When COVID-19 shut the world down in March, farmers, distributers and sellers kept going in to work.
Growing in Place tells the stories of food workers and community leaders who keep people fed in an unprecedented time. It shows us where our food is coming from, and where we’re headed.
We are researched, reported, produced and hosted by Violet Baron with editorial support from Elaine Monaghan and the team at IER. We are a production of Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement.
Our artwork is by Sophia Chryssovergis.
5 - Start with Community
Young farmers have it hard — it’s hard to buy land, and it’s hard to start something from scratch that tends to span generations. Add on setbacks like student debt, immigration and institutionalized discrimination, and you’ve got yourself a mountain to climb right from the beginning.
Liz Brownlee cofounded the Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition in 2016 with the idea that all that can become just a little bit easier when you have friends to share the struggles and the rewards of starting a farm.
Their monthly potlucks and impromptu music sessions took a hit when COVID struck, but they haven’t stopped advocating for each other and helping each other move forward.
In this final episode of the summer series, Liz tells us what it means to be a young farmer today, and what keeps her going through the good times and the hard times.
Follow Liz and Nate's farm at Nightfallfarm.com
Learn more about the coalition at Hoosieryfc.org, and on Instagram at @hoosieryoungfarmers
4 - Feeding the Family
For Keith Nance, being superintendent at a rural school system doesn’t just mean keeping kids learning— it means keeping them fed, too.
A central part of his school's mission is making sure students are getting what they need for success. In a district where 35-40% of families get free and reduced price lunch, a big part of that is giving them healthy food to keep them fueled up.
When COVID hit, the school couldn’t distribute that food to kids at school the way it used to— so Mr. Nance and the school nutritionist Joni Muchler found a new way, with help from bus drivers, school staff, and community volunteers.
And they didn’t stop at the school kids— they fed younger kids, parents and grandparents during the shutdown, to keep everyone going strong.
Learn more about the ways local food is changing the game in rural Indiana here: https://rural.indiana.edu/doc/2020-local-food-local-good-report.pdf
3 - Who Cuts Your Meat
Juan Ruffin has worked as a butcher at Kroger for 23 years. But this summer, he’s worked harder than he ever has before.
When the shutdown hit, he kept on going in to work as an essential grocery store worker. And when folks had no place else to go, they went shopping.
He talks about masking up, how he’s worked to protect his coworkers as a union steward, and what the Fourth of July and Juneteenth felt like this year while protests filled the streets.
Learn more about Juan’s union, UCFW Local 700, here:
2 - Stick it to Covid
Taylor Ferguson has raised farm animals for shows and meat her whole life. As a 4-H leader, she helps kids get their cattle ready for the state fair in Indianapolis—training them and prepping them for the stage.
When COVID hit, all that changed. It’s a different feeling getting ready for a virtual fair, and some kids were unsure they wanted to go all out for a strut through their own backyard. But many surprised her: they kept going, and they made it work.
Find out more about 4-H here:
1 - Living Roots
Michael Hicks built his farm from scratch near his hometown in Southern Indiana. Now it’s thriving, but when he started out 20 years ago, his goal was to really understand food, health and his own abilities. It took him to California, Spain and Ireland, then back home to Indiana.
We talk about what makes it so hard to start a farm these days, and what COVID’s effect on the supply chain means for small farmers.
Looking for healthy food in Southern Indiana?OrangeCountyHomegrown.org has you covered.
You can learn more about Michael’s farm at LivingRoots.org.
Artwork by Sophia Chryssovergis, @sechryss_100bfa