Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune
---- — After about 20 gorged on a local foods potluck supper April 29 at Batesville’s Big Four Café, another 10 streamed in to provide input for the Rebuilding Your Local Food System Program Pilot.
Just two entities, the southeastern Indiana region and an Elkhart County group, were chosen for the year-long project organized by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.
Kathy Cooley, Food and Growers Association of Laughery Valley and Environs past president and one of six core group members leading the project here, noted, “Our main goal is just to find out what everybody wants and how to increase local production and accessibility.” The Margaret Mary Health dietitian said her employer “is completely dedicated to the local foods movement,” which benefits the community’s physical and economic health.
During annual growers seminars, FGA leaders realized, “to improve … we had to start getting the local foods into institutions.” They are exploring the possibility of an aggregate site, where local produce and meats can be stored, then transported to, say, area schools, the hospital and other locations.
The core team is meeting with two Purdue experts monthly. At the first meeting on asset building, “we identified all of the producers, distributors and markets in the area that could feed into a local food supply. We were thrilled with the turnout.” After that came producer, market and distributors meetings. “This is the consumer meeting. What do you need? What do you want? How do you want to help?”
Chiropractor Dr. Chris Ault, Batesville, likes the farmers’ market and weekly Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes of crops. “I’m about natural health and prevention.” According to FGA board member Deanna Hookway, Batesville, “We are just now at home starting to grow our own food. I think we’re going to have fun doing it.” At Kroger, she tries to buy organic products.
Randy and Ann Salatin, Lake Santee, believe there are business opportunities around local crops. He reported, “We did manage to grow 300 tomato plants in our residential neighborhood last year.”
Betty Lou Walsman, Oldenburg, noted that by participating in CSA, “I became enamored with cooking something where I knew essentially where it came from.” With a life expectancy of 99, “I really want to be healthy for most of it. I want to eat food without additives. That’s my commitment.”
Richard Cartwright, Oldenburg, said he and Mary Meyer have planted a lot of fruit and nut trees in the hopes of becoming food self-sufficient. “I appreciate ... the Big Four and different places around town that feature local foods.”
Larry Haldeman, a Sunman organic farmer, was there with daughter Kerri, who said, “I have tried to get my parents’ property full of seeds.” She is interested in permaculture, biodynamic farming, bringing animals into the equation and canning and freezing to extend the harvest. According to Rebekah Miller, Michaela Farm, Oldenburg, head gardener, “I started growing because I wanted to get my hands on the freshest, most local food possible.” Excited to be doing it for a living, her goal is learning “how to grow things well and not use up our resources.”
Karen Kestler, Batesville, and her husband grow natural beef with no antibiotics or hormones. The family gets most of their food from the farm’s garden.
Core group member Chris Merkel, Michaela Farm manager, pointed out that when selling to the public, “You want to produce the best and healthiest products you can with the lowest (amount of) chemicals.”
Patty Reding, a fifth generation Greensburg farmer, grows produce using two methods, certified organic and conventional. “I am very particular, especially about meat.” When she compared store-bought beef to her own, Reding decided the former “has no flavor.”
Organic gardeners Paul and Lisa Hines, Sunman, desire more local foods and alternatives to grocery stores. “We shop at Trader Joe’s and Costco, but we don’t think that’s any sort of solution.”
Neil Long, Milan, a new MMH oncology nurse, observed, “It doesn’t make sense to me that we’re not helping people live different lifestyles ... We grow most of our own food, but my interest is growing food for others.” With a family of nine, “I’ve got an army of children and they’re just raring to get at the ground!”
Nurse Karen Lanning Batesville, is interested in eating healthier and wants to understand foraging. In a greenhouse, she would like to grow avocado, olive and lemon trees “just to see if we can. I’d love to know if anybody cans goetta?”
University of Cincinnati grad Kelly Hamm is relieved to be back living in Batesville, where local foods are more plentiful. “Every opportunity I have I’m in the garden,” which contains a peach tree and raspberry bushes.
Core group member Erik Tuveson, Batesville, a father of six, “wants to get back to the land” after working in business. “I’m having a lot of fun and really trying to figure out what I’m doing” with new raspberry and blackberry plants. “One of the fundamental problems we have in the community is consistency of access. The farmers’ market is great,” but not always open.
MMH employee Ashley Morris, Greensburg, wants her children and others to learn “the value of local foods.”
Sarah Batta, Sunman, reported, “I love the farmers’ market. I love to cook. My husband’s family runs a dairy farm in Sunman” and are looking into raising heritage beef. “My husband (Brian) is big into beekeeping!”
Erin Temple, Batesville, admitted, “It is overwhelming finding close sources (of local foods) to feed your family.” Brooke Maple, Batesville, added it is difficult “to make sure they (two kids) are eating real food and not McDonald’s. You don’t have time to drive to Cincinnati or Indianapolis to try and eat right.”
Big Four Café owner and chef Adam Israel said, “I want to bring local foods more into the restaurant scene in Batesville. I think Walhill does a very good job. For the rest of us, it’s minimal ... My big plan for this year is to serve seasonal foods” and be a liaison to other restaurants.
A central marketplace “is what restaurants need.” It would be easier for chefs to shop there than deal with farmers coming one by one to their businesses. The challenge will be for eateries to provide local foods at reasonable prices. “It’s going to be a learning experience.”
Cooley observed, “We have an incredibly diverse group of people here.” She asked attendees to huddle around tables to discuss three areas: volunteers, education and networking, and a potential distribution center.
Attendees at that meeting and interested area residents are invited to the next monthly Food and Growers Association of Laughery Valley and Environs local foods potluck supper May 13 at 6 p.m. at David and Betty Lou Walsman’s woods north of Oldenburg. Participants should bring a dish to share and RSVP to get directions: 812-934-3107 or email@example.com.
Debbie Blank can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.
Area CSA programs • The 20-week Michaela Farm, Oldenburg, Community-Supported Agriculture program runs from May 13-Sept. 23 with plans for an optional fall CSA to follow. Members have two pickup day options (Tuesday or Friday, 3:30-6:30 p.m.), they pack their own bags and Michaela Farm will be the only one supplying the produce. Info: http://michaelafarm.coffeecup.com/index.html; Michaelafarm@etczone.com or 812-933-0661. • Green Bean Delivery, an online home delivery service that provides organic produce and natural groceries to its members, recently expanded to the Batesville and Oldenburg areas. Customers can select a produce bin size and delivery frequency. Info: www.greenbeandelivery.com or 513-761-2326. • Hoosier Harvest Market is a new online marketplace based in Greenfield that boasts produce, meats, eggs, cheeses and other products grown or made throughout the state. Orders can be picked up on Thursdays at one of several Indianapolis area sites. Info: http://hoosierharvestmarket.com.