Home-grown program


Walking into a local grocery store, you might wonder where all of the fruits and vegetables, meat, milk and other products originate.

A new state initiative hopes to take away some of the guessing game and put more Hoosier-grown and processed food on your table.

Indiana Grown is a program developed by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture making it easier to identify, find and purchase products grown, produced and processed right here in Indiana.

Led by Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, the ISDA and a 12-member Indiana Grown Commission, the goal of the program, which started this month, is to connect businesses that use or sell agricultural products, including restaurants, grocers, wholesalers, processors and farmers markets with Indiana-based producers of meat, milk, cheese, fruit, vegetables, wine, beer, forest timber and other products.

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Jackson County farmers and supporters of local agriculture hope the Indiana Grown initiative means an increase in demand for their products and more awareness of the nutritional value and economic benefits of eating and using locally grown items.

Jeanna Eppley grew up farming in Jackson County with her family and is now the agriculture teacher and FFA sponsor at Seymour High School.

She said she believes Indiana Grown could mean big things for local growers.

“I know there is a lot of push to bring local food items into the retail markets throughout Indiana, and every day it is easier to find locally grown and produced items in stores,” she said. “This program sounds very well constructed and seems to have support of enough people throughout the industry to really make it easier for producers to get their commodities into local stores.”

Consumers should begin seeing Indiana Grown decals on a variety of Hoosier farm products at participating businesses along with special displays, kiosks, labels and other information the state is making available at the point of sale to promote the program.

Eppley said it can be difficult to find locally grown food if you don’t know what to look for.

“I see posts on social media and signs throughout the county and in various businesses,” she said. “Area craft shows are a great place to find Indiana-made items, and more and more, we are seeing Indiana-made products making it to shelves.”

Having Indiana Grown backing will be a boost, she added.

“I know many of our local businesses work with producers to get displays in their shops,” she said. “Again, it is knowing where to find them and actively seeking those products. The label would help identify the products.”

Statistics show Hoosiers spend around $16 billion annually buying food, but more than 90 percent of that food comes from outside of Indiana.

With Indiana being the 10th-largest farm state in the country, Eppley said she finds it a little hard to digest the fact that Hoosiers aren’t investing in their own economy.

According to the Indiana Grown website, Jay C Food Store, owned by Kroger Co., is the only registered Indiana Grown retailer in Jackson County at this time. The grocer, which has two stores in Seymour and one in Brownstown, currently sells Hoosier-grown watermelons, cantaloupes, sweet corn and other produce.

A closer look at one of those watermelons might reveal a sticker that says it’s a product of Kamman’s Farms, based in Vallonia. With a major contract with Kroger, the melons are in high demand at stores across the state.

The hope is the number of registered Indiana Grown retailers continues to grow so consumers don’t have to look far for Indiana Grown products.

Megan Hackman, 21, who farms and runs Hackman Family Farm Market in Vallonia with her family, said she is excited to see the state doing more to promote its No. 1 business: Agriculture.

“I’m actually surprised they haven’t thought about doing something like this before,” she said. “Kentucky has something similar.”

Currently, Hackman’s produce is available at 10 independent grocery stores in northern Indiana.

Due to certain required certifications to sell in larger stores and the associated cost, Hackman said they are unable to provide produce to large retailers.

It’s something she hopes may change in the future, she said.

But in Jackson County, she said people are lucky to have their choice of farm markets to patronize.

“You don’t make it rich that way, but you feel good about it,” she said of selling locally.

Hackman also has done business with several local establishments, including supplying produce to Azteca Mexican Restaurant, Blondie’s Pizzeria and Pub and Michie’s Diner, all in Brownstown, and Morales Mexican Grocery and Restaurant in Seymour.

“I think it’s extremely important, and we definitely support it,” she said of Indiana Grown. “It will help bring more business to Indiana and brings a stronger connection to farmers and the community.”

Another benefit is that it makes people more confident in what they are eating, she added.

“Produce you get from local farmers is fresher and tastes better because we can pick it riper, and it doesn’t stay on the shelf as long,” she said. “You know where it came from, and you can talk to the farmer who planted it and harvested it.”

She also hopes the program makes a big impact.

“I have a feeling that extra publicity will really add to what the local growers are already doing,” she said. “I can only see it getting better.”

Eppley said many local growers have been successful at finding small niche markets to fill, but with Indiana Grown, they should have access to wider and more varied markets.

She also said she believes the free marketing available through Indiana Grown will help.

“With the collaborative effort, it sounds as through there will be better access for marketing, which will allow consumers to easily find the products,” she said.

Indiana Grown has the potential to create new local and regional market channels for Indiana agricultural and food businesses, state officials said.

The program aims to educate consumers on the importance of buying Indiana Grown products, increase networking and sales opportunities for Hoosier farmers and expand support for local processors in their effort to process more Indiana Grown products.

“The Indiana Grown initiative will be an incredibly useful and economically impactful tool for consumers and producers alike,” Ellspermann said.

Consumers will be able to identify Indiana Grown members’ products using four categories: 100% Indiana, which means the products are grown in Indiana or all ingredients come from Indiana; Prepared in Indiana, which can use products from anywhere, but the production must be done in Indiana; Partner, which designates a company or institution that assists in marketing Indiana Grown products and members; and Indiana Grown, which applies to all other initiative members.

“Indiana Grown is the first statewide, state-supported program that creates a clear understanding as to where products are farmed, produced and/or processed in Indiana,” said ISDA director Ted McKinney. “Indiana Grown is aimed at lifting up the state’s robust food and beverage industry by providing the necessary tools to further promote local products to Hoosier consumers.”

Eppley said she hopes to see a variety of businesses willing to get on board with Indiana Grown.

“I know many locally owned restaurants purchase produce from local growers and feature these items often in their dishes,” she said. “Now, there will be a way to highlight and promote that.”

Buying Jackson County and other Hoosier-grown or processed food is important in keeping a tradition alive, she added.

“Our Jackson County and Indiana growers and producers grow what they grow and make the products they do because they are passionate about it and want to share their passion with their customers,” she said. “I like to buy local goods because I like to support my family, friends and neighbors. This helps to tighten our bond as a community when we can support each other.”

She tries to instill these values in her students.

“The FFA chapter has been working together at the community garden and at the school farm to produce a variety of vegetables,” she said. “The students have watched the crops go from seed to sale. We have been up early picking the sweet corn and sitting at farmers markets together. It is a great learning experience for them, and they can see the benefits of marketing produce locally.”

Hackman said Indiana Grown also helps farmers feel like they have the support of Indiana consumers.

“A lot of farmers have the feeling that people don’t care about the hard work they put in to grow their food,” she said.

Indiana Grown could change that perception, she added.

“Here’s an easy and subconscious way to make a difference and to educate people about what they eat,” Hackman said. “It’s going to make people smarter consumers and feel more connected knowing where their food is coming from.”

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Indiana agriculture by the numbers

• $25.4 billion: Agriculture contribution toward Indiana GDP

• 245,000: Jobs supported by Indiana agriculture

• 4 million acres: Land in farms and forests

• $4.7 billion: Indiana agriculture exports

• $11.2 billion: Value of agriculture products sold in Indiana (ranked 10th in the nation)

• 151 million: Number of pounds of shelled popcorn produced annually

• 37,000: Number of acres of vegetables harvested for sale

Source: indianagrown.org

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Here’s a list of local farm markets:

Kamman’s Farm Market

4683 S. State Road 135, Vallonia, 812-358-2015, April through November

Known throughout the state for supplying some of the most delicious watermelon and cantaloupe, the family farm has a long history in Jackson County and is located 7 miles from Brownstown on State Road 135. Kamman’s offers perennials, annuals, hanging baskets, vegetable plants, fruits, vegetables, refreshments and a gift shop area.

Hackman Family Farm Market

6077 S. State Road 135, Vallonia, 812-358-3377, spring through summer

The epitome of a family-operated farm market, offering everything one would expect from a roadside farm market. Corn, pumpkins, tomatoes, green beans, cantaloupe and even locally produced honey are available at the market, which is operated by generations of the Hackman family and friends. Once the children return to school, the farm market becomes a self-service stand where delicious produce remains until the end of summer. Located between Vallonia and Salem, the farm market is about 10 miles from Brownstown.

Tiemeyer’s Farm Market

3147 S. County Road 300W, Vallonia, 812-358-5618, April through November

Well known for perennials and annuals and a large variety of gourds, pumpkins and squash, the indoor market features an ice cream shop with food items, fruits, vegetables, candy, jellies and lots of hard-to-find items. The market offers something for everyone, ranging from peaches and summer squash to zucchini, tomatoes, melons and pumpkins and gourds.

Brownstown Farmers Market

Courthouse square, Brownstown, Wednesday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. to noon, May through October

Produce and goods of all kinds are welcome to the seasonal farmers market in downtown Brownstown, sponsored by Brownstown/Ewing Main Street.

Seymour Farmers Market

Walnut Street parking lot, Seymour, conducted daily, May through October

Produce and goods of all kinds are welcome to the seasonal farmers market in downtown Seymour, sponsored by Jackson County Purdue Extension. Call 812-358-6101.

VanAntwerp’s Farm Market, 11181 N. U.S. 31, Seymour; 812-498-3764

Source: Jackson County Visitor Center

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For information or to become a member of the Indiana Grown initiative, visit IndianaGrown.org. Member applications are available online. There is no cost to become a member.


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