Each year, Purdue Extension, along with many partnering organizations, hosts the annual Indiana Local Food Summit. This event provides learning, networking and sharing opportunities for the people, communities and organizations working to create an Indiana food system that is more resilient, economically vibrant and diverse. We spent an entire day in professional development training with Marke Winne, author of Stand Together or Starve Alone. NWI Food Council Board member and founder of Peace Baptist Garden & Farms, Pastor Marty Henderson, was featured on the Keynote panel discussion food justice in Indiana. It was a an empowering two days of making connections and strengthening our statewide network!
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
photos ©2017 Sarah Highlen
Thank you to the Blueberry Growers of Indiana for inviting us to join their group for a tour at Johnson's Farm Produce!
The Johnson family has been growing food for the region for 75 years! How cool is that? It all started in 1940, when Ethel Johnson began selling extra tomatoes from her garden. Soon, Ethel, her husband Clark, and their son Rod saw the little business grow, and converted an old barn to use as a market. Unlike many farmstands, Johnson's still grows almost everything they sell — a true local food tradition in Northwest Indiana! 🍓
You'll even find farm-to-table baked goods next door at Marilyn's Bakery, launched in 1986 by Marilyn (Johnson) Pearson. They prepare fresh food and baked goods daily, including strawberry whipped pies made with strawberries harvested fresh from Johnson's.
Based on popular request from FED attendees, we kicked off a new series of meet-up events!
These meet-ups are an informal opportunity to relax, enjoy some local beer, and talk to others interested in eating local, supporting local food businesses and farms, and advocating for our local food systems. These events are family-friendly, with free admission, and all are welcome! Keep an eye on our event calendar for future dates and locations.
Coming soon to a spot near you!
The first two events took place in Hammond and Valparaiso in May, and we look forward to scheduling more meet-ups across the region this summer and fall. Want to plan a meet-up in your neighborhood? Let us know!
Over 150 community members, farmers, business owners, and non-profit representatives came together for our first-ever FED: Food Expo & Discussion earlier this month. The day-long event included producer/buyer speed networking, panel discussions, local food lunch, open mic, and an expo. Guests told us that their energy for local food system work had been renewed; non-profits gained new volunteers and connections; local suppliers and buyers created new relationships; and lots of valuable connections were made.
We'll always remember our first FED as being the one in which the power went out for a couple hours, leaving guests shivering and the kitchen crew without power. We toughed it out with fresh hot coffee (delivered), and the amazing kitchen team from The Pax Center prepared lunch by candlelight.
Special thanks to Nico Martinez for taking most of these photos (all the great ones)!
We'd like to offer a sincere thank-you to our sponsors for making this event possible!
- Legacy Foundation - Partner Sponsor
- Nature's Cupboard - Presenting Sponsor
- County Line Orchard - Venue Sponsor
- Purdue Extension - Communications Sponsor
- The Pax Center - Lunch Sponsor
- Mrs. Dornberg's Culinary Experience - Eco Sponsor
- Indiana Grown - Speed Networking Sponsor
- Valpo Velvet - Sweet Sponsor
- Grapevine Local Food Marketing - Local Ingredient Sponsor
- Alive & Well - Local Ingredient Sponsor
- Coffee Creek Farmers Market - Local Ingredient Sponsor
- Creative Solutionz - In-kind Sponsor
- The Wright Baker - In-kind Sponsor
- Gotham Greens - In-kind Sponsor
- Harvest Circle Workshop - In-kind Sponsor
- Edible Michiana - Supporting Sponsor
- La Porte Farmers' Market - Cocktail Hour Sponsor
- Capricorn Foods - Cocktail Hour Sponsor
More About FED 2017
- See the FED Agenda and Speakers.
- The Times: Food Expo helps to 'cultivate connections' in Northwest Indiana
- Post-Tribune: Expo presents range of food topics
- See more photos on Facebook
Don't miss the next one!
We're seeking volunteers to join our team. Please spread the word!
Right now, we're working on:
- Our regional event, NWI FED, to take place March 8, 2017.
- Applying for grants.
- Building food entrepreneur support.
- Creating a program for youth education.
If any of that sounds interesting, send us a message. We look forward to hearing from you!
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 team had the opportunity to volunteer at County Line Orchard's Farm To Table dinner this weekend. What a wonderful event celebrating local food, and a wonderful opportunity for us — the Orchard will host our FED event in a few months in exchange for our volunteer work.
The event was founded in 2011 by Ryan Richardson, owner of County Line Orchard, and Anne McShane-Massie, who is now Board Secretary for NWI Food Council. Anne continues to source all the local food for the event, which sets an important example for other other farm-to-table events: supporting local producers by purchasing their ingredients at a fair price.
We were pleased to facilitate the local ingredient sourcing for Sunday Supper with Farms, Forks & Foodies at Lubeznik Center for the Arts on Sunday! (And by "we", we mean our Anne — thank you, Anne!) This delicious and beautiful evening featured ingredients from Acorn Acres Farm, Garwood Orchards, Gunthorp Farms, L E Garden, Native Roots Farm, Steckler Grassfed, plus foraged mushrooms via CoThrive Timebank, all prepared by Chef Barry Smith and his team from Shoreline Brewery. After dinner, we were treated to discussion with David Hoppe (author of Food for Thought: An Indiana Harvest), Joe Vuskovich of Yats, and Greg Gunthorp of Gunthorp Farms.
We'd love to keep helping with farm-to-table events, as our schedule allows. If you need local food sourcing or you're a local farmer/food producer and we don't know each other yet, please get in touch!
We spent the day at the 2016 Indiana Local Food Summit in Indianapolis, where our Anne McShane-Massie presented to other food councils about our board/volunteer login website and related tools. We spent the day learning, networking, and of course eating amazing local food!
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!
Last week NWI Food Council board members Dominique Edwards and Arleen Peterson traveled to Indy to attend the Indiana Healthy Food Access Policy Forum. They joined partners around the state in exploring a comprehensive approach to healthy food access. Topics included improving food environments; teaching nutrition education in schools; working with corner store owners to increase healthy offerings and helping customers make healthier choices; managing farmers' markets in communities that lack access to affordable produce; and encouraging grocery store development in underserved communities.