The Northwest Indiana Forum and its allies have been pursuing a multi-pronged approach to igniting economic development across the Region, including developing a young professionals digital ambassador program, opening an impact lab for startup companies at Purdue University Northwest, and calling existing businesses to see if they need help with hiring or expansion. Read More
Indiana University (Jodee Ellett) and Purdue University (Rhonda Phillips), the NWI Food Council, Wallace Center, City of Bloomington, Fischer Farms Natural Foods, Food & Growers Association have received a $515,448 grant by the USDA Local Food Promotion Program. The mission is to improve local food supply chains throughout Indiana via value-chain coordinators, one-on-one wholesale training for farmers, establish aggregators and assist with FSMA compliance.
The grantees will work with partners to connect the local and regional wholesale market channels, to address the 1) Lack of human capital with the skills and knowledge to connect the supply chain; 2) Lack of knowledge for farmers entering wholesale markets including food safety; and 3) Few known locations where farmers and food businesses can process foods for value added ventures.
More information on program details coming soon.
We can’t say thank you enough to the SIA Foundation (Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.) for their generous grant to the NWI Food Council to start a farm tool library in NWI. We are excited to launch this important program to assist beginning urban and rural farmers in our region! 🚜🙌🥕
More details on the farm tool library coming soon!
FarmHop was an absolute joy to plan and to experience. The NWI Food Council designed the FarmHop to connect consumers with the amazing work taking place every day on the Northwest Indiana farms that grow our food. The goal was to have consumers gain a new appreciation for agriculture in Northwest Indiana, and the benefits of buying locally grown food, whether they buy produce from the local Farmer’s Market or grocery store, dine at local eateries, buy ethanol gas or plant gardens for pollinators. Over 100 community members came out on September 23rd, 2017 to participate in one of four unique tours:
Gary – Tour 1: Guests toured thriving urban farms with unique solutions for community food access, a garden for the visually impaired, a school’s vibrant and diverse farm and more. Stops included Blind Social Center, Eagles Nest Farm (Thea Bowman Academy), Jay-One’s Grow Space, Peace & Garden Farms and Stewart House Urban Farm and Gardens.
Valparaiso – Tour 2: Attendees explored a biodynamic hop farm, heritage breed animals, a family whose children manage the egg laying operation, and an interesting approach to commercial agriculture that sells nearly all of its products locally. Farms included Howe Farms, K & C Bucher Farms, and Three Guys and Some Chicks.
LaPorte – Tour 3: FarmHoppers visited the historic Chellberg Farms, a public learning farm; Discovery Charter School where students raise and tend bees; a church that created the Jackson Street Community Garden, a food-providing organization to serve the hungry, and Rainfield Farm – an organic Community Supported Agriculture farm that grows a variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs in addition to hens for eggs.
Crown Point – Tour 4: Guests traveled to a diverse organic vegetable farm with year-round growing solutions from high tunnels to greenhouses, and a new level of sustainability from composting to heritage breed animals to growing feed right on the farm. Visits included Perkins Good Earth Farm and Acorn Acres.
Thank you to all our participating farms and to our incredible sponsors: South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority, Market Wagon, Purdue Extension, Nature's Cupboard, Miller Pizza Company, Olthof Homes, The Market, Piazza Produce, Seven Sons Farm
We recently visited Native Roots Farm, a small-scale 501c3 nonprofit organization. The farm's mission is to promote the development of a local sustainable food system through educational outreach, on-farm production, and hands-on learning opportunities. Using organic growing practices, they produce an extensive offering of sustainably grown produce: specializing in hardneck garlic, delectable greens, heirloom tomatoes, and farm fresh eggs. They also raise chickens and goats, primarily for fertility of the vegetable plots, and they're hoping to extend their season with a grant-funded high tunnel.
Thank you Damien! We really enjoyed the tour.
Our Lyndsay Ploehn and Sarah Highlen took part in a Purdue Beginning Farmer field trip earlier this month with the Purdue Extension, funded by a USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Grant and North Central Region SARE. The whirlwind trip across Vermont and Maine included 14 sustainable farm tours over 7 days, with 24 participants.
🌱 We discovered innovative solutions like Jasper Hill Farm's high-tech hay drying system (partially solar-powered); Cate Farm’s greenhouse trolley and greenhouse configuration; Four Season Farm/Eliot Coleman’s rolling hoop house and never-ending development of new tools; and Crystal Spring Community Farm’s use of saw horses to make easily disassembled seed-starting tables. Plus, there was Frith Farm’s color-coded visual crop plan, use of second-hand billboard vinyl as a solarization tool for to weed control, and homemade drum dibbler.
🌱 We studied how Richard Wiswall grows organic seedlings that are cheaper, healthier, and better-looking than the seedlings available at the big box store. Likewise, Eliot Coleman observed that organic farming obviously works with the right approach — there was plenty of evidence in his healthy, productive fields. Several farmers told us that much of the conventional produce in the grocery store is more expensive than their own locally grown organic produce.
🌱 We got practical tips such as horse manure as a multi-year solution to prevent cabbage worms; watering seedlings deeply and less frequently; the huge payoff of preventing seed rain; and the importance of farm location (near population center) for new farmers who have that choice. We gathered in-depth info about the characteristics of a successful apprenticeship program; models for land trusts; the value of farm business planning and viability coaching; and how to grow beautiful leeks without hilling by dropping 10” seedlings into 9” holes made with a simple tool. We also learned from University of Maine researchers that organic mulch and seed bank management are the most profitable weed control strategies, even after accounting for labor. Their studies showed that these labor-intensive strategies had the best payoff, even in the first year. Also in the practical tip category, one farmer advised us to start using QuickBooks asap, and to make sure that products are catalogued and organized by crop to enable profitability calculations.
🌱 We learned from farmers with different perspectives. We heard about the value of tilling at Four Season Farm and the success of a no-till approach at Frith Farm. Likewise, some stay focused on a handful of items that can be produced super-efficiently in order to be profitable, while others believe the integration of livestock and crops is critical to developing a "self-fed”, efficient, self-reliant farm. We also benefited tremendously from the camaraderie of the group and had the opportunity to learn so much the other trip participants.
...and that was just a glimpse of what we learned. We have a combined 30 or so pages of notes! Thank you to Tamara and Marion of Purdue Extension’s Diversified Food and Farming Systems program for putting together this incredible educational experience! And thank you to all the amazing farmers and others who took the time to talk to us: Intervale Center, Jasper Hill Farm, Pete's Greens, High Mowing Organic Seeds, The Center for an Agricultural Economy, Cate Farm, Frith Farm, Crystal Spring Community Farm, Dandelion Spring Farm, Four Season Farm, UMaine Sustainable Agriculture Program, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Maine Organic Farmers And Gardeners Association (MOFGA), and Belfast Co-op!
See all 70 photos on Facebook!