GREENWOOD — David Simms wanted to be a part of the local food scene.
And a relationship with the owners of Taxman Brewing Company led to Simms and his wife creating a small, organic produce farm six years ago.
Just this past year, they moved their farm to a plot of land in Greenwood less than a mile from Center Grove High School.
Heirloom Acres is a wholesale farming operation, providing specialty produce to restaurants like Taxman, Goose the Market, Sun King, King Dough and many more.
But that all changed in March when COVID-19 forced restaurants to close their doors.
"In March and in February, there's either things already in the ground being planned for your season as you would have otherwise or at least seeds that are started," Simms said. "When everything started with Covid, we really kind of just stopped, paused, and took a look at, you know, our business model."
Simms made the quick decision to change his business model, at least for now, and sell direct to consumer.
A strategy that has paid off so far, as now restaurants are beginning to open back up to capacity and the need for produce from Heirloom Acres is returning.
That change is what Indiana Grown, a part of the State Department of Agriculture, is urging members to do during these uncertain times in order to survive.
"What we started hearing from people was that 'I'm a farmers market vendor, will my farmers market open? I had an event planned and that was the majority of my sales for the year, what do I do?'" said Heather Tallman, program director for Indiana Grown. "And so after several weeks of this and consulting with Purdue Extension and other organizations, we realized right now the best thing to tell people is how can they change their business model, quickly."
That is what Simms decided to do and he utilized an online platform to allow customers to purchase produce, and then they held pickup destinations at both Taxman Brewery and Sun King.
"We just decided, you know, we are just gonna move forward," Simms said. "So there was a lot of nervous moments of, are we doing the right thing? We have so much to start and invest with so much uncertainty."
Simms also brought his goods to farmer's markets locally for the first time to add to his sales, and he utilized the organization Indy Food Co-Op to get his goods distributed to a wider market.
But Simms says in addition to the struggles brought on by COVID-19, there is some positive for local producers and that is a heightened awareness about where food comes from.
Tallman says this is a message Indiana Grown has been trying to spread to Hoosiers, that our food is all around us.
"That when you look out a window and you see corn it might go to tortilla chips or tomatoes to salsa, now people are very in tune with where their food is coming from," Tallman said.
Concerns about health in a pandemic, where food comes from, who is touching the food, and will there be anything on store shelves could help propel local producers into the spotlight.
"You just receive a product that is not handled as much. You receive a product that is coming from miles, ya know, a few miles away versus hundreds or thousands of miles," Simms said. "Purchasing organically grown, nutrient-dense, produce in particular, carries a much higher value than maybe it ever has."
For more information on Heirloom Acres or where you can buy their products, visit its website and follow them on social media for updates.
If you are a local producer or what to learn more about farmers and producers right here in your own community, visit this site.