Indianapolis Edition

Winter Farming Techniques Boost Local Food Production

It’s obvious that it’s January when standing in front of the produce section at the local Indy grocers that take great care in sourcing from nearby farmers as much as possible. Barcoded stickers with neatly printed names of places like California, Mexico, Peru and Chile are slowly replacing the colorful handwritten signs shouting “LOCAL!” with sunflares drawn all around them. No offense to the good farmers in those far-off lands, but we have very valid reasons to distrust a massive distribution system that engineers nutrition out of food so that it can withstand more chemical applications, travel thousands of miles without spoiling and all look the same.

The United Nations has warned that rich and poor countries alike need to focus efforts on boosting local regional farming with less chemicals and a focus on plant diversity. Indiana is making such great strides that it is completely possible to eat local produce year round. It’s more challenging in the winter, but many local farms are starting to circumvent the weather through various farming techniques that lengthen the growing season.

Freedom Valley Farm, in Freedom, Indiana, dedicates a quarter of an acre of their nearly five-acre farm to winter production, with 8,096 square feet of solar passive (unheated) greenhouses and 3,000 square feet of field cold frame, otherwise known as low tunnels. During the late fall and winter months, Freedom Valley grows a variety of salad greens including spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale, chard, natural awakenings January 2017 13 microgreens, scallions, carrots and shiitake mushrooms. They also are still selling fall harvest storage vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes and winter squashes.

Full Hand Farm, in Noblesville also uses low tunnels out in the field for as long as possible, then moves operations to unheated, passive solar, movable hoophouses. Full Hand Farm has about 10,000 total square feet of covered growing space for carrots, spinach, lettuce, baby chard, leeks, radishes, turnips, baby mustard greens, kale, dandelion greens and garlic. They are also still selling storage vegetables, like beets, winter radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, carrots and rutabaga.

Both of these farms participate with more than 65 other vendors in the Indy Winter Farmers Market (IWFM) at the Circle City Industrial Complex in the Near Eastside neighborhood on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. An initiative of Growing Places Indy, the IWFM’s mission is to bring together local growers and makers with customers seeking fresh, local goods through the winter months. They also accept SNAP benefits and offer two matching programs to SNAP recipients, doubling their purchasing power and making it possible for those on a budget to afford healthy groceries.

Other winter markets include the Farm to Fork Market at Normandy Farms at 79th and Marsh Road, the Broad Ripple Winter Market at Bent Rail Brewery in SoBro, and the Fishers Farmers’ Market at Billericay Park. All take place on Saturday mornings, so there are plenty of options for local, healthy food even in these cold months.

Freedom Valley Farm is located in Freedom, Indiana. For more information, visit FreedomValleyFarm.com.

Full Hand Farm is located in Noblesville, Indiana. For more information, visit Facebook.com/FullHandFarm.

The Indy Winter Farmers Market is located at Circle City Industrial Complex, 1125 Brookside Rd., Indianapolis. For more information, visit GrowingPlacesIndy.org/Indy-Winter- Farmers-Market.

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