This series of Indianapolis-based workshops lasts for six sessions and covers a variety of natural and traditional medicine-making techniques. In the first session, drying herbs is the focus. Equipment will be provided, unless otherwise discussed as a group. Time: 6 p.m. Location: White
Pine Wilderness Academy, 841 W. 53rd St., Indianapolis. Information: (317) 774-6360
Purdue Beginning Farmer Program Tour: Oaktown
This is the fifth of 10 beginning farmer tours presented by Purdue Extension, and Oaktown’s Melon Acres will showcase community-supported agriculture and agritourism. Tour is free, but registration is required. Time:
10 a.m. Location: Melon Acres, 5388 E. Gauger Road, Oaktown. Information: (765) 496-2161
Herbal Medicine Making: Water Extracts
Time: 6 p.m. Location: White Pine Wilderness Academy, 841 W. 53rd St., Indianapolis. Information: (317) 774-6360
The Nature of Teaching: Health and Wellness Teacher Workshops
Learn about the benefits of connecting nature with health and wellness. This workshop is free for kindergarten through fifth-grade educators and provides the opportunity to earn 16 professional growth plan points and receive a $200 stipend for integration of the lessons into the classroom. Organizers say activities include “exploring with your senses, guided imagery, creative writing, introducing school gardens, educational hikes, animal tracking and wildlife viewing.” Time: Varies.
Location: Ball State Field Station and Environmental Center, Ball State University, Muncie. Information: (765) 747-7732
Estate and Succession Planning for the Family Farm
Whatever your age, it’s important to plan for what’s next for your family farm. This session will help you lay the groundwork for estate and succession planning. Both farm families and attorneys are encouraged to attend, and continuing education credit is available for attorneys who do, for an extra fee. Time: 9
a.m. Location: Indiana Farm Bureau Building Assembly Hall, 225 S. East St., Indianapolis. Information: (417) 692-7840
Barn Typologies, History and Origin
Sobremesa Farms is a permaculturecentered farm that features an on-site farm stand and regular programs. Duncan Campbell will present on historic barns. Campbell has served on Bloomington’s Historic Preservation Commission, been active as a board member of Bloomington Restorations Inc., served on the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana board, and more. Plan to pay $5 per attendee, which will be donated in part to the Indiana Barn Foundation. Time: 7 p.m. Location:
Sobremesa Farm, 4781 N. Mount Gilead Road, Bloomington. Information: (812) 606-0865
Herbal Medicine Making: Alcohol Extracts This series of Indianapolis-based workshops lasts for six sessions and covers a variety of natural and traditional medicine-making techniques. In the third session, alcohol extracts are the focus. Equipment will be provided, unless otherwise discussed as a group.
Time: 6 p.m. Location: White Pine Wilderness Academy, 841 W. 53rd St., Indianapolis. Information: (317) 774-6360. Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
Toby Shelton and Jake Burgess
Chef Q& A
Jake Burgess of FoxGardin
Chef Jake Burgess began cooking before he could even drive a car. His love for food endured throughout high school and eventually took him all over the country. After years working for other chefs, Burgess returned to his roots in Fortville to open FoxGardin Kitchen & Ale with partner Toby Shelton. The local pub-style restaurant serves locally grown seasonal food with a focus on maintaining relationships of quality — from producers to customers. By Twinkle VanWinkle
How did FoxGardin come to be? My college roommate, Toby Shelton, and I had dreamed of opening a restaurant for many years. So after a decade of working for great companies, we decided to open a restaurant we would want to go to. My mother’s maiden name is Teagardin, and Toby’s mother’s maiden name is Fox, so I came up with FoxGardin. How did you choose your location and area to open FoxGardin? I grew up in Fortville and remember always wanting a place to go to enjoy a great meal with personalized service and a fun atmosphere. I had always liked this specific location, and when the opportunity came available, I jumped on it. What are your thoughts behind the philosophy of what you serve and prepare? We like to let the ingredients speak for themselves. The only thing in the freezer 46
Farm Indiana // July 2016
is ice cream. Fish comes in fresh six days a week, produce seven. Beef comes in weekly. Fish and beef out of Chicago from Buedel Fine Meats, and fish from Fortune Fish. Most of our food is simply seasoned with only salt and pepper because we believe with as good of ingredients as we have that is all that is needed to make the items shine. The items we get locally are usually harvested the day of delivery or day before, giving the shelf life the best in the biz. What kind of produce do you use and who are some of your suppliers? We use local farmers for as much as we can, depending on the growing season. Asparagus, cabbage, greens, tomatoes, mushrooms, ramps and other seasonal vegetables. Some suppliers are Lush Leaf Farms, Shamrock Farms, Fair Farms & Produce, and looking forward to using Garst Farms, who is a brand new farmer to the area. Our outreach will grow this season as it is only our first year of operation.
What types of food and what kinds of specials do you serve? We stick to food that brings you to a place in your life, grandma’s dinner table, a cookout with friends or a night out on the town. We have such an eclectic mix of food that speaks to a wide array of people. We do a daily lunch special that usually focuses on traditional pub fare. Dinner specials usually focus on a fine dining plate. Dishes include prime ribeye, fresh catch of the day, lobster, fresh fish and beyond. Tell me a little bit about your background in food and where you came from. Do you have training, or are you self-taught? What’s at the heart of your passion for sharing locally grown and made products? I have been cooking in some regard for 20-plus years. When I was 8, I started cooking concessions for my dad’s auction company. When I was of age, I started at a local pizza company, Mozzi’s. From there I worked my way up. Worked for a few mid-level restaurants into college, where I studied food and hospitality. Three years in, I decided that degree wouldn’t give me the opportunity as a chef that I desired. Sought out a scratch kitchen in the area, Vera Mae’s, and learned as much as I could. From there I moved to Georgia and worked for some really talented chefs. After that, I came back to Indy and opened Sensu as chef de cuisine. I stayed with the company and ended up as executive chef of Prime 47. There, I worked for a phenomenal corporate chef and team where I developed skills needed to take the leap of faith to open FoxGardin Kitchen & Ale. What’s behind your passion for this restaurant and idea? What about your experience and past has brought you to opening FoxGardin? The food, the atmosphere, the décor, the simplicity of the way the lettuce, tomatoes and onions are sliced are the way I enjoy to eat food. I wanted a place that fits everyone without compromising the vision. We have a one-page menu all day. You can come in and have a breaded pork tenderloin and a filet mignon at the same table. I am so involved in this place from top to bottom. The service standard, food quality, menu development, guest interaction, expansion plans have my excitement and touch on it. The passion is off the charts. To see a guest walk out with a smile on their face makes
all of the hard work worth it. I had such a great team with my past restaurants that gave me the confidence to take the leap and be confident with the outcome. A shout out to Troy Gregory and Thomas Melvin for their guidance and kind words along with answers to countless questions. Do you have any specific connections to local farms? Many of the farmers have become frequent guests of the restaurant, which makes the whole experience a really fun time. When the farmer is next to someone eating their food, the smiles and conversation are quite the treat. … We are all in this together. Supporting each other is the only way to help keep this movement going. Also, the product is obviously better when put side-by-side in appearance and flavor. What’s your relationship with farmers or what kind of relationship do you like to have with your farmers/suppliers? All farmers have a face-to-face meeting with me regularly. A lot of times, your farmer is your delivery driver. They will tell you about their crop and forecasting into the future. It is such a great relationship to be involved in their passion, which we both share. What’s something you’d like those local farmers to know? Stick with what you are really good at and continue to get better. Focus on the small details and the bigger picture will come together. Anymore chefs are attached to their phone. Texts and live updates on what is doing really well will influence what I’m doing with my menu that night, or that shift, or that menu. Timing is everything, so the more texts I get about what is really good or hot right now influences what I do right then. What does slow food mean to you? It means the future of great dining experiences all while supporting the art of farming and foraging. It is something that everyone either is or should be super excited about joining and supporting.
FoxGardin Kitchen & Ale
215 S. Main St., Fortville, (317) 485-4085, foxgardin.com
Roasted Heirloom Tomato Pesto Sauce
Makes approximately 1 quart of sauce 1 pound fresh cooked angel hair pasta For the roasted tomatoes: 6 pounds heirloom tomatoes ¼ cup olive oil ¼ cup shredded fresh basil 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 5 whole garlic scapes or 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic
You Say “Tomato.” We Say “Delicious.” By Twinkle VanWinkle
It’s tomato time. But before I begin reciting love poems to the glorious tomato, let’s just talk a little about how to be prepared for the abundant crop that will soon be ready to harvest. Before you know it, your kitchen will be overflowing with these sweet, juicy fruits, and the sad, sour taste of winter hothouse varieties will be just a faded memory. But tomato season will eventually come to an end. To battle the likely blues you will endure, can or freeze plenty of the summer’s harvest in July, August and September so you can have delicious sauces, soups and more throughout fall and winter. My favorite way to put up tomatoes for winter is to toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and throw them in the oven. Roasting cooks down the tomatoes without these delicious fruits losing their structure and adds depth of flavor that seems lacking in the stovetop method. Preserve the roasted tomatoes by water-bath canning method or freeze them for delicious dishes throughout the winter.
Twinkle VanWinkle is an Indianapolis-based food writer and experienced chef with Southern roots. She has more than 23 years of professional cooking under her apron strings and loves to share her unique perspective on food, foodways and culture with others. Needless to say, her family is very well-fed. PhotoS by Twinkle Van Winkle
Roast tomatoes: Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You can also use a nonstick baking pan or large glass Pyrex dish. Rinse tomatoes and slice larger ones in half or quarters. Leave cherry tomatoes or smaller tomatoes whole. Place the ¼ cup of shredded basil in a large bowl, then add tomatoes. Toss with ¼ cup olive oil and spread evenly on prepared pans. Sprinkle salt and pepper and roast for 30 to 45 minutes or until tomatoes begin to brown on top. Serve immediately with pasta or save for later for other recipes. You can store roasted tomatoes in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze in an airtight container for six months.
For the pesto:
Set aside extra for the Roasted Tomato Pesto Sauce dish.
3 cups tightly packed, shredded fresh basil
1 cup roasted tomatoes ½ cup lightly toasted pecans or almonds ½ cup olive oil 4 whole cloves garlic 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon black pepper ½ cup pecorino cheese, grated
Place all pesto ingredients except oil into a large food processor and turn on high. (A blender will work if you do not have a food processor.) Slowly add oil as other ingredients process. Serve immediately by tossing in warm pasta or store for later use. Fresh pesto will last in the refrigerator two weeks or freeze in an airtight container for six months. To serve this recipe, toss the pasta in 1 cup of roasted tomato pesto. Place on a large plate and garnish with warm, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, pepper and shredded Parmesan.
Tips for preserving tomatoes Because tomato sauce recipes differ so much, the acidity can never really be accurate. Acidity is the most important factor in canning tomatoes because without enough of it, you can easily cause bacteria to grow that can cause botulism. A pH of 4.5 or under is required for canning tomatoes. When you add other ingredients, you can unknowingly raise the pH, making the recipe unsafe. The best solution for this is to can only the tomatoes, leaving out any other ingredients. Use the roasted tomato recipe, then add freshly roasted tomatoes into your prepared jars, placing two tablespoons of lemon juice or citric acid in the bottom before filling. The only real solution for added ingredients to be canned is to pressure can your sauce. Pressure canning brings the temperature up to at least 240 F, which in turn will kill off any bacteria spores. But as always, please follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on your canning equipment. I always follow directions from the Ball Blue Book when canning tomatoes, marinara or spicy salsas. If you just want to avoid the canning process altogether, you can always place roasted tomatoes into small 8- or 12-ounce clean jars, leaving about ½ inch at the top, seal well and freeze. And freezing is a great way to preserve your sauce as well. Farm Indiana // JUly 2016
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