Rural Living & Local Food
On the Horizon Delaware Countyâ€™s Wright brothers carry on an agricultural legacy
Southern Indiana Microgreens Indy Food Swap Funding for Organic Growers
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
Cissy Bowman, Liz Brownlee, April E. Clark, Katherine Coplen, Katie Glick, Cheryl Carter Jones, Sharon Mangas, Jim Mayfield, Jeffrey Meitrodt, Shawndra Miller, Jon Shoulders, Ryan Trares, Twinkle VanWinkle, Catherine Whittier, CJ Woodring COPY EDITOR Katharine Smith SENIOR GRAPHIC ARTIST Margo Wininger ADVERTISING ART DIRECTOR Amanda Waltz ADVERTISING DESIGN
Emma Ault, Dondra Brown, Tonya Cassidy, John Cole, Ashley Curry, Julie Daiker, Cassie Doles, Josh Meyer, Desiree Poteete, Tina Ray, Robert Wilson PHOTOGRAPHER Josh Marshall IMAGE TECHNICIAN Matt Quebe
©2016 by AIM Media Indiana. All rights reserved. Reproduction of stories, photographs and advertisements without permission is prohibited.
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FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
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Contents MARCH 2016
5 Field Notes Tips and advice
6 All Wright Farms 10 Black Pine
14 Sobremesa Farm 18 Southern Indiana Microgreens
22 Earth Mama Compost 26 Madison Consolidated High School FFA
30 Indiana Master
32 Tragic Harvest 36 Food Safety 38 Organics Update 39 From the Field Columns by growers
44 Local Food
Indy Food Swap
46 Continuing Education ON THE COVER
Sunset at All Wright Farms near Muncie. Photo by Josh Marshall
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Behind the Wheel
I’VE SPENT A LOT OF TIME on the road lately. Earlier this year, my husband and I began volunteering with a rescue organization that removes dogs from highkill shelters in the South and transports them to no-kill shelters in the North, where they are then found foster and, hopefully, eventual forever homes. These trips are easy to make. We drive one short leg of the multiday journeys that these dogs take. We pick up our chosen passengers in Columbus and then meet another group of volunteers in Brownsburg who then drive the animals to another meeting point an hour away. There, another transfer occurs, and on and on the pups go … making their ways to safety. (If you want to know more on this great organization, visit mobile-mutts.org.) Winter — beyond the sometimes nasty weather conditions and roads — provides the perfect opportunity to take these drives. The dogs usually start their road trips in Georgia, and they make their ways to Indiana by Saturday afternoon. During recent winters, we have spent most of our Saturday afternoons sitting by the wood fire, so it makes good sense to don our coats and
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
hats and instead devote the days to doing good for these deserving dogs. These drives provide my husband and me an opportunity to talk, to relax behind the wheel, to see the changing Indiana countryside (one weekend might be frigid and covered with snow; the next offers 60 degrees of sunshine), and to meet a flurry of four-legged critters in need of a good home — all for about a quarter tank of gas and a few hours out of our days. Each dog we meet offers a different backstory, a unique set of special circumstances. Some are energetic puppies just gaining their footing. Others are slow-moving seniors. A few have come to us pregnant. Some are blind. Others, deaf. Some sit quietly and calmly in their crates and enjoy the ride. Still others quiver with fear. The varied personalities of the dogs
remind me of each of the animals we keep at home on the farm. I often find myself arguing some point (as though he’s a reasonable fella) with our alpaca, Bacchus, who has been moved around so much in his young life that even the past year with us has yet to give him reason enough to trust us. When I need Bacchus to move to one area of the barn or field, he most likely has another opinion on the subject, and he, like the rescued cats whom we jokingly refer to as “runners” around our home (they run away when they see us coming, even though we’re usually bringing food), simply doesn’t know what’s good for him. I feel like I’m constantly trying to reason with these animals. To our cats, I line up the facts: “I scoop up your poop,” I tell them. “I feed you. I give you water. I pet your head. Why, then, do you think I’m going to murder you?” They stare at me blankly. Then they run the other way. The cats, the dogs and the alpacas all share something in common, I think, and it’s something that I believe we humans, too, share. We fear that which we don’t understand. Each dog that hops into our car on the weekends can easily serve as a reflection of our own lives. Though we don’t understand everything that’s happening to us or why we’re being carried on the currents of that day’s particular wave, it’s good to think, at least, that there’s a benevolent force behind the wheel.
BY CATHERINE WHITTIER
BED BUGS LARRY BILLS OF TIPTON COUNTY has been gardening for over 50 years, but it wasn’t until 2005 that he began converting his garden to raised beds. Bills describes his active raised beds as “packed” — a typical bed may contain as many as six tomato plants or 18 pepper plants. “I live off the garden as much as I can,” says Bills, a master gardener who currently has 26 raised beds of vegetables, herbs and berries on his one-acre lot. Every fall, after the harvest, Bills sows a blend of radishes, oats and clover into his vegetable beds. These cover crops are not harvested but are instead “left to decay, which improves soil
structure, adds organic matter and stabilizes nutrients,” he explains. Beyond the use of cover crops, Bills relies heavily on crop rotation, as well as an organic homemade compost, to boost production and reduce pests and diseases within his beds. “Vegetables are planted using a seven-year rotation,” he says. “They are planted in vegetables for six years; in the seventh year, they are planted in cover crop, usually buckwheat, for the season.” This rotation gives the soil a chance to rest and rebuild. With careful planning, cover crops can be used even in very small gardens, explains Bills, who keeps track of his
gardening activity on a spreadsheet. New gardeners, or those considering a conversion to raised beds, should thoughtfully choose the location of the beds, according to Bills, who picks a convenient location over an area that gets an extra hour of sunshine. Ideally, the garden can be seen from the kitchen window or is easily accessible — “something close to the house,” he explains, “so it’s handy.” Gardeners, he adds, should walk by the garden daily. In addition to helping family members with their gardens, Bills also volunteers extensively at the Kokomo Community Garden, which has supplied nearly 200,000 pounds of fresh produce to local organizations since its establishment in 2003.
The secret to a robust and productive garden is in the soil. Texture, color and the presence of worms might be some of the obvious signs of healthy soil, but if gardeners want to get more precise information about how to improve their yields, soil testing is a good place to start. “Soil testing is valuable to help you know where you stand before any soil amendments are added,” says Sarah Hanson, Johnson County’s Purdue Extension educator. “If they (amendments) are needed, it’s important to know what the goal is. Are you trying to reduce your pH (level), add organic material, increase certain nutrients, etc.? Some people have the misconception that lime is always needed, but that is most likely not the case.” A basic soil test usually measures phosphorus, potassium, soil pH levels and organic matter. According to the Marion County Purdue Extension website, a proper pH is important for nutrient availability to plants, and it’s important to take soil samples well before you plan to plant. This gives you time to give the soil the nutrients that it needs. Contact the Purdue University Cooperative Extension office in any chosen county for a list of local or nearby businesses that do soil testing. For more information, visit extension.purdue.edu/pages/ CountyOffices.aspx. FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Milkmen Wright brothers treat their cows with respect
By April E. Clark â€˘ Photography by Josh Marshall
A dairy cow waits for Lon Wright to deliver the evening feed.
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Left, Alan Wright wipes his glasses after entering the steamy dairy room. Right, Daniel Wright and his wife, JoAnn. Below, evening chores at All Wright Farms.
Find more information on twitter @AllWrightFarms or on facebook.com.
WHEN DAN and JoAnn Wright’s children graduated from high school, they were told they could return to work on All Wright Farms, the family’s dairy operation, on two conditions. “They wanted us to get a four-year bachelor’s degree. It didn’t matter what it was in,” says 55-year-old Alan Wright. “And we would have to go to church on Sundays. Those were Mom and Dad’s requirements.” Located five miles south of Muncie, All Wright Farms is known throughout the area as the farm where the cows used to walk under the road. A tunnel on the farm once connected two of the family’s pastures. The farm has an average of 2,800 to 3,000 acres of crops and is home to between 165 to 200 dairy cows. Alan is one of eight siblings, seven boys and one girl, who grew up on the farm that’s been in the Wright family for over 100 years. He graduated with a degree in agriculture economics in 1983. Of the four Wright siblings who work on the farm full time, 58-year-old brother Lon handles the crops, and Mark, the oldest at 62, focuses on the baby calves and animal husbandry. Alan and his youngest brother, 43-year-old Vince, take care of the milking responsibilities of the operation.
“Vince and I milk every day, seven days a week,” Alan says. “I try to be milking by 3:30 a.m. every morning. Mom doesn’t like us to work on Sundays, but we always do the morning chores, then go to church, then relax. Vince milks on Sunday night.” Dan and JoAnn, who will celebrate 65 years of marriage in 2016, continue to have a presence on the farm, too. “We all kind of work together,” Alan says. “Dad is 88 and still comes down to the farm every day and tinkers around a bit, drives the Bobcat. Mom does all the cooking for whoever is hungry.” Along with their eight children, Dan and JoAnn have 22 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren who help out on the farm when they can. Alan says the Wright siblings have made an effort to teach their offspring the importance of farm life while continuing the legacy of Dan and JoAnn. “We all know how to work, and we try to teach them a good work ethic,” he says. “It’s easy to sleep at night when you work all day.” All Wright Farms produces around 1,100 gallons of milk a day. The Wrights sell to a co-op that then supplies Dannon Yogurt and Nestle, among other food producers.
On any given day, Alan and his brother milk about 165 cows, all descendants of a herd the family had 60 years ago. The Wrights have not purchased any cattle since 1950. “We don’t buy any cows, and we like it that way,” Alan explains. “Everything we have is our own — a closed herd, and we’re going to keep it that way. That’s a little unique for dairy farming.” The 3,000 acres of crops the Wrights farm include corn, soybeans, hay, alfalfa and wheat for straw for the cows’ beds. Although the farm is not certified organic, the Wrights say they take as natural an approach as they can in their dairy farming operations.
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Clockwise, Mark Wright with the newborn calves. A 3-week-old calf. Milk cooler. Inset, Alan during the 2015 Indianapolis 500 festivities.
“We’re as close to organic as we can be,” Alan says. “We don’t use pesticides or insecticides, and we don’t spray any more than we have to. We try not to put more dirt in the air than we should.” The Wrights also try to be good neighbors and community members. “We’re real fortunate that most of our land is connected, so we try not to be out on the roads,” Alan explains. “When we are, we appreciate people watching out for us. We take a lot of pride in taking care of our neighbors. That’s how Mom and Dad raised us, and that’s how we are raising our kids, to be responsible community people.” Alan represents the family on the American Dairy Association Indiana board. “Alan is a wonderful asset to our board,” says Jackie Barber, producer relations coordinator for the ADAI. “He serves as vice president and brings to the table an incredible amount of passion and a truly astonishing work ethic, coupled with a healthy sense of humor. He is always willing to step up to the plate for Indiana dairy farmers.” All Wright Farms is one of about 1,200 dairy farms in Indiana, and Barber says like other sectors of agriculture, that number has steadily decreased over the last century. But as a flourishing, multigeneration farm, All Wright does well in representing the Hoosier dairy industry. “The commitment of Alan and his fam8
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
INSET PHOTO BY ALL WRIGHT FARMS.
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Serving as the Indy 500 milkman was a ily to the care of their cows and stewardship of their land is extraordinary,” Barber humbling experience. “It was quite a treat,” Alan says. “It’s such a tradition, and you says. “The Wrights are also very involved in their local community and are commit- don’t realize how much it is until you’re down there in the winner’s circle. That bottle ted to seeing the area they live in thrive.” of milk is sacred.” Last May, Alan served Providing milk for the as the Indianapolis 500 “We’re as close to Indianapolis 500 is just milkman, hand-delivering organic as we can be. one more family tradition the famous bottle of milk to We don’t use Alan hopes to pass along winner Juan Pablo Montoya. to future generations of The tradition began in 1933 pesticides or the Wright family. He is when Louis Meyer won his insecticides, and we proud of all that has been second Indy 500 race and redon’t spray any more handed down thus far in quested a glass of buttermilk than we have to. We the family’s history. “To in Victory Lane. try not to put more me it’s an amazing thing “Milk was presented to dirt in the air than that my grandpa and winners of the 500 off and on we should.” my great-grandpa have for the next two decades by —ALAN WRIGHT farmed the same land for an organization that would years,” he says. “I hope one day become American we’re doing it better than they did. … We Dairy Association Indiana,” Barber says. “In 1956, Tony Hulman made the drink of still treat the cows with utmost respect. milk an official part of the 500 celebrations. Mom and Dad always said: ‘If you take care of the cows today, they’ll take care of Since then, milk has been a proud fixture you tomorrow.’” of the 500 festivities.”
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The small staff at Black Pine Animal Sanctuary focuses on care, comfort and education By Jim Mayfield Photography by Josh Marshall
COUGAR 16 YEARS OLD
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Africa LIONESS 3 YEARS OLD
THOUGH THE MORNING is cold, biting and slightly snowy 30 miles northwest of Fort Wayne, the locals at Black Pine Animal Sanctuary have something to look forward to: Fresh meat is on the menu. A Noble County Highway Department driver unloads a freshly road-killed deer that would provide eight to 10 meals for the menagerie of lions, tigers, bobcats and other carnivores that call the sanctuary home. “That’s lunch,” says Black Pine executive director Lori Gagen as she, assistant director Amy Hartzell and animal keeper Lin Staats prepare to make the morning rounds. First stop on the 18-acre complex on the outskirts of Albion is Africa, a 3-year-old lioness who came to the sanctuary last September, severely underweight and stressed after living alone in a small pen with a concrete floor at a Greensburg roadside zoo. In addition to being malnourished, the confinement atrophied Africa’s muscles to the extent that her mobility was severely limited. Her maladies weren’t evident on this day, however, as she playfully rolled on her cot and bounded about, now apparently no longer worse for the wear. Gagen makes small talk with the beast, which clearly enjoys the conversation, and cautions against the temptation to pet the playful cat. Africa is a lion, and though “humanized,” Gagen says, she’s still a lion. And therein the problem exists. The exotic animal industry has been alive for decades in this country, driven by fads, whims and dollars that determine which breed becomes the most popular flavor at any given time. FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Mufasa LION 20 YEARS OLD
INDOCHINESE TIGER 5 YEARS OLD
Jordan Hartleroad, volunteer
GRAY WOLF/DOG HYBRID 6 YEARS OLD*
The Humane Society of the United States has estimated that the black market import and sale of exotic animals is a multibillion-dollar trade, and the ASPCA claims infant animals are often the most desirable and profitable. The resumes of Black Pine’s approximately 50 species of residents are as varied as their breeds: Some are former child performers with whom one could have a photo taken in exchange for a handful of cash. Others are pets that outgrew their welcomes, some were confiscated for humane reasons and others were just down on their luck. Mufasa, a 20-year-old African lion with a healthy mane but decided gimp, has seen it all. He started as a pet and then was ordered out of a facility that couldn’t keep him 12
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
safely. A bit battered, he wound up at Black Pine in 2011 where he will live out the rest of his life in peace. Mufasa, Africa and the 100 or so other animals ranging from bobcats, to bears to alligators and snakes, primates and common barnyard critters are cared for 24/7/365 at Black Pine by four paid staff and an army of volunteers. It’s “zoo-keeping on a budget,” but it’s more than just running a zoo, says Hartzell, an animal behaviorist who relocated to Indiana from Pennsylvania — seemingly by providence — with her husband who was pursuing a master’s degree. “Animal rescue is where my heart is,” she says. “To watch the transformation these animals make and interact with them as they begin to build trust is very rewarding.”
Though Black Pine is all about care and comfort, education runs a close second in the organization’s mission statement. The sanctuary boasts a 10-week internship program for college and post-graduate students who can get a firsthand view of what it’s like to be an exotic animal veterinarian or handler. “The interns that have been through here have gone on to get some of the most coveted jobs you could want,” Gagen says. There are also educational programs and paid visitor tours, but Gagen says the sanctuary has no desire to become a zoo in the commercial sense of the word. “We’d prefer to give guided tours,” she says. “We don’t want 1,000 visitors a day. We want to educate people on why these animals are here.”
And Black Pine would be all right with educating itself right out of business, she says. Paid admissions pay for less than 10 percent of the sanctuary’s approximately $280,000 annual operating budget, the balance coming from sponsorships, donations and contributions of time and services. The sanctuary says 86 cents of every dollar goes directly to the animals, and its website offers over two dozen ways to lend financial support. Talking to the folks at Black Pine, it’s clear that they’re more centered on reality and pragmatism than moralizing. The sanctuary’s very existence suggests a particular underlying philosophical bent, but chestthumping won’t help Mufasa live out the rest of his days in peace. Just taking care of him will do.
Lori Gagen, executive director
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“We won’t tell you not to get (an exotic animal for a pet),” Gagen says. “That’s not our call. But we’re sure going to talk to you about it.” A visitor can’t actually get close enough to secure Mufasa’s view of Black Pine — an unbiased personal insight away from the staff as to how he feels about the place. He is, after all, a lion that could bat your head to the next ZIP code by just saying hi. One would assume by his relaxed demeanor and curiosity that Black Pine’s nice digs and good medical plan are acceptable to him, though. And the food’s not bad, either. How do you top fresh venison for lunch? For more information about Black Pine or learn how to volunteer or donate, call (260) 636-7383, or go online to blackpine.org.
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FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
ABUNDANT LIVING Monroe County farmers foster a sense of community through learning
By Katherine Coplen â€” Photography by Josh Marshall
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Sobremesa owners Robert Frew, left, and Juan Carlos Arango had this barn moved from its former home in Fort Wayne to their current property a few miles northeast of Bloomington.
The spanish concept
A lemon growing in Sobremesa’s heated greenhouse.
of sobremesa means “over the table,” but conceptually it describes that time after a meal spent relaxing and enjoying your dining companions’ company. There’s no rushing — only socializing, pouring another cup of coffee, and digesting the delicious meal you just ate. Sobremesa, then, is all about community and relationships. Sobremesa Farm co-owners Robert Frew and Juan Carlos Arango wanted to explore that concept at their nine-acre permaculture farm in Unionville. The way they see it, the concepts of permaculture and sobremesa are naturally aligned: Permaculture is, in many ways, about nurturing organic connections, both to the land and to each other. All this from a couple of farmers who are both relatively new to the agriculture scene. Their initial interest in farming was sparked around 2004 when they took part in a Bloomington Habitat Stewards program, a branch of the National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Habitat program. “We were a class of, I think, about 12 to 14 individuals,” Frew says of their time with the Habitat Stewards. “Approximately about a half or a third of us have continued working with the program and continued to do volunteer projects for businesses and schools and private residences, in helping to establish backyard habitats that benefit the individual and the community.” Those projects led to the pair acquiring a chicken coop around 2011. The coop was built, in part, by students at Brown County High School. With the coop, Frew and Arango began raising 16 chickens. “That was really a training ground for us in taking care of a small-scale poultry operation,” says Frew, who, for off-farm work, owns an agency that provides language interpretation services. “We learned a lot.” From there, Frew and Arango knew they wanted to delve deeper into farming. They began a search for land, open to purchasing plots in Monroe, Green or Owen counties. In 2012, they found a piece of
land in Monroe County. The property “was surrounded on three sides by woods, with no other farmer using any sort of rowcropping next to us, which we had hoped would eliminate the chance of any overspray from pesticides or other chemicals coming on to our land,” Frew says. Frew, now 56, and Arango, 54, constructed two greenhouses and salvaged
a barn from Fort Wayne, which they reconstructed on the property. Phase I of building the farm is now complete: The perennials — like dwarf fruit trees (apples, cherries, peaches and pears); nut trees (English walnut, pecan, hicans and Iranian almonds, among others); vines (kiwi, akebia); and brambles (currants, goji berries) — have been planted. FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
The heated greenhouse. Below, the layout commissioned by Frew and Arango for their property.
“I think this year we’ll have a couple of apple trees that will produce, however, we will not be able to keep those (fruits),” Frew says. “We’ll prune those from the tree in order to encourage good root systems. It will be another two years before we’ll be able to harvest and start selling fruit from the trees.” Now their focus is on establishing annuals for vegetable production. Phase II also will include acquiring a few dairy goats and yet more chickens, and repairing a leakage problem with one of two ponds on the farm. They hope to move to the farm, following the creation of the goat farm, a larger chicken coop, and … of course … a house. Although Frew and Arango acknowledge there is much to be done, produce has already been harvested from the land. Their small hoop house serves for growing a variety of vegetables, from cauliflower to carrots, and their heated greenhouse contains exotic varietals from Arango’s native Colombia — avocado, guava, fig and dragonfruit trees, as well as a variety of citrus trees. There aren’t any provisions from Sobremesa offered in any Bloomington 16
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
restaurants currently, but those who would like a taste can travel to the farm to buy from Sobremesa’s weekend farm stand. “We’ve really pursued a path of having an on-farm market,” Frew says. “The flexibility that gives us as far as our time and offering a premium product that is freshly cut to the consumer when they come to the farm, you can’t ask for anything better than that.” A PRIMER ON PERMACULTURE The owners plan to offer upcoming workshops and lectures that will showcase what they’ve learned about permaculture thus far. Permaculture — a mingling of the words “permanent” and “culture” — developed in Australia in the mid1970s through the collective association of Bill Mollison, a lecturer at the Uni-
versity of Tasmania, and a student, David Holmgren, who was interested in finding ways to increase food production within the constraints of two Australian realities — dry lands and limited water. Holmgren’s research for his eventual thesis delved into agriculture, ecology, landscape geography and communities, and it inspired
him to seek a way to combine a working knowledge of these topics into a cohesive whole. Working with Mollison, Holmgren developed his thesis into a book, “Permaculture One,” which was published in 1978 and which outlines the basic principles of permaculture. These principles include catching and storing energy, using and valuing renewable resources, obtaining a yield, producing no waste, valuing diversity and creatively responding to change, to name a few. The permaculture components that Frew and Arango have integrated into their farming style include predominantly planting perennials and integrating water catchment systems, among others. “The goal is to create a more integrated, self-sustaining system that mimics a forest and what happens in nature,” Frew explains. They credit Purdue Extension workshops for a lot of their farming education, noting that Bloomington residents Lucille Bertuccio of Habitat Stewards and permaculture champions Keith Johnson and Peter Bane have played big roles in their endeavors. Now Frew and Arango want to pass the information on. “All of that knowledge that we’ve gained through connections with Purdue and
Left, a maracuyá or passion fruit. Right, the greenhouse interior.
other farmers, we want to try to expand on that and provide some hands-on workshops so others learn how to put into motion some of these practices that are employed in permaculture and regenerative farming,” Frew explains. “The overall end result is that you’re really creating a network for environmental sustainability.” Of course, Frew and Arango know they’ll face challenges that affect all producers (and indeed, all people): climate
change. “We are learning and we need to continue learning how to adapt to the change in the climate that we are experiencing now,” says Arango, who works as a musician off the farm. When Frew and Arango look forward, they foresee growing expertise, a commitment to learning and increased community. Sobremesa also will host a lecture series on the history of farms in Indiana and preservation methods, in cooperation with the Indiana Barn Foundation. The idea behind the workshops and lecture series “came from the overall idea of sobremesa, the concept of sharing our abundance with the community,” Frew says. “In this case, it’s an abundance of knowledge.” For more information, visit facebook. com/sobremesafarm.
FARMERS ARE OUR NATION’S BACKBONE. BOB POYNTER REWARDS OUR FARMERS.
INDIANA’S RAM AG DEALER BOBPOYNTERCOLUMBUS.COM | 812-372-2575 | 3020 N. National Road, Columbus FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
small wonders David Rose has big dreams for his microgreens operation By Ryan Trares // Photography by Josh Marshall
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
IN A SMALL ROOM AT THE FRONT of David Rose’s home, his most recent crops are just about ready to harvest. Tiny broccoli, radish, sunflower and lettuce seedlings reach toward the light. The seedlings are only an inch or two tall, growing out of black trays stacked on shelves. Conventional thinking says the plants are at their most vulnerable stage, in need of protection until they are hardier and fully grown. But Rose has other ideas. “Normally, you plant a seed, and you’re protecting that growth as much as you can,” he said. “What I’m doing is planting an exponential amount of seeds on a tray and growing them to about two inches tall, then cutting them.” Rose founded Southern Indiana Microgreens in 2015, filling an agricultural void that exists in the state. He raises vegetable greens in his Taylorsville home, then packages and sells them at farmers markets and restaurants.
David Rose harvesting sunflower microgreens for market. Below, the final product.
he decided a side business involving agriculture would be ideal. “I thought to myself: What do I like to do? How can I make money at it? And how can I teach my kids?” he said. “I thought I was going to get into heirloom tomatoes. But the start-up costs on those was a lot higher to get into it.” Instead, he discovered microgreens. The use of raw, immature plants as food has been in practice in Europe for decades and is becoming increasingly popular in fine restaurants in some of the U.S.’s larger cities. Rose researched growing operations online and made countless phone calls to growers all over Europe. He discovered that while some farmers were raising microgreens on the West and East coasts, few Rising Above Tragedy Southern Indiana Microgreens was born out people were featuring them in Indiana. He packs his seeds in a soilless cottonof personal tragedy; Rose’s family home in Columbus burned down in December 2014. growing medium, filling small trays, then stacking them on shelves in his house. The Rose family moved in with Rose’s Nature has made the process easy; seeds father in Taylorsville. Trying to regroup, Rose brainstormed ways to bring addition- come ready-made with all of the nutrition that the plants need to sprout. al income for the family. Rose doesn’t need to add any fertilizer to Though he works construction full time, Even though the plants are small in size, they pack intense flavor and dense nutritional value. One handful of shoots at a time, Rose is drawing attention to the benefits of microgreens. “I like to refer to microgreens as the ‘veal of vegetables,’” he said. Microgreens are the immature versions of common vegetables, picked just after sprouting. “When I first started it, even as a grower, I was trying to figure out what was going on with them,” he said. “They’re cutting it here? Why would you start a broccoli seed and cut it here? That was the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around: What is a microgreen?”
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Southern Indiana Microgreens WHO: David Rose, owner WHERE: Taylorsville WHAT: A grower and distributor of fresh microgreens, featuring vegetables such as broccoli, radishes, peas, salad greens, arugula and kohlrabi. WHAT ARE MICROGREENS? Immature versions of vegetables, herbs and other plants that are harvested anywhere from a week to two weeks after germination. The plants tend to be about one to two inches long with the stem and leaves still attached. Research from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shown microgreens to be more nutritious than their full-grown counterparts. WHERE TO FIND THEM?
Through April 30: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1125 E. Brookside Ave., Indianapolis Through March 26: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays, Harmony School gymnasium, 909 E. Second St., Bloomington INFORMATION: facebook.com/
his plants; all he does is provide water and light. “There’s something about watching a seed germinate and grow from nothing. It’s phenomenal,” he said. Once the shoots reach two inches tall, he clips them. “Who would have thought that at that phase of microgreen, it has that flavor of the full-grown vegetable it’s going to grow?” Rose said. An Evolving Trade His growing process has been a constant evolution. With each batch he puts together, Rose learns a way to tweak details for bet20
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
ter growing. With a short growing period and quick turnaround, tiny changes to the process can have big results. Rose has documented every best practice, so that he knows that the plants prefer to be watered for just three seconds on the third day of growing. Each vegetable is different, though, so finding the right combination is a science and an art. “Each plant is specific,” he said. “They have different germination times; they have different watering times.” Rose also grows some varieties, including peas and garlic chives, completely in the dark. The microgreens never see the light until the plants have been harvested. “When
you grow things in the dark, they’re not allowed to photosynthesize,” he explained. “They’re really yellow and very bright. They’re so snappy and don’t have as much of a green taste.” On a small front porch, Rose started his first trays of microgreens. Contacting local restaurants, he soon had a customer base of 12 chefs in Bloomington, Indianapolis and Columbus who buy from him. His
first farmers market was in Columbus, and now he has expanded to include markets in downtown Indianapolis and Bloomington. Rose is moving his operation into a new space that will be 900 square feet, featuring commercial 12-foot-long slats of microgreens, which he hopes will set him apart from other microgreens growers. The plan is to eventually start selling his packages in local grocery stores, he said.
Rose waters his microgreens.
Thursday and Friday are harvest days, when he and his children trim the plants, sort by species, store the greens in plastic containers and mark each one for selling. “The biggest part of my job at the beginning was just informing people what a microgreen is,” Rose said. “I was just informing people what they were, not making sales. What pushed the sales were the free tastings.” Rose has also tried to be an educational force for residents who want to learn microgreens themselves. He’s happy to help people start their own small growing trays, hooking them up with his seed dealer and what kind of equipment to buy. “I can’t hold their hand and walk them through everything, but I tell them to give me a call if they have questions because they will; I know I did,” he said.
Rural Living & Local Food
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Heather Maybury drops off a day’s worth of collections at Greencycle.
Earth Mama Compost connects the dots between kitchen leftovers and carbon footprints. By Shawndra Miller Photography by Josh Marshall
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
HEATHER MAYBURY steps out of her tan Ford F150 and navigates a slushy path to the Earth Mama Compost bucket set outside an eastside Indianapolis home. Lifting a black bag from the 5-gallon bucket and dropping a fresh bag inside, she turns back to the pickup. “This is my life,” she quips as the bulging bag leaks a stream of fluid all the way down the path. She hoists it overhead into the back of her truck to join a steadily growing pile. In the cab, she reaches for a natural hand sanitizer and squirts some out. Rubbing her hands together, she cracks a joke about needing to buy stock in the sanitizer company.
Maybury collects compost and replaces the biodegradable bucket liner at a residence in Indianapolis.
and offered to sell her that business. She jumped at the chance and found the financial backing to make the purchase. “I actually went to the bank, and even though I was making $100 a month, they gave me a loan,” she recalls. “(I thought), ‘They’re as nuts as I am!’ It was amazing. They said, ‘We have faith in you, and we know you’re going to pay it back.’” When the dust settled, her client list had tripled overnight. A year later, she’s gone from 18 clients to 60, including several commercial accounts that make up half of her hauling by volume. Her territory stretches from Carmel to Greenfield. How does it work? In a nutshell, clients pay Maybury a nominal fee to carry away their veggie scraps in biodegradable bags, and Maybury pays Greencycle of Indiana to compost it. Earth Mama Compost now diverts two cubic yards of compostables from the waste Maybury, owner of Earth Mama Comstream each week, all of which gets turned post, drives a circuitous route two times a week to save food waste from its usual fate. into Greencycle’s soil amendments (bags included). The service enables more than She started a business (Curbside Com10,000 pounds of waste to be converted postables) after visiting family in Boulder, Colorado. A relative had signed up to have into compost every month. Not only is this a boon for gardeners eaher kitchen waste hauled away for composting. Impressed, Maybury realized that ger to get their hands on high-quality compost, it also has a positive impact on the her own city needed this type of service. larger environment. Food waste that deShe’d been a stay-at-home mom, but her grades in a landfill setting emits methane, daughter was now in school, and she was which is implicated in global warming. looking for a new gig. And kitchen scraps sent down a garbage “I had to work for myself, and I had to disposal go straight to the sewage system, make a difference,” she says. “Those were taxing wastewater treatment plants. my two criteria. I started with $300 and a It’s a labor of love, and Maybury’s not Honda Civic,” she says, allowing as how her getting rich any time soon, but reducing husband thought she was a little bit crazy. carbon footprints is serious business for His skepticism seemed to be borne out that first year, when she was stuck on six cli- her clientele. “I know a lot of people who really want ents and “couldn’t make the numbers work.” to be green,” she says, “and composting’s “They say shoestring budget?” she says with a wry laugh. “Well, my shoestring was hard sometimes.” She’s quick to say that she loves everything about home compostbroken in many places.” She was about to quit, but a sudden turn of fortune made her ing and does it herself, and she encourages everyone to handle their waste this way if change her mind. Her competitor at the time, Earth Mama Compost, contacted her possible. But for people who find compostFARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Maybury adds to the compost pile at Greencycle. Right, a biodegradable utensil found in a client’s compost.
A compost bin at Lush Handmade Cosmetics in Indianapolis.
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
All have in common a desire to reduce their waste. Alycia Allen, store manager of Lush Handmade Cosmetics, says she couldn’t be happier with Earth Mama’s service. The Fashion Mall store uses fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables to make its skin creams, shampoos and other products. For a store ing impractical for various reasons, she’s that uses minimal packaging and recyclathere to help. Residential clients generally pay her $10 ble/biodegradable materials, composting is a natural fit. per visit and fill a 5-gallon lidded bucket. “Lush is really passionate about reducMost are on a biweekly schedule, though ing our carbon footprint,” she says. “We’re some have her come more or less often, known for using ‘naked’ (packaging-free) depending on their needs. products.” On the commercial side, the fees are What goes into Lush’s weekly Earth based on volume, starting at $20 for a 32-gallon container. “I could fit into the 96- Mama Compost bucket? Craft sticks, paper towels and the bouquets that decorate the gallon one,” she says, noting that she asks commercial customers to fill 13-gallon bags store every week — not to mention the and tie each one off, so that no matter how plant-based ingredients in the face mask bar, when it’s time to change them. full the receptacle, she can always manage Allen keeps Earth Mama’s bucket in the lifting. plain sight of customers, with a bowl She can haul away both “behind-theon top to collect compostables in small counter” vegetable parings and postconbatches. That contains any smell from the sumer waste, or either one depending decomposing material. on the clients’ wishes. She also can take But if a customer should happen to compostable cutlery and tableware, as well notice and comment on a smell, Allen sees as unbleached napkins. it as an educational opening to explain The size of the commercial accounts the connection between waste and carbon varies. “I have a huge company that has its footprint. “We just explain that that’s our own cafeteria downtown,” she says, “and compost,” she says. “They appreciate it, and then I have a little tiny company that just it brings that conversation piece up.” composts for their breakroom.” LUSH HANDMADE COSMETICS PHOTO PROVIDED.
Maybury adds coffee grinds to the compost pile at Greencycle.
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10% at Closing. balance of payment after harvest Allen says her entire staff loves to see Maybury come on her weekly run. “She’s a really friendly person, and she cares a lot about the world,” Allen explains. “I wish there were more people like that in the world.” For her part, Maybury is conflicted about the petroleum demands of her job. She had a “baby truck” before this one, and the smaller size meant better gas mileage. But as her business expanded, the vehicle strained to manage the load. “Unfortunately, I broke it (the truck),” she admits. She tries to minimize emissions by keeping her routes as tight and circular as possible, and only idling for 30 seconds or so while she changes a customer’s compost bag. Overall, she works to mitigate her environmental impact through thought-
ful day-to-day choices. “I live in a smallish house that fits my family, and I drive the most gas-efficient car I could get,” she says. “We buy used unless we can’t, and then we buy high quality items … (so we) don’t have to replace them as often. It’s like little lifestyle things, not buying into the disposable lifestyle.” Her understanding of these complexities might give her an edge over someone who takes more of a hectoring stance about carbon footprints. “I don’t judge people for how green they are,” she says. “I feel like it’s such an important place to honor people for where they are. … I think it pushes people away when they feel like they’re being judged for not being green enough.” For more information, visit earthmamacompost.com.
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In the Classroom Local FFA chapters
Madison Consolidated High School FFA students stay community-focused By Catherine Whittier Photography by Josh Marshall
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Every year in January, the FFA officers team at Madison Consolidated High School (MCHS) packs up to take a trip to the FFA Leadership Center in Trafalgar. As the officers settle in and kick off their shoes, the log cabin-style lodge becomes chapter headquarters, as well as a training center for new officers, and students begin to brainstorm and plan the activities for the months ahead. Approximately 100 of the 1,000 or so students who attend MCHS are FFA
members, which makes it one of the largest extracurricular groups in the school, explains Amanda Briggs, agriculture teacher and FFA adviser. “We’re not a very rural school, so we have a lot of kids who are city kids,” she adds. The Madison chapter focuses on community service, communication and team building. “We are not big into production agriculture; we don’t do a lot of livestock judging, and we don’t have a lot of the proficiencies and things that some of the
Amanda Briggs, agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Madison Consolidated High School.
other schools do,” Briggs says. “We try to get out into the communities and do a lot with our elementary schools.” Fisher DeWitt, MCHS junior, chapter treasurer and FFA District 12 parliamentarian, says he is an FFA member not to pursue a career in agriculture, but to grow as a person. “Everyone thinks you have to be a farmer to join FFA and that it’s all about farming and agriculture,” he says. “It is always about agriculture, but it’s not always about farming. You learn life les-
sons; you learn all about things that help you through life.” Briggs works to prepare her students for life and leadership by helping them to develop good communication skills. She finds that many of her students are initially reluctant to speak in front of groups, but FFA activities provide students with an opportunity to learn and make mistakes and help them develop skills they will need when they get out in the real world, Briggs explains. Through commu-
nity service projects and other FFA experiences, students have ample opportunity to practice those skills. Ag Day, which is hosted by the Madison FFA chapter at the local Jefferson County 4-H Fairgrounds, gives students a chance to practice their speaking skills. Each year, third-graders from four school corporations come to the Ag Day event to learn about agriculture topics. “The FFA kids are the teachers. They’re the group leaders. They do the whole thing,” ex-
Fisher DeWitt, standing left, gives a demonstration on the benefits of using sunflower oil versus vegetable oil to fry pickles.
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
From left, Autumn Hardy, Fisher DeWitt and Shea Elswick. Below, the exterior of the renovated greenhouse. Part of the renovation included replacing yellowed paneling.
plains Briggs. “That’s really neat, because in some of the other counties, the Farm Bureau does the teaching and the kids just kind of lead the groups around, but in our case, they do it all.” Another project gave the Madison chapter the opportunity to visit fifth-graders at a local elementary school. “We talked with them about careers in ag and explained the farm-to-table process to them — how food gets to them — and the amazing people who make that happen at all steps along the way,” says Shea Elswick, MCHS senior and District 12 vice president. Each year during National FFA week, Madison FFA members provide various community services. “We go to a local nursing home, and we take our animals from the ag shop,” says Elswick. “We get to interact with them (the residents), and they get to experience the joy of (being around) an animal again. That’s a really unique opportunity for us and for them.” Madison FFA also hosts a teachers’ breakfast during National FFA Week. “We feed all the teachers in our school. To me, that’s really important,” says Elswick. Many teachers step forward when asked to help with judging or other FFA-related activities. The breakfast serves as a way to thank them. While community service projects are important to Madison members, they also work hard to achieve results in FFA 28
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
competitions. “Oh, we want to win,” emphasizes Briggs. The chapter has brought home national winners in the coveted National Agricultural Proficiency Awards contest for the past two years, and members have competed at the national level in the job interview and agriculture communications career development events. Madison FFA excels at the state competition in leadership contests every year, and for the past several years, its members
have succeeded at state competition in soils and forestry judging as well. “We have been one of the top 30 chapters now for a couple of years,” says Briggs. Traveling to participate in FFA competitions costs money, so to cover the costs, members also do a lot of fundraising. Students raise money for their travel and activities through their annual fruit sales. “They (students) are awesome at fruit sales,” Briggs says. “We sold right above $60,000 worth of fruit this year. We were the number 2 seller in the state.” Each year, the officer team chooses which fruit producers they will work with. “We sit down and look at prices and reputations, and they figure out who they want to go with,” says Briggs. “Then they figure out pricing. The kids make a lot of the
decisions, with some guidance, but they’re the decision makers.” In early October, students talk about marketing tips and strategies, and in December the fruit trucks deliver the products. “These guys (students) unload two semi loads of fruit, sort it, put thank you notes in and get it all delivered, hopefully within a week,” explains Briggs. “It’s a huge task. I like it because it’s an agriculture commodity. They’re learning about agriculture along the way, and they’re making funds for the chapter.” The students agree that successful sales are proof of how supportive the community is of the FFA chapter. “It’s good product, too,” says Autumn Hardy, sophomore and FFA chapter president. “We check every single box of fruit before it goes out.
The FFA emblem painted by Adam Barnhardt and Dusty Daulton
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So they (the customers) know that they’re going to get quality, and they know that they’re putting money toward a good community-involved organization.” Pretty much everything the chapter does is financed by fruit sales. “I worry every year before fruit sales or Ag Day,” Briggs says. “(I worry that) we’re not going to pull it off. We’re not going to be able to sell enough fruit. We’re not going
to be able to do whatever. Then they (the students) just exceed my expectations, every time. “The kids really have ownership in the chapter, and they do what they want to do,” Briggs adds. “They plan the events and come up with different things every year. These are the hardest-working and the best kids in the school. They never cease to amaze me.”
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Indiana Master Naturalist students learning about freshwater animals found in the wild.
Exploring Nature Master Naturalist programs bring the outdoors into the classroom BY SHARON MANGAS PHOTOS PROVIDED BY IMN/DNR
Inset, students read a star map.
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
TEACHERS, FACTORY workers and retirees often make up the “interesting mix” of adult students who sign up for the Indiana Master Naturalist program sponsored by the Resource Conservation & Development Councils, Indiana Soil & Water Conservation Districts, Purdue Cooperative Extension Service and Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Classes are open to the public. The program is geared to folks who love the outdoors but don’t necessarily have indepth knowledge of natural resources. Donna Stanley, park ranger at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Preserve in Jennings and Jackson counties, has facilitated classes since 2008 and says her students “come from all walks of life. Some are experts and want to learn more, and others are interested, but don’t have a lot of knowledge. Our goal is to help participants have a better understanding of wildlife conservation.” The adult Master Naturalist class (ages 18 and up) is generally offered once a year, where available. Most counties offering the program schedule it as a once-a-week class, given over the course of two to three months. Class sessions usually run three hours. Students can expect to get comprehensive instruction on subjects such as Indiana trees, birds, amphibians, geology, mammals, water and the relation of people to natural resources. To be officially certified, participants need to attend 80 percent of classes, pass a final exam and be willing to give one hour of volunteer service for each hour of coursework. Classes are taught by experts in their fields, including many
university-level instructors. Fees to take the class can vary, but average cost for the course is $60. Some areas offer Junior Master Naturalist classes for ages 8 to 12. Retiree Ralph Cooley of Jennings County took the class in 2008 at the Muscatatuck Wildlife Preserve and now teaches a wetlands session for the program there. “You meet so many interesting, likeminded people when you take the class,” says Cooley. “And we have a lot of great instructors. One of the lecturers when my late wife, Barbara, and I took the class was Dr. Thomas Simon, a professor at IU. He was scheduled to give a presentation on crayfish. Barbara and I wondered how in the world anyone could talk about ‘crawdads’ for three hours, but his presentation was absolutely fascinating.” Ginger Murphy, deputy director for stewardship with Indiana State Parks, took part in the planning that brought the Master Naturalist program to the state in 2002 and is happy to see it expanding to more areas. “I was the DNR representative among the original three to four agencies who worked together to frame and establish the program,” says Murphy. “It’s really grown organically. Hosts tell other hosts that it is a program that helps train and develop new volunteers, and the participants tell their friends about the camaraderie and the many things they have learned about natural and cultural resources in Indiana. Indiana State Parks have certainly benefited from the program. We get new volunteers on a regular basis from courses all across the state.”
Exploring Swamp Angel Nature Preserve in northern Indiana.
Lesa Smith, alumna of the Floyd County program, extols its benefits. “As a life-long learner,” says Smith, “I found the Master Naturalist course a great investment of my time. It gave me the knowledge to make provisions for wildlife and pollinator habitats at our home and farm. It has definitely influenced some of our land management decisions.” As part of Smith’s volunteer commitment, she helped with the Junior Master Naturalist program in Floyd County last year. It was so successful that it spawned
of them were up to their knees in water.” Stanley, of the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Preserve, is offering the adult class this year on Wednesday evenings in March and April. The Junior Master Naturalist Class will be offered there in July. “One of the most popular sessions in our (adult) class is mammals of Indiana, taught by Warren Gartner,” says Stanley. “He’s the DNR conservation education supervisor for the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife, and he brings in all kinds of antlers, horns and specimens when he teaches. It’s always a favorite.” Stanley stresses the importance of the junior program in today’s world, where kids are more likely to interact with cellphones than to wade in a stream or take a hike. “We try to connect children to the natural world,” she says. “In our classes, the kids have many opportunities to interact with nature. We schedule a new 4-H Club. Gina Anderson, Purdue activities such as looking for animal tracks Extension educator in Floyd County, and making casts of them, sampling wetspeaks highly of last year’s junior program. lands to find critters, and leaf-collecting to “I think it was successful because it covered learn how to identify Indiana trees.” topics that kids don’t really get in school Don Gorney, advanced master naturalist anymore,” she says, “and if they do, it isn’t and president of Friends of Fort Harrison as hands-on. For example, during our State Park, facilitates a one-week intensive water lesson, we took the kids to a pond class every summer in Indianapolis. It’s and let them take nets into the water to see now in its third year at Fort Harrison State what kind of insects they could find. They Park. “A one-week course appeals to many all had a really good time doing that bepeople,” says Gorney, “including teachcause they were personally involved. Some ers, college students and others. ... Many
students compare the week to a nature camp for adults.” This year’s class at Fort Harrison is scheduled June 13 to 17. To receive official Master Naturalist certification, an endless variety of volunteer opportunities is available at natural resource organizations, on state, county and local levels. Class facilitators help connect students to opportunities, such as trail maintenance, helping remove invasive plant species, doing wildlife surveys and facilitating creek clean-up, among others. Ralph Cooley, from Jennings County, now an advanced master naturalist, gives his time to the Muscatatuck Wildlife Preserve. He’s helped organize a rain garden there, assisted in building a Nature Discovery Center for children and maintained wildflower plots, to name a few. Children in the Junior Master Naturalist program are encouraged to give six volunteer hours. Miranda Ulery, Purdue Extension educator in Harrison County, helped facilitate the junior program there in 2015 and has glowing words for the youngsters who participated. “We didn’t have a planned service project for the group when we started the class, but the kids came up with their own,” says Ulery. “Raptor rehabilitators from Hardy Lake SRA came to talk with the kids, and one of our students asked if we could help with their endangered barn owl program. The students decided to build barn owl nesting boxes as their service project. They organized a 5K glow-walk to help raise money to make the boxes.” The children built 25 boxes “and have been distributing them to barns in the county,” says Ulery. “They also plan to place the nesting boxes in each county and state park in Harrison County to help increase the number of barn owls there. We are so proud of these kids … and they want to do more.” For more information, call (260) 8240926 or visit in.gov/dnr/parklake/6321.htm. FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Department of Labor and Industries consultants Jim Woodfin and Hugo Valdovines walk through a barn during a consultation at a dairy farm.
Tragic Harvest Rules enforced, lives saved
By Jeffrey Meitrodt STAR TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS)(TNS)
Photos by Renee Jones Schneider STAR TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS)(TNS)
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
YAKIMA, Wash. — Hugo Valdovines stepped inside a giant machine that farmworkers use to wash sweet corn and looked around. “Is that bleach right there?” he asked. Farm owner Manuel Imperial nodded. But he explained that workers can use a nearby hose if any of the powerful chemical splashes on their faces while they disinfect the machine. Not good enough. Valdovines, an industrial consultant who works for the state of Washington, told the farmer to build an eyewash station. His inspection also turned up other problems. He told Imperial to replace an unsafe ladder and find a way to
protect vegetable pickers from falling off moving trailers. The farmer didn’t flinch. After all, he had requested the two-hour safety audit. “A lot of farmers want to do the right thing, but they don’t know what to do,” Imperial told Valdovines in August. “I want to get better.” Farmers in Washington have embraced the nation’s most comprehensive agricultural safety program, an initiative that contrasts sharply with the hands-off approach that prevails in much of the Midwest. Unlike most farm belt states, where agricultural deaths are rarely investigated, Washington regulators are usually at the
scene after an agricultural worker gets killed. Washington is one of three states that enforce safety rules on farms with fewer than 11 workers. Washington also provides consulting services to small farms that wouldn’t qualify for such help in other states. The results are stunning. Despite having a larger farm workforce than any state in the Midwest, Washington has reported a total of 63 farm deaths since 2003. By comparison, Minnesota, Iowa and six other Midwestern states each have had more than 200 workrelated farm fatalities during that time. Of the 47 states that reported at least one farm death in the past decade, Washington
Valdovines interviews an employee during a consultation.
the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). By law, those staterun programs must be as effective as federal OSHA in protecting workers. But while the federal government and most states exempt small farms from oversight, Washington officials said they never seriously considered that. California and Oregon are the only other states that elected to use state money to enforce safety rules on farms with fewer than 11 workers. All states are barred from using federal money to inspect small farms. “It happened pretty quietly and without a major fight,” said Michael Silverstein, who ran the Washington OSHA program for 10 years and recently retired from the state agency. Representatives of Washington’s two largest farm groups said the industry has not tried to overturn the system. “I don’t think it’s a big issue out here in the state of Washington,” said Corwyn Fischer, assistant director at the Washington Farm Bureau. Farmers have pushed back on how the rules are enforced. Perhaps the biggest fight involved the state’s move to require roll bars on tractors built before 1976, a move aimed at combating tractor rollovers, the leading cause of farm deaths across the country. tion, but the idea of making small farms ers could be saved in five years, accordhas the nation’s lowest fatality rate. In some Though the rule contains some exceptions, subject to workplace safety rules hardly ing to a study in the American Journal of years, the state has gone without a single Washington goes far beyond the federal caused a ripple in Washington. Industrial Medicine. death linked to a tractor rollover, a comstandard, which simply requires rollover Regulators point to the state’s unusual Farming remains one of the nation’s mon cause of fatalities elsewhere. protection on newer tractors. constitution, which since 1889 has re“Washington has one of the best systems most dangerous occupations, generating There have been relatively few fatalities quired protection of all employees who face an average of more than 400 work-related in the country,” said Matt Keifer, director linked to tractor rollovers in Washington conditions that are “dangerous to life or deaths each year. of the National Farm Medicine Center in since the rule took effect in 1995. A 2006 deleterious to health.” There are no excep“There is a profound difference in the Wisconsin. state report showed a dramatic increase tions. Similar rights do not exist in the U.S. numbers between Washington and the Last year, Washington consultants visConstitution, or state constitutions in Min- in the number of older-model tractors ited 294 agricultural operations, including other states,” said Anne Soiza, assistant equipped with rollover protection, even director of Washington’s Division of Occu- nesota and other Midwestern states. dozens of farms in the Yakima Valley, the though the state has not helped farmers Those workplace protections led Washpational Safety and Health, which oversees state’s agricultural heart. By comparison, pay for it. Minnesota has provided free consulting to workplace safety. “I believe it is because our ington down a different path in the 1970s, Some farming advocates say it’s not fair when the state — along with Minnesota and presence makes that difference.” 10 farms since 2010. 20 other states — elected to create workplace to compare Washington’s safety record with If all states followed the Washington safety programs instead of giving that job to other states because the mix of crops is so FEW BUSINESS OWNERS enjoy regulamodel, the lives of about 1,000 farmworkFARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Valdovines takes a picture of employees picking peppers to study their ergonomics.
different. Washington produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including nearly 60 percent of the nation’s apples, which depend heavily on manual labor. Minnesota and Iowa dominate in corn and soybeans, a highly mechanized harvesting process. “Picking lettuce and tomatoes is not as dangerous as operating a skid loader,” said Minnesota Rep. Paul Anderson, a fourthgeneration farmer. Veteran farmers in Washington see it differently. They point out that tractors and skid-steer loaders are constantly buzzing around pickers during harvest season, hauling large cartons of apples and trailers loaded with fresh vegetables. “It is different, but a tractor is a tractor,” said Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League. “My educated guess is that (rollover protection) on tractors has saved some lives and prevented some injuries.” FARMERS OFTEN FEAR the worst when regulators show up, but many in Washington say they find the experience surprisingly tolerable. Jack Wheatley, whose family has raised hay in central Washington for more than 50 years, got his first visit from a state regulator in 2011. The result was a $1,650 fine for two safety violations, including missing safety guards on equipment. Two years later, the regulators returned when the arm of a backhoe crushed one of his workers when he got off the machine without first turning it off. This time the fine was $900. The backhoe was missing a safety pin that could have prevented the accident. “The guy who handled the case was very sympathetic to our loss,” Wheatley said. “He could have fined us $50,000.” The experience made Wheatley take safety more seriously. Besides replacing the pin on his backhoe, he added rollover protection 34
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
to three of his older tractors, even though he wasn’t cited for any tractor violations. If Wheatley’s farm had been in Minnesota, it would have been too small to warrant a visit from regulators. He sometimes has as few as four full-time workers. But in Washington, an accident inspection is required if a farm has at least one employee. Since 2003, Washington regulators have investigated 17 fatalities on small farms. Regulators typically found at least one safety violation. Fines ranged from $100 to $24,400, well below the legal maximum. To address federal concerns over the state’s modest fines, which ranked 44th in the nation in 2013, Washington recently
agreed to impose a minimum fine of $2,500 for any violation that contributes to a fatality. Washington regulators said they want farmers to welcome the attention. A 2011 state report showed that traumatic injuries declined 20 percent more at all Washington businesses cited for at least one violation. Consulting visits reduced injury claims by 25 percent. “We call it ‘selling the ticket,’” said Jeanne Henke, compliance manager for the Yakima Valley area, where Wheatley’s farm is located. “I would be very upset if someone on my crew came in as a storm trooper and intimidated somebody. … We need to find the big hazards, the things that cut people’s
arms off, that disable people, that kill people. But we are also there to educate the workers and the employers.” TWENTY MINUTES AFTER safety consultant Jim Woodfin started his tour of Jason Sheehan’s dairy farm, the regulator was standing next to a large milk tank, pointing his finger at a spinning drive shaft. “You can make contact with your hands or fingers — boy, it causes amputations,” said Woodfin, noting the absence of a shield to protect workers. A few minutes later, Woodfin caught an employee driving a tractor without a seat belt. He found a door to the milk barn
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Jack Wheatley, owner of Level Best Ranch and Anderson Hay Elevators, bales hay on his farm.
blocked by a broken fan. He poked his hand into a nest of electrical wires that should have been covered. By the end of his three-hour visit, Woodfin had documented nearly two dozen safety violations. “We found little things, but we always do,” Woodfin told Sheehan. “You got a lot more going right than you do heading in the wrong direction.” Sheehan, who requested the consulting visit, took issue with just one finding — that he buy four helmets for his fleet of all-terrain vehicles. “So even on the dairy, guys got to wear a helmet?” he asked. “Yeah, whatever the manufacturer recommends,” Woodfin said. Sheehan said he wanted a thorough review of his dairy to make sure his 38 workers are safe. A few years before he and his wife acquired the farm in 2011, two workers died in separate accidents. A cow trampled
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Let us protect you... one, and a 1,500-pound hay bale fell on the other. Regulators looked at both deaths and found two serious violations in the hay bale incident, resulting in a $300 fine. Altogether, Sheehan figures he’ll spend about $2,000 to address the hazards Woodfin’s team uncovered. Washington farmers said complying with rules aimed at preventing accidents is usually affordable, and much better than the heartache and financial consequences of dealing with a fatality. Henke said most violations at farms can be addressed with improvements that cost a few hundred dollars. “I think all of the things they pointed out can help us avoid an accident,” said Sheehan, who grew up on a dairy farm in Rochester, Minn., that his relatives still operate. “It’s going to take at least a day or two of my employees’ time to go around and fix everything. A lot of the stuff they pointed out is not expensive. It just needs to get done.”
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Safe and Sound Food safety legislation changes the playing field for many Indiana growers BY JON SHOULDERS
ith the recent finalization of several key components of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in late 2015, many growers are wondering what new measures they will be required to take and what additional costs they will have to incur to keep their farms compliant with new standards for food safety and risk reduction. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in every six Americans suffers from a foodborne illness every year and that 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. The FSMA, an extensive piece of federal legislation signed by President Obama in 2011, calls on the Food and Drug Administration to require prevention-based safety measures for producers, including increased inspections and mandatory implementation of safety plans to prevent contamination from bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. Perhaps the most impactful piece of the finalized portions of the legislation for many growers is the Produce Safety rule, completed last November, which includes standards for water quality, biological soil amendments, employee hygiene, and proper storage and maintenance of equipment and tools. Mandatory on-farm safety plans and record keeping, increased frequency of inspections and required testing of certain foods by accredited laboratories are all part of the legislation. “If you look at the numbers that are coming out of the CDC right now, there are cases of foodborne illnesses where they can trace it back and identify probable cause,” says Scott Monroe, a food safety educator with Purdue Extension at the Southwest 36
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Purdue Agricultural Center in Vincennes. “Fresh produce is implicated in about a third of those cases. We’re seeing things now that we just simply didn’t see 30 years ago. Traditionally you thought of E. coli as something you got from eating undercooked meat, and now there have been reports that we’ve seen it implicated in leafy greens. So things like that are turning up in unexpected places more and more all the time.” Ryan Stuckwish, co-owner and food safety manager at Stuckwish Family Farms in Jackson County, says his farm has undergone voluntary third-party audits for food safety for the past five years to keep up with standards set by the FDA, and that the initial expenditure of time and energy necessary for implementing thorough safety protocols, particularly in light of the new FSMA rules, are well worth the long-term benefits for growers. “We really felt overwhelmed when we took it upon ourselves to start structuring our food safety here, with all the paperwork and documentation,” says Stuckwish, who grows a variety of produce, including tomatoes, watermelons, sweet corn, peppers and cantaloupe. “Once we started
educating ourselves and using resources like Purdue Extension, we realized it wasn’t that bad. You have to look at it from the flip side. If an outbreak does happen somewhere and you’ve taken all the necessary measures for documentation and record keeping, you’re able to show definitively that it wasn’t you and that your stuff is safe. So having that record keeping and traceability in place is worth it. The tradeoff is there.” FDA officials decided to exempt growers from the Produce Safety rule if they can show an average of $25,000 or less in produce sales over the past three years. A qualified exemption is also available for farm owners who have an average of less than $500,000 in total food sales over the previous three years and who can also show that their sales to qualified end-users — which are either the actual consumers of the food, or restaurants or retail food establishments located in the same state or within 275 miles of the farm — exceed sales to all other entities combined during those three years. Farms eligible for qualified exemption are still required to label their products for traceability purposes. “Where I see an issue is that we’re going
to have some growers that are going to be covered under this unexpectedly, by virtue of having grain operations or livestock operations and then vegetable production as a part of the farm or as a smaller side project,” Monroe says. “The example I would give would be the guy that’s running 1,500 to 2,000 acres of grain, and his kids have a 4-H project involving produce at a roadside stand on the side or something like that. Growers are going to have to look at how they market their food and figure out if they fit under the qualified exemption.” The FDA rules for produce safety do not apply to produce grown for on-farm or personal consumption, nor food grains such as soybeans, sunflower seeds, barley, oats and wheat. In addition, more than 30 types of produce that are rarely consumed raw, including sweet corn, asparagus, several kinds of beans, potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins, are exempt. Monroe stresses that while a farm might qualify for a level of exemption under the new rules, it is never exempted from liability. “In the end it’s sort of a moot point because should the unthinkable happen and something be traced back to your farm, you’re going to face the same liability as any other grower whether you’re held to the standard or not,” he says. “That goes for any type of production and any size, whether conventional or organic. In that regard we don’t point the finger, and we don’t run around acting like farmers are going to kill everyone, but we do try to make folks aware that there are some concerns out there, and it all revolves around the idea of reducing risk.”
»For more information on the Food Safety Mondernization Act, including a link to the complete text of the law and FDA strategies for FSMA training and education, go to fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/default.htm. »To learn more about the FSMA rules for produce safety, including details regarding exemptions and compliance dates, visit fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm334114.htm. »Visit in.gov/isdh/25773.htm for details on the Indiana State Department of Health’s Farm Produce Safety Initiative. »For information on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s voluntary food safety audits, as well as educational material, record-keeping templates and manuals, visit ams.usda.gov/services/auditing/gap-ghp. »For food recall and advisory updates, go to in.gov/isdh/26599.htm.
Spring Into Action
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Systematic Safety – the Four W’s Purdue Extension educator Scott Monroe breaks food safety down into four key areas for growers:
WATER Water is one of the big ones simply because we use it for everything in agriculture. We recommend that folks who are using surface water for their irrigation — ponds or reservoirs for example — have that water source tested to make sure that there’s nothing out of the way or unexpected. For packing produce, you want to use potable water without question, when possible.
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WASTE We have to make sure that as we work on diversified farms, and as we look at soil fertility, we’re careful in how we use manure because it can harbor foodborne pathogens. It’s great stuff and people have used it for centuries, but it’s just a matter of making sure there’s a good window between when we apply it and when we grow and harvest the crop. Simple stuff like that can go a long way. It’s great to diversify, and it’s OK to have animals around, but it’s a matter of being observant and making sure that they don’t cause you to take on any additional risk.
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WILDLIFE It’s a matter of keeping a constant eye out. One deer walking across the field doesn’t really bother me a whole lot because it’s Indiana and we expect that. But if you’ve got a herd of 50 walking across your field, then something needs to be done, because that’s starting to increase risk beyond what is reasonable. Contact Premier AG Today to learn how TRAX can improve your profitability. 800.893.3886 FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
GUIDANCE As the demand for organically grown products throughout the country continues to steadily rise, local and federal agencies are creating more resources and educational opportunities than ever before to make sure producers who are maintaining or transitioning to organic methods at their facilities are doing so properly, thoroughly and efficiently. BY JON SHOULDERS
Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative Grants »Since 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has been awarding grants for research and education projects nationwide through its Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which is centered on improving organic agriculture production, marketing, trade and policy. This year, $17.6 million is available through the program for universities, research institutions, laboratories and other organizations, and research for proposed projects must be conducted on land that is either organic or transitioning to organic. Grants will range from $50,000 to $2 million. The official OREI Request for Applications form lists several priorities for this year’s grant projects, including strengthening organic crop seed systems, exploring technology that will address pest-related issues for organic growers and developing new organic agriculture curricula for undergraduate or graduate university programs. Applications are due by March 10, and winners will be announced around September. For more information, visit nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/ organic-agriculture-research-and-extension-initiative.
Organic Farming Handbook »In response to the growing number of organic producers throughout the country, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has created a comprehensive organic farming handbook, which includes key steps for conservation planning in organic growing, an overview of the organic certification process and land transition, information on the National Organic Program, regulatory requirements and links to additional resources. Staff members from the NRCS consulted producers in multiple states, including Indiana and California, to develop content for the handbook. To view the handbook, go to directives.sc.egov.usda.gov/default.aspx.
Organic Certification Cost Share Program »The Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s (ISDA) Organic Certification Crop Share program reimburses producers and handlers of crops and livestock for 75 percent of the cost of their annual organic certification expenditures up to $750 per certification category. Costs considered reimbursable include inspection fees, application fees and postage related to certification. Applicants must provide documentation to the ISDA including proof of certification and receipts for costs that are permissible under the program. Application dates are posted on the official ISDA website once they are determined (2016 dates have not yet been established), and additional program and application information can be found at in.gov/isda/2474.htm. 38
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Sound and Sensible Initiative »Last fall the USDA’s National Organic Program announced new resources through its Sound and Sensible initiative in an attempt to make organic certification as easy, affordable and hassle-free as possible for farmers and processors. The initiative is aimed at simplifying record keeping and removing common obstacles toward certification. In 2014, the USDA funded 14 projects around the country that were focused on streamlining the certification and compliance process, and the USDA website now includes content that reflects the results of those projects, including informational videos, guides to assist growers in understanding necessary rules and inspections, common myths and misconceptions, tips, questionnaires and more. To learn more about the Sound and Sensible initiative and to explore resources for organic growers, visit blogs.usda.gov/2013/04/19/ organic-101-sound-and-sensible-approach-to-organic-certification.
USDA Check-off Exemptions »As of Feb. 29, the USDA has expanded an exemption for organic producers from conventional check-off programs, which collect payments from growers of specific, conventionally grown products for promotion and marketing. The existing exemption for certified operations with the 100 percent organic label now includes those with the primary organic label, as well as processors, handlers and importers of both organic and conventional products. Last May the Organic Trade Association (OTA) appealed to the USDA to vote on the implementation of a check-off program specifically for the organic industry. The OTA proposal submitted to the USDA projects a budget of $30 million annually from check-off fees paid by producers, handlers and importers with organic sales higher than $250,000 per year, which would be used for research and promotion of organic products. For more information on the proposed organic check-off program, visit ota.com/resources/organic-check.
Additional Resources »To access a 15-minute tutorial on the basics of the organic certification process and the organic market, visit apps.ams.usda.gov/organic/101. For information about obtaining or renewing organic certification, contact Ecocert ICO, a Plainfield-based inspection and certification group, at (888) 337-8246, or visit ecocertico.com.
FROM THE FIELD
Planning When to Plant
NORTHERN ZONE Last Frost: 5-20 // First Frost: 9-20*
3-15 to 4-15
4-20 to 5-15
4-25 to 7-25
5-15 to 7-1
3-20 to 7-25
4-25 to 7-1
3-25 to 4-20, then 6-15 to 7-15
5-1 to 6-15
3-25 to 4-20, then 6-15 to 7-15
5-1 to 6-15
3-10 to 5-1, then 6-1 to 7-15
5-1 to 6-15
5-1 to 7-1
4-1 to 7-20
3-15 to 4-20, then 6-1 to 7-25
5-1 to 7-1
5-10 to 7-15
5-10 to 7-1
3-10 to 8-1
5-1 to 6-15
4-25 to 7-20
5-15 to 7-1
BY CISSY BOWMAN
WHETHER YOU ARE a hobby gardener or professional vegetable farmer, you want to be able to harvest vegetables picked at their prime. Their quality, flavor and marketability depend on numerous factors — crop variety, weather, insects, disease and weed pressure, water availability, soil fertility, regional temperatures and more. Planting your vegetables at the appropriate times for your region can help mitigate some common problems and, in many cases, make or break a crop’s success. Why are planting dates so important? Many Indiana gardeners simply choose a date, usually in May after danger of frost is past to plant. This may work, but it is not necessarily the best for all plants. Different crops have different needs. Can they survive a frost? Will daily hours of sunshine or darkness affect their maturity? Can they handle wide temperature variations? Will the result be vegetables that store well and exhibit the cosmetic quality they need to make it into today’s markets? If you companion plant your crops, finding which ones will grow at the same time will help you make educated decisions on what to plant together. Some grow best away from one another, as well. There are several published planting calendars that divide the U.S. into various zones, and like gardens and
Indiana Vegetable Planting Dates
Celery, Celeriac PLANTS
SOUTHERN ZONE Last Frost: 4-20 // First Frost: 10-10*
*Collards Corn (sweet) *Cucumbers
Early varieties can be planted later.
5-1 to 7-1
6-1 to 6-15
5-10 to 7-1
6-1 to 6-15
3-25 to 4-15 then 7-1 to 8-15
5-1 to 7-15
3-25 to 7-15
5-1 to 7-1
3-20 to 4-20
4-20 to 5-20
3-20 to 4-10, then 7-1 to 8-1
4-20 to 7-1
3-15 to 4-15
5-1 to 7-15
3-20 to 5-15, then 7-15 to 9-1
5-1 to 8-1
5-1 to 6-15
5-1 to 6-15
3-20 to 8-15
5-1 to 8-1
gardeners, these planting calendars are not all the same. The calendar here is based on my experience of over 40 years of growing vegetables in Indiana and is a compilation of what has worked for me based on other calendars and the advice of other gardeners with even more experience. For the purposes of this calendar, Indiana has been divided into two regions — north and south — as drawn on the map shown here. The dates are based on the average days to maturity for each specific crop. Each property offers its own microclimates as well. Experimentation will help you identify areas where you may have more or less protection from the elements, which may also affect the number of days it takes your crops to reach maturity. This calendar is meant to be used for crops planted outdoors, not in greenhouses or high tunnels.
The founder and program director of Hoosier Organic Marketing Education, Cissy Bowman has been growing food organically since 1973 and on her current farm, Center Valley Organic Farm, since 1983. For more information on Hoosier Organic Marketing Education, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (317) 539-2753.
New Zealand Spinach *Okra Onion
5-1 to 7-5
5-20 to 6-15
5-1 to 6-15
6-1 to 6-20
3-15 to 4-10
4-20 to 5-15
PLANTS, SEEDS AND SETS
3-20 to 8-1
5-1 to 7-1
3-10 to 4-10, then 8-1 to 8-15
4-15 to 7-15
5-10 to 6-1
5-25 to 6-20
3-15 to 6-15
4-15 to 6-15
6-1 to 7-1
5-20 to 6-10
3-10 to 5-10, then 7-15 to 8-15
4-15 to 8-15
3-10 to 6-15, then any time after 7-30
5-1 to 6-20
3-1 to 4-15, then 8-1 to 9-1
4-10 to 8-1
5-1 to 7-15
5-15 to 7-1
5-20 to 6-10
6-1 to 6-10
4-1 to 7-20
5-10 to 7-1
5-5 to 6-20
5-25 to 6-20
5-1 to 6-16
6-15 to 7-1
Peas GARDEN OR EDIBLE-POD
Potatoes SEED POTATOES
*Pumpkins and other winter squashes
Sweet potatoes “SLIPS”
Dates are for seed planting unless otherwise noted. Crops with an * can also be planted as seedlings, if desired.
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
FROM THE FIELD
Respecting the Earth BY CHERYL CARTER JONES
ARE YOU EVER perplexed by how often the trash receptacles in your home need to be emptied? While the statistics vary among studies on how much trash Americans produce annually, pick any one study and the numbers you’ll find will seem staggering. One such study by the Environmental Protection Agency indicates the average American produces approximately 4.4 pounds of garbage a day, or 29 pounds per week. Office paper, disposable diapers, Styrofoam inserts, plain plastic bags and fast-food containers top the list of what we throw away. Paper waste accounts for about 35 percent of the total material filling up landfills. According to a report by the National Defense Council, the average American throws away about 25 percent of the food and beverages he purchases. I now shred every bit of paper I can. I can repurpose that shredded paper to serve as food for my worms, add it to my compost pile or incorporate it into the soil directly. When I plant trees, I dig about three to four small holes about two feet from the trunk of the new tree. Filled with mulch, these holes act as water reserves for the trees. Paper is one such possible mulch. Not only does this keep the paper out of the landfills, but I save money on mulch and improve my soil in the meantime. A primary means of cutting down on food waste is by reducing the amount of
Seymour Area Farmer’s Market Vendor Meeting Tuesday, March 29th, 6:30-7:30pm Location: Jackson County Public Library
All returning & new vendors should attend this meeting to learn more about: Registering to sell at the market, New market guidelines, and a Q & A session. New this year: Temporary Food Booth Vendors and homemade craft vendors are also allowed at the market. Vendor Registration fee: Entire 2016 season: $20 ~ Rookie (17 & under): $0 Why should you consider selling at the Seymour Area Farmer’s Market? -Thousands of dollars in advertising and promos -Paid market manager to oversee market organization -Planned downtown events and entertainment during market hours Questions? Contact Sara at email@example.com or 812-521-1050
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Advertise it in print and online for 2 weeks with Wheels and Keels. CALL 812-379-5600 for details, or email text and photo to firstname.lastname@example.org
food in the first place. Just a little upfront menu planning for the week and the creation of a grocery list are critical steps to making sure you don’t bring home too much food. Buy only what you need and use all that you buy. Know what is already in the cupboard before you head to the grocery store or farmers market. Instead of allowing food to spoil, a great deal can be frozen and preserved for another time. By planning a week’s menus, you can integrate leftovers into other meals. Once food does, in fact, become waste, add it to the compost pile or worm bin (if you have one). I have made great progress in changing the negative impacts I make on the Earth. I strive to minimize my footprint. My methods of farming and tending to the land resemble many of the practices our ancestors used. Today, we refer to this as permaculture farming. I also have learned to conserve energy in my home. I keep the thermostat at 59 degrees in the winter, not turning on the heat until mid-December. I only used my air conditioning last summer long enough to ensure it was still working properly, though I do utilize a dehumidifier and a fan in the room where I spend most of my time. Given the insulation I added to my home several years ago, I am quite comfortable in these temperatures. More importantly, since I stopped cranking the furnace up so high, I rarely get sick. My asthma and aller-
gies have calmed quite a bit, and the air in my home seems fresher. However, when it comes to recycling practices, I would say I am only a C student. This year, I plan to upgrade to a B at least, and by the time my move to the farm is complete, I want to be averaging a strong A grade. I have focused some attention to the study of recycling during this cold spell we have had. (For those who remember my article last month, I am now questioning if I actually wished cold weather upon myself!)
THE RECYCLING R’S The letter R seems to play an important role in the teaching of best recycling practices. Many sources site four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink. Others change it a bit, adding one or two additional R’s along the way: reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink, refuse, repair and renewable energy. But the one word that best sums up the recycling concept for me is respect … having and showing respect for the Earth. Truly, I think it is about respecting mankind as well. There are several simple things we can do to make this world a better place to live today and for those who will follow in the future. If we strive to embrace and fold these simple habits into our daily living, we can offer a better tomorrow for future generations. »Reduce: Maybe it is time to get rid of some of your stuff (donate it to charities or friends), reduce the amount of driving you do and decrease the amount of energy you consume. »Repurpose: I was in my father’s workshop today. He has a scrap metal pile, and from that pile, he recreated
two new pieces he needed for his newest toy — a mini-modified pulling tractor. He saved money, the time and energy required to go find something new, and he prevented the “old junk” from being sent to a landfill. (Good job, Dad!) Besides benefiting the Earth, it is fun and rewarding to take something old and turn it into something new. If part of an object goes bad or breaks, is there another use for the parts that remain in working order? Salvaging even a percentage of an object reduces the overwhelming volume that ends up in our landfills. »Recycle: Be a part of creating the market demand for recycled items and materials. Recycling centers that take aluminum, plastic, as well as electronics, printer cartridges and car batteries, are easy to find these days. Ask around, and you may very well find someone who needs used motor oil for fuel in a furnace — a far better use than it finding its way into the soil. »Rethink: Regardless of what you’re doing, always try to ask yourself: Is there another solution or way to do something that is kinder and less damaging to the environment? »Renewable energy: Use solarpowered outdoor lights. Consider adding solar panels to an outbuilding. Buy a hybrid car or energy-saving appliances. WE ALL HAVE the opportunity to make a profound and positive impact on the Earth by simply respecting it through our actions. We all must ask ourselves, what do we want the Earth to be like for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren?
Cheryl Carter Jones is an Indiana farmer and the president of the Local Growers’ Guild, a cooperative of farmers, retailers and community members dedicated to strengthening the local food economy in central and southern Indiana through education, direct support and market connections. For more information on the guild, visit localgrowers.org.
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FROM THE FIELD
Celebrating Farm Life … Every Day BY KATIE GLICK
I WAS ASLEEP IN BED, enjoying the quiet on one of our cold, winter mornings, when I heard the door open and boots stomping mud and manure all over the floor. I was sure he had forgotten something — his coffee, extra coat or paperKatie Glick grew up on work — when my her family peace was disturbed. farm in “Hello, dear,” my Martinsville farmer proclaimed. and now “Sorry to bother but lives with her husband on their where can I find some family farm near Columbus. She is a graduate of Purdue University old towels?” I took a and has worked in Indiana politics. deep breath. “We only She now works in the agriculture have one, and you industry. She shares her personal, work, travel and farm life stories on used it on the dog.” “Oh,” he said. “I her blog, Fancy in the Country. found a newborn calf half frozen by the barn. The mom had twins, and I have got to warm her up. She’s in the front seat of the truck now.” I sat up in bed, my peace no longer a priority, and yelled, “Oh no! Just take our bath towels, however many you need.” I worried about this calf all day and constantly asked for updates, which I am sure were a bit an-
noying to my farmer as he tended to the herd and other daily chores in the freezing, windy weather. However, that afternoon I received a picture that helped revive the peace I had felt that morning. Our niece and nephew were holding on to the newborn calf who was standing tall and looked warm and healthy. They had appropriately named her Frosty. Frosty lived through that dreadful morning and now runs around the barnyard with the kids like a pet dog. However, my friends’ calf, so thoughtfully named Baby Flowers by their young daughter, did not make it through a similar dreadful day. My friend said her little girl would be devastated by the loss of this calf, whom she had grown so fond of in just one day. I reminded my friend that her daughter would be OK and that she would come to understand the concept of life and death at an early age — a concept many people don’t teach their children until they grow much older. Her daughter would be stronger after going through the grieving process. We celebrate and grieve in one way or another on the farm almost daily — the loss of an animal, the ups and downs of the commodity markets, the joy in growing something on the land we own, and the weather, oh how we celebrate and grieve because of the weather.
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Life on the farm is worth each of the emotions we experience. In my short life, I have seen calves and baby pigs die, diseases strike our family’s cattle herd, crop prices fall, river waters flood my family’s fields, and crops drying up and dying because of the sun’s relentless heat. I have watched my dad die on the farm that he sacrificed so much of his life for, and I have celebrated his life on the same farm that his family continues to work today. I have witnessed the hard work our farmers give daily to their farms and the strength and endurance that keep these farms operating for generations to come. As we await spring’s arrival and we pray for a year full of good weather, steady prices and safety for our farmers, I am excited to celebrate Ag Appreciation Month in March and hope you will join me. And I thank Frosty and Baby Flowers for the life lessons and reminders that they offer: Farm life is worth celebrating every day.
THE VIEW AT NIGHTFALL
Time for Maple Syrup BY LIZ BROWNLEE
INDIANA HAS some excellent farms that produce maple syrup, but we are not one of them. Our maple syrup venture is purely for our own (and our family and friends’) enjoyment. We don’t sell it. Why? The first reason is clear: We only have a few sugar maple trees, so our production could never be large enough to make the endeavor profitable. The second reason is uncertainty. Indiana weather is fickle and increasingly more extreme: It might be 60 or 70 degrees on a winter day. To make maple syrup, we need cold nights (below freezing) and warm days (in the 40s, ideally).
After years of gaining experience on other farms, Nate Brownlee and his wife, Liz, moved back to Indiana to start their own family farm, which they named Nightfall Farm. Here, they share stories of the many trials, tribulations, successes and failures in running a family business. For more on Nightfall Farm, visit nightfallfarm.com.
That freeze-thaw cycle makes the trees’ sap run from the roots up to the branches, and some of it goes into our sap buckets. If the temperature fluctuates from hard freezes one week to days that feel like April the next, well, we simply won’t get any (or much) sap. We’re farmers, and farmers expect risk, including drastic weather. But given our small number of trees, we can’t build a business on something that risky. Instead, we make syrup just for ourselves, for fun. If it’s a terrible syrup year, we can buy syrup from an Indiana farm. If it’s a good year, we invite lots of friends over for pancakes. MAKING SYRUP Maple syrup surprises people. Maybe it’s because most folks our age (including Nate and I) were raised on Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth, with their corn-syrupy sweetness. It’s tasty stuff, but not exactly thought-provoking. Most people don’t seem to know that maple syrup comes from maple trees, or that they can make maple syrup, too. There are many different ways to make maple syrup, but the basics remain the same. First, you need a sugar maple tree and a little patience. These maples are called sugar maples because they have more sugar in their sap than other maples do. To make one gallon of maple syrup takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap. You’ll need many more gallons if you tap
a red maple or any other tree. Next, you need some basic supplies to tap the tree and collect the sap that runs out of it. We work with very inexpensive (and some free) materials. We bought taps from a maple sugaring supply company. We already had the drill bit needed to make the hole in the tree. We asked around at restaurants and bakeries to get foodgrade buckets to collect the sap. Finally, you need fire. Maple syrup is basically just sap that’s been boiled long enough to get rid of most of the water. Getting rid of the water concentrates the sugar — because no one likes soggy pancakes. Maple syrup producers have heavy-duty, very expensive and very effective setups called “evaporators” that do the job well. At our scale, we opted to go the cheaper route. Nate researched and built two “rocket stoves” out of bricks. These stoves are often used in developing countries because they’re economical to build, and they use junk wood and twigs to create a focused, hot fire. We put old pressure cookers over the fire and boiled down our sap into syrup. We make fun days out of boiling our sap. The process requires constant tending (so that the sap doesn’t burn) and can take eight hours or more. We invite over a few friends, pull out lawn chairs, have a picnic while the sap boils, and enjoy the relaxed, no-pressure work before the farming season gets underway.
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FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
LOCAL FOOD What’s your background in food?
Swap … In The Name Of Love Q & A with Suzanne Krowiak, founder of the Indy Food Swap Suzanne Krowiak wears many hats. She’s a freelance writer, master food preserver and canning instructor. She founded the Indy Food Swap in 2011 and says she still fits time in her schedule “to be an unpaid taxi driver and shortorder cook” at home for her family in Indianapolis. Food and friendship are important in Krowiak’s life, which is why she was eager to start a food swapping event. BY TWINKLE VANWINKLE
Where did your idea for food swapping originate?
I read about one in Brooklyn while I was recovering from a broken foot and catching up on my large pile of food magazines. I was so intrigued by the idea and immediately jumped online to see if there was anything like it in Indianapolis. There wasn’t, so I asked my friends at The Earth House Collective if they would let me use a room there and see if anyone would come. They did! Five years later, we fill up for every swap and have built this creative, enthusiastic, inclusive and kind community of food lovers. We’ve since moved to our new home at Indianapolis City Market.
It’s exactly what it sounds like. A group of people get together and trade homemade or homegrown foods. Some of the people who attend a swap come with friends; others come alone and don’t know a soul there. Still, almost as soon as it gets going, everyone is chatting with each other, sampling delicious food and enjoying the company of people they didn’t even know before walking in the door.
What appealed to me the minute I started reading about the one in Brooklyn was this idea of sharing and discussing homemade or homegrown food with people who love it as much as I do. Most people who love to cook also love sharing that food with others. But it’s especially fun and fulfilling if the people you’re sharing it with have the same enthusiasm. I think it’s the same reason people join book clubs or sports leagues — it’s fun to hang out with people who share your interests. FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Do you have a food philosophy? Yes. Enjoy it. That’s my philosophy.
How many people usually attend? We cap every swap at 35 people, and you have to register in advance. It’s not a walkin event. We’ve tried to do bigger numbers in the past, but it gets too crazy. Thirty-five is plenty of people to have a good variety, but not so big that it’s a madhouse.
What is the overall message you want to share with the public? Why is food swapping important?
What in the heck is a food swap anyway?
Why did you want to start a food swap?
My parents had a restaurant when I was growing up, and both of my grandmothers cooked a lot. Some of my most vivid childhood memories revolve around food. I started to learn to cook myself when I had my own apartment after college. I learned from cookbooks, really. I still do. Aside from my master food preserver certification, which I got through the Purdue extension program, I learned mostly from cookbooks and great online resources. One of my favorite resources is America’s Test Kitchen, which many people know because they publish Cook’s Illustrated magazine. You can really learn a lot from the Test Kitchen magazines, cookbooks and online resources. They even have a really good online cooking school.
and the bidding starts. And all that means is that swappers write down the items that interest them. To use my strawberry jam as an example: I’ll have a sheet of paper beside the jars (it’s called a bid sheet provided by swap organizers), and people can write their name on it if they’re interested in swapping something they brought for a jar of my jam. So if you brought some bags of granola and you are interested in getting a jar of my jam, you would write your name on the bid sheet next to my jars and indicate that you wanted to trade me for a bag of granola. And then after a few minutes, we all go back to our tables, take a look at our bid sheets and see who wants to trade for our items, and decide what we want to swap our items for. No money changes hands. It’s all trading items, and it’s a blast. It gets a little hectic, but everyone has fun. And people always leave happy with their haul.
Does the Indy Food Swap involve or include any local farms or farmers? Is there any involvement with the slow food movement? A lot of people who participate in the food swaps are active in the slow food movement locally. And many swappers bring things from their gardens to swap. Bunches of basil or other herbs. Tomatoes. Swappers love it when people bring eggs from backyard chickens. The eggs are always a popular item.
What happens at a normal food swap?
Different people swap for different reasons. I love the community aspect. For some, it’s a wonderful creative outlet. Others love the slow food element. People these days really appreciate knowing where their food comes from. They’d rather eat bread made by someone nearby in a home kitchen, than go to a grocery and buy something that was shipped from who-knows-where, under whoknows-what conditions. For most, I would say it’s a combination of all of those things. I also have personally watched a number of people expand their cooking skills and interests just from participating in the swap. There are several swappers who preserve
Swappers arrive and find a table. And most people bring samples of whatever they plan on swapping, so they’ll set those up. For example, if I bring jars of strawberry jam to swap, I’ll have some crackers and a sample jar so swappers can taste the jam and see if they like it. And then we have a welcome, everyone starts walking around tasting items,
food now and never would have thought a few years ago that they could or should do something like make their own jam or pickles. But they’ve been inspired by fellow swappers, and they just go for it. It’s really fun to watch that excitement bloom.
6 whole large eggs 6 egg whites (taken from an additional 6 eggs)
Why do you like food? What is it that brings you to the table, per se? I love everything about it. I love the creative side of it — how it looks, how it tastes. I love talking about the food while we’re eating it. “How’d you do that? Was it hard to do? Can you teach me to make it?” I love coming up with different menus, especially for groups. I just think food is really fun. I could talk about it all day long. (And I often do!)
What is it about the City Market in Indianapolis that attracts you and why hold a food swap there? Oh, I love (Indianapolis) City Market. I love how supportive Stevi Stoesz (the executive director) is of the local food community. The Earth House Collective closed about a year after the swap started, and we were without a place to gather. Stevi stepped in and offered to help, and we’ve never looked back. It’s a beautiful building, with great vendors, and has been our biggest cheerleader. We are so grateful. The location is perfect, too, because we have swappers from all over Indianapolis and the surrounding suburbs.
What are three things you would say to someone who wanted to join a food swap? 1.) Don’t be nervous. The best swaps are inclusive groups of adventurous eaters. I can’t tell you how many people have stopped me mid-swap to say, “I was so nervous to come, but I’m having the best time and already planning what I’ll bring to the next swap.” I’m not kidding. I’ve heard hundreds of variations of that very same sentence. 2.) Make what you like to eat. I always say to people, “If you make it, they will swap.” 3.) Don’t overthink it. Register online. Make something. Show up. Try good food. Take home a basket full of delicious. The end.
For more information, visit indyfoodswappers.com.
Grilled Asparagus and Feta Frittata
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese ½ cup crumbled feta
We Say Frittata BY TWINKLE VANWINKLE
The frittata is the sleek Italian version of an omelet, no folding required. It’s also a great vehicle for serving leftovers. I’ve made many a frittata with leftover taco ingredients, leftover roasted veggies and even with leftover pasta. However you whisk it, the frittata, to me, is the perfect egg dish. To make this recipe work, you’ll want to remember a few important things. First, make sure all your ingredients are room temperature. For eggs to cook consistently, you want to make sure everything is the same temperature, nothing too cold or too warm. Second, sauté your veggies — like onions, garlic, fresh herbs — before mixing with the egg batter. Because this recipe is cooked quickly, raw ingredients may not cook thoroughly. Third, remove the frittata from heat as soon as eggs are cooked through. If you cook this dish too long, it can become dry and rubbery. The best advice I can offer for making a good frittata is to just relax. This is a quick, fun dish that holds up for a simple yet classy brunch, but can also work as a protein-laden main course. And although it may already be filled with items from the fridge from another meal, the frittata shines brightly the next morning as a leftover breakfast. But that’s only if you’re lucky enough to have any frittata left.
½ medium yellow onion, finely diced 2 small cloves of garlic, minced 3 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 cup frozen hash browns, thawed
1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt ¼ cup olive oil
12 large stalks of fresh asparagus or leftover roasted asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil for greasing baking dish
Line a shallow baking dish with parchment paper and grease well with olive oil. Types of dishes you can use include an oven-safe, 10-inch sauté pan or pie plate, an 11-by-7-inch rectangular tart pan with removable bottom (shown in photo) or a 10-inch iron skillet.
Take hash browns and mush into the edge of the pan in a ring. These will create a crispy crust around the edges as well as help keep the egg mixture from escaping if you are using a pan with a removable bottom.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Beat the egg whites in a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer until stiff peaks form. Beat six large eggs for at least five minutes until the eggs change in color to a pale yellow and begin to froth. Fold eggs and egg whites together and add salt and pepper. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes. Sauté thawed hash browns on high heat until just browned and set aside. Sauté onions and garlic, adding thyme and mushrooms in after one minute. Sauté until onions are translucent, then set veggies aside. If using fresh asparagus, sauté quickly until just cooked through, but still crunchy. Set aside with other veggies. If using leftovers, toss in pan just to heat.
Layer veggies in the bottom in this order evenly, from bottom to top: mushrooms, garlic and onions, and asparagus. Sprinkle feta and half the Parmesan over the top of the veggies evenly. Pour egg mixture slowly over to cover veggies and shake gently to make sure mixture gets in all the nooks and crannies of the vegetables. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan over the top and place in oven on the middle rack. To prevent leakage and to keep frittata from burning on the bottom, place a heavy baking pan on a rack underneath. Cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until egg mixture is done all the way through in the middle. Be careful not to overcook. If you want a golden top, place under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes until just browned.
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
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
Upcoming Events BY KATHERINE COPLEN
The Indiana Small Farm Conference and Southern Indiana Grazing Conferences are the biggest events happening this month, but there are plenty of other programs of interest scattered around the state as well.
FARM INDIANA // MARCH 2016
MARCH 1 Planning for Retirement and Estate Management This is the third of three retirement and estate management courses this winter. This two-day course takes place in Rensselaer. The first day includes a seminar on sweat equity, estate planning, generational differences, long-term care options and retirement planning. The second day includes a sit-down with the Farm Succession Planning Team. This event is part of the Farming Together series. Cost is $150 for the first four family members and $15 for each additional member. Time: 9 a.m. Location: Jasper County Fairgrounds, 2671 W. Clark St., Rensselaer. Information: (219) 984-5115
MARCH 1 Tobacco Orange County Meeting This Private Applicator Recertification Program (PARP) credit qualifying meeting covers nutrition needs of
tobacco, pest and disease issues of 2015, and record-keeping. Time: 1 p.m. Location: Orange County Extension Office, 205 E. Main Street, Paoli. Information: email@example.com
MARCH 2 Southern Indiana Grazing Conference Allan Nation, Doug Peterson and Wesley Tucker are featured speakers at this conference, which will include sessions on creating, managing and profiting from quality pasture; high-density grazing and soil health; expanding the beef operation; making money with contract grazing; and lowering the risk of stocker cattle. You can upgrade your ticket and dine with the speakers in a pre-conference dinner on March 1 for $25. Time: 8 a.m. Location: WestGate Academy, State Road 558 and E. County Road 1650N, Odon. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
MARCH 3 Indiana Small Farm Conference All Day Workshops Before heading to the Small Farm Conference — or even if you’re not attending — five intensive workshops will be held in advance of the conference and trade show. Workshop topics include starting and sustaining a small farm in Indiana; making markets work for your farming enterprise; gaining new knowledge to be successful on your hop farm; producing meat for local communities on small farms; and getting the most out of your woods. Cost for your choice of workshop is $50 and includes lunch. Times: vary. Location: Hendricks County Fairgrounds, 1900 E. Main St., Danville. Information: ag.purdue.edu/extension/smallfarms
MARCH 4-5 Indiana Small Farm Conference Are you a small-scale, diversified farmer? If so, head to the Indiana
MARCH 9 Producers Program This PARP-qualifying program covers nutrient timing and placement, nutrient management plans, fertilizer recommendations and record-keeping. Time: 7:30 p.m. Location: Anderson’s Plant Nutrient, 4743 County Road 28, Waterloo. Information: email@example.com
MARCH 10 Ripley No Till Meeting Small Farm Conference. This year’s conference will feature sessions on restoration agriculture, grant writing, loans and farm financing, crop planning and enterprise budgets, among many others. Featured speakers include Mary Dee Berry, executive director of The Berry Center, which tackles issues facing small farming families in Kentucky and the greater Midwest; and Ben Hartman of Clay Bottom Farm, author of “The Lean Farm.” Location: Hendricks County Fairgrounds, 1900 E. Main St., Danville. Information: (317) 275-9269
MARCH 7 Herb of the Year You’ll know more than you ever could believe about peppers, also known as capsicum. History, propagation, cultivation and uses — both medicinal and culinary — will be covered. The event is free to attend. Time: 6:45 p.m. Location: Clay Township Center, 10701 N. College Ave., Indianapolis. Information: herbsocietyofcentralindiana.org
MARCH 8 Newton Spring Workshop Lunch is provided at this PARP program, which features talks on cleaning sprayers, mixing chemicals, triple rinsing and disposing of containers. Time: 10 a.m. Location: Morocco Firehouse Community Building, 408 S. Polk, Morocco. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Agritourism Tour and Networking A driving tour of Dillman Farm in Bloomington and Hunters Honey Farm in Martinsville is sponsored by the Indiana Farm Market Association. Cost: $25. Lunch is included at Farm Bloomington. Time: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Information: email@example.com.
This PARP-qualifying program features cover crops, weed and nutrient management. Private applicators looking to keep their licenses current can attend this program. Time: 9 a.m. Location: Hopewell Baptist Church, 2319 N. County Road 850W, Holton. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
MARCH 10 Starlight Vegetable Growers Meeting This annual meeting and PARP program covers information on pollinators, vegetable fungicides and more. Time: 6 p.m. Location: Joe Huber’s Family Farm, Barnyard Bash II, 2421 Engle Road, Starlight. Information: email@example.com
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MARCH 11 Winter Grower Meeting This PARP-qualifying program covers nutrient planning evaluation, a 2016 Purdue weed science update and a chat on cleaning the sprayer. Time: 8:30 a.m. Location: Lake Placid Conference Center, 397 S. Road 200E, Hartford City. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
MARCH 11 Farming for Soil Health Workshop Purdue Extension-Delaware County will host James Hoorman, Ohio State University Extension educator, for an intensive Farming for Soil Health workshop. Location: Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Building, 6100 State Road 67, Muncie. Information: extension.purdue.edu/Delaware
MARCH 16 Johnson County PARP This PARP event covers field crop pests and foraging. Time: 9:30 a.m. Location: Scott Hall at Johnson County Fairgrounds, 484 N. Morton St., Franklin. Information: (317) 736-3724
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