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Growing a sustainable local food system from the ground up

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Posted at 9:05 AM, Apr 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 09:36:50-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Establishing a vegetable garden often takes time, know-how, patience and even a little bit of luck. And for the past 14 years, one nonprofit has worked to ensure Hoosiers in central Indiana have access to fresh, locally grown food.

Growing Places Indy interim executive director Laura Henderson said teaching others is at the heart of the nonprofit’s mission.

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“Our training and education programs have been about giving people the skills to be in their communities growing food,” Henderson said. “Whether they're growing for themselves and their family, or their neighbors. We're planting seeds that grow and flourish throughout the community.”

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Growing Places Indy, or GPI, has roots throughout much of central Indiana. It's the driving force behind the Indy Winter Farmers Market, summer farm stands, and Food in Transit at The Julia M. Carson Transit Center in Indianapolis. And coming later this year, a bicycle farmstand.

“It's going to be noticeable when it's out around town,” Henderson said. “It's going to help us take produce out into neighborhoods and communities.”

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Getting fresh produce to the folks who need it most is what it’s all about. GPI will also have community garden plots available to provide spaces for people to grow their own food at the Boner Fitness & Learning Center Farm on the campus of Arsenal Tech.

“If you are renting, you may not have permission to grow food at home,” Henderson said. “We'll provide seeds and seedlings. We have tools folks can use, there's irrigation set up for the beds, and then every week, folks will have time with our farm team so that they can [ask] questions.”

If you’re not sure if you’ve got what it takes to volunteer with GPI, that’s OK.

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“You don't need to have any experience growing food,” Henderson said. “We have folks of all ages come out. If you can't get down on the ground, we'll set you up where you can be standing or sitting. We want volunteers to come, learn and feel like they are gaining skills that they take with them.”

Volunteers will get to keep their harvest too. But if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, GPI has a way for you to support local farmers through Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. Think of it as a subscription box from a local farmer.

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“You pay in advance to receive a share of produce over a specific period of time,” Henderson said. “I found that it introduced me to some new vegetables that I had never had.”

Vegetables like kale, kohlrabi and some unique varieties of radish. Each accompanied with recipes to help you grow your taste buds.

“You're going to get super fresh produce that is not going to rot in your refrigerator the minute you get home,” Henderson said. “You're getting high-quality food and the more nutrient dense the plant is, the more nutrients it's providing to support our wellbeing and health.”

Growing Places Indy aims to highlight not just the produce grown in our community, but the people doing the growing as well.

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“I would just love to see us continue as a community have more conversations, not passing the buck off to this agency or this organization, but how do we really ensure that we're creating a really nourishing and sustainable local food system that is also building community resiliency and relationships.” Henderson said.

Click here if you’re interested in volunteering with Growing Places Indy.

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