By: Kim Saxton
A recent cover of National Geographic caught my eye. “The New Food Movement” was the theme of the issue. Partly, it caught my eye because I can see the ball rolling faster in support of Indy’s Local Food Movement. But, I also just finished reading the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of MIT Technology Review that proclaimed “Buy Fresh, Buy GMO.” However, buying fresh and buying food that is genetically modified seems like a pretty big contradiction. At their root, both articles had a similar underpinning: We need a concerted plan to feed the world’s 9 billion people in the next 20 years or so. They both also note that agriculture is the industry that has the biggest impact on global warming. Finally, they both note that current agriculture systems are highly inefficient, with only about 55% of what’s grown ending up in people’s stomachs.
But, they also point out the controversy: The need for more efficiency (which is reminiscent of industrial farms; GMOs and the like) vs. demand for fresh produce (from farms that help the local economy and transparently show their production processes). It’s a complicated situation and there are no easy answers. Interestingly, the USDA defines “local food” as anything that has been transported 400 miles or less. Putting that into perspective, a 400-mile radius of Indianapolis includes from Missouri to Virginia (moving west to east) and from Canada/Michigan UP to Georgia (moving north to south). That seems like nearly 30% of the country.
The number of farmer’s markets in the U.S. has increased 74% in the past five years. But only 12 states — and Indiana is not one of them — account for 50% of all farmer’s markets. Our Midwest neighbors Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa are among the 12. Even more disturbing is that Indiana imports more than 90% of its food from out of the state. It’s clear that better marketing via social media, email, etc. is making it easier for consumers to get their products right from the farm. But you still have to work at it.
We are lucky in Indianapolis to have access to some great farms that have made tremendous strides in getting their products into our hands. I can’t possibly cover all of those amazing, local efforts, but I did want to highlight a few organizations that are trying to change the distribution channels and delivery mechanisms:
- Tyner Pond Farm. First, this farm is raising cows, pigs and chickens in a sustainable fashion. Apparently, the key is the grass and making sure the grass stays strong. This happens through systematic movement of livestock around the farm in a symbiotic way. This growing method, while cool and good for the environment, isn’t the most interesting thing the farm is doing. It’s been very creative at getting product from the farm into the consumer’s hand. It offers free delivery in the greater Indy area (see the map on the website). What’s more fun than having a farm van pull up to your house bringing you fresh meat? They’ve also started food clubs. People in a neighborhood organize a food club and everyone who orders online saves 5% on their weekly delivery. You can also set up a freezer club at work, and Tyner Pond will provide the freezer. Employees order online and, once again, the farm van brings meat for dinner — no need to stop at the grocery store on the way home. Now owner Chris Baggott, who was a co-founder of ExactTarget, has taken distribution one step further. He’s getting ready to re-open the Frosty Mug restaurant in Greenfield to serve the farm’s burgers, dogs, brats, etc. If you want to find out more about Tyner Pond, sign up for their emails online. While you’re there, order some meat and let the van bring it to you.
- INgredients Farm to Fork Market. Located at 71st and Binford Blvd. on the Northeast side, this restaurant/market is also a farm offshoot. The Logan family has a farm in McCordsville. The INgredients café serves the farms’ bounty, along with offering products from a wide variety of local farms. In fact, the store itself is a treasure trove of local, organic and sustainable goodies — from boxed/canned products like spices, jellies, pastas, snacks, etc., to fresh products from Moody’s, Seven Sons, The Smoking Goose, Trader’s Point Creamery and a dozen other local groups. There are daily lunch offerings — the butternut quesadillas are amazing. And the meals come with a delicious kale side salad. I’m pretty sure you’ll like the salad even if you don’t care for kale. It’s fresh with seasonal ingredients that give it extra zip. Check out their class schedule online and learn about pickling, using fresh greens, and gluten-free baking. Stop by for lunch sometime; they serve it until 6 p.m.
- Husk Foods. This new company considers itself a local food system in Indiana — farms, processing, distribution, and retail grocery — which provides year-round access to local Indiana foods. One of the challenges for farmers that grow non-GMO vegetables is that there isn’t an established market for their output like there is for their GMO crops. So Husk has stepped in to fill the gap. Starting last harvest, non-GMO Indiana corn producers could bring their corn to Husk. They processed the harvest, turning beautiful ears of Indiana corn into fresh flash-frozen bags of yumminess. They then added green beans. This year, they’ve added sugar snap peas. The plant is located on Mt. Comfort Road. Husk products are currently available from 49 independent retailers, Marsh Foods, select Kroger stores, and others with distribution across Indiana and Illinois. If you want to check it out, they are at the Indiana State Fair DuPont food pavilion all week from noon to 3 p.m. And, if you visit the website, you might even find a coupon to use at the store.
- Moody’s Meats. In the flatlands of Southern Montgomery County, Lone Pine Farms has been a fixture since 1871. Adam Moody’s grandfather, Oscar Moody, worked the farm beginning in the 1920s, and eventually bought it in 1952. Through their labor-intensive methods of livestock and feed production, the Moody family produces a wide variety of meats and grains, including chicken, beef, hogs, lamb, corn, soybeans, oats, rye, hay, wheat, and spelt. Now the Moody family has expanded into their third local butcher shop (Greenwood, Zionsville and Avon), featuring products not only from their own Lone Pine Farms, but also from other local farms and food purveyors. You can find a wide range of food products at the butcher shops. Check out their website and see some great recipes online. Then, go visit one of their shops.
As you can see, there are great local food options. So, join the trend. Grab some locally grown food and support your local farmers.