Indianapolis Edition

Farming for Life

In the summer of 2015 my husband and I took a leap of faith. We purchased six acres of land in hopes of starting a small farm and community learning/gathering space. In the spring of 2016, we cleared one-half acre of the wooded lot and began our journey into urban farming.

Using regenerative farming methods, we are growing with a mission to provide Ezra’s Enlightened Café (which I opened in 2014) with vibrant, organic, heirloom veggies and herbs. Ezra’s Café serves plant-based, gluten-free and non- GMO food, juices and smoothies. Our mission is to serve food that helps our customers feel better, and we are accomplishing this using ingredients grown with care and without chemicals.

Into our third season at the farm, we have learned so much about growing food without chemicals while also working with the land. We recently became members of the Indiana Farmers Union, which we are so excited about. We still have much to learn, but I do have some observations to share.

When we take care of the soil, it takes care of us. When you keep your soil protected from the wind and you continually feed it real food, it will supply a fertile ground for your crops and give you real food in return. No chemical fertilizers needed. To feed our soil, we use the cover crop method, worm poop and compost from the café.

We compost more than 5,000 gallons of food scraps per year from the café which goes right back into next year’s crops. We also make sure not to use water that’s been treated with chemicals when watering. Chemicals kill the important microorganisms in the soil, just like they kill important insects like bees and have links to diseases for humans and animals.

Small farming and regenerative farming is returning in a big way. All over the country people are picking up their rakes and shovels and becoming part of the movement to bring nutrient-dense local produce back into their communities. We’re seeing eateries throughout Metro Indy growing their own food, sourcing from local farms and spotlighting local food.

Farmers’ markets are springing up and are busier than ever with folks choosing nearby small farms for their fresh produce. The Indiana Local Food guide is a great place to find the businesses and farmers’ markets making local food a priority. It includes listings of local, sustainable and organic food resources throughout Central Indiana.

Large-scale farming has been given its time. For the past 50 years or so, we’ve been using chemicals and growing acres and acres of mono crops. The bees are dying off now by the millions every year and scientific studies are providing numbers to parallel what we’re seeing in our daily lives. One in two men will get a cancer diagnosis sometime in their lives along with one in three women. Chances are you have been personally touched by this disease; everyone has.

Along with cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are also on the rise. Diseases and disorders of the gut in general are rampant. Also, when our gut is impaired, our whole immune system is weaker and more exposed. We need regenerative farming now more than ever, and it’s not just about the soil.

Foods grown on small farms without chemicals not only taste better, but are more nutritionally viable. These veggies, fruits, grains and herbs carry more of the vitamins, minerals and antiinflammatory properties that our bodies both need and are essential to living in today’s world of polluted air and water. We cannot separate ourselves from the Earth. What’s good for her is also good for us. Higher levels of nutrients and minerals mean better brain function, immune function and overall well-being.

If you’re not totally convinced, you can see the answers in an untouched field of land where wildflowers and weeds are allowed to grow. There are more insects, bees and wild animals. There’s simply more life in the areas we allow to grow without chemicals. It doesn’t take science or studies to observe this fact.

At Ezra’s Café, we are constantly looking for ways to become more connected to the ingredients we use. We grow an average of 10 percent of our produce and herbs spring to fall. We also source from local farmers. When purchasing items like coffee and chocolate, we support companies using fair trade practices. It’s not just a business, it’s a service and a way of life. It’s the only way to go moving forward in my opinion. Also, I’m so happy to say that the community of small-scale famers and eateries serving real food in Indiana is growing and dare I say, thriving. It’s a great time to live in Indiana.

Audrey Barron is the owner and chef at Ezra’s Enlightened Café, located at 6516 Ferguson St., Indianapolis. For more information, visit EzrasEnlightenedCafe.com. For more information on the Indy Local Food Guide, visit IndyLocalFood.org.

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