Growing Places Indy
Growing Places Indy is a non-profit organization with a mission is to cultivate the culture of urban agriculture and healthy lifestyles, empowering individuals and communities to Grow well, Eat well, Live well and Be well. When we have access to food that is grown well; when we embrace a culture of eating well; when we are empowered within our community to live well; then we greatly enhance our capacity to be well.
Our vision is a full-circle vision for healthier communities, a sustainable future for urban and farm land ecology, a burgeoning local food economy, and a vibrant and diverse food culture in Indianapolis - all supported by and a strong local food and farm network.
We are working to promote models for urban agriculture, to introduce individuals in the skills necessary to operate successful urban farms/gardens, to engage community in local food systems, and to grow leaders in the local food community. In so doing, we hope to inspire new farmers and food entrepreneurship, and to nurture the cultural, institutional and economic vision required to commit to a healthier future for our communities.
Where we Grow
A major aspect of the work of Growing Places Indy is urban agriculture. We currently farm on three sites in downtown Indianapolis:
Wishard Slow Food Garden at White River State Park
Located between the JW Marriott Hotel on Washington Street and the Indiana State Museum, the Wishard Slow Food Garden at White River State Park is our largest site with nearly 6,000 square feet of growing space. The five beds represent five ways to eat local:
1. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Program
2. Grow your own
3. Suppor restaurants that buy local
4. Shop at farmers markets
5. Shop at local grocers who source locally
This has been our main farming site since 2010 and the majority of our produce is grown on this site. In addition, our CSA pickup is located here on Wednesday evenings. The garden’s location in the White River State Park means that nearly three million visitors each year could interact with this urban farming site, and our hope is that this stimulates visitors to ask questions about the role of urban agriculture in Indianapolis and in their home cities and towns.
Slow Food Garden at the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center
Starting in the 2012 growing season, we have entered into a contract with the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center to manage a 1,000 square foot greenhouse and 2,500 square feet of raised beds. All plants for all of our farming sites are started from seed in the Legacy Center greenhouse and are transplanted throughout the season. In addition to Growing Places Indy utilizing the agricultural space, community groups and individuals may request to utilize a portion of the greenhouse or raised beds. Interested individuals or organizations must apply to use space by completing the following application.
In addition to growing food at this site, we also run a series of workshops and educational programs at the Legacy Center. Details of these educational opportunities are available at our Get Involved page. Furthermore, we run a Tuesday evening farm stand from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at the Legacy Center from June to early August.
Slow Food Garden at Cottage Home
Growing Places Indy farms one residential lot in the Cottage Home neighborhood measuring 2,200 square feet. The lot address is 504 North Oriental Street, at the corner of Michigan Street and Oriental Street. The lot is in a high-traffic area for cars, buses, bikes and walkers and we hope this site stimulates people to think about the role of urban agriculture in residential areas. The lot has been part of various urban farming operations since 2008, and Growing Places Indy started to manage the site in 2012. The Cottage Home site is the location of our main composting operation as we continually try to “grow soil” in order to keep our farming sites and crops healthy, vibrant and productive.
Our total farming space is about 11,000 square feet, which is slightly more than ¼ acre. In addition to our current farming sites, we have also consulted on and helped to develop the following urban gardens:
R Bistro Restaurant’s Slow Food Garden
Goose the Market Restaurant Garden
Indiana Humanities Garden
Black Market Restaurant Garden
Where we sell
Veggie Share or CSA
A CSA of veggie share is a seasonal subscription for vegetables and we typically have fifteen shares available each year. Our shares are designed for an individual who eats a lot of vegetables or a couple/family that cooks regularly. In addition to a convenient size share, we also offer a wide diversity of vegetables for those who want to sample much of what grows in Central Indiana. We typically include between eight and twelve different items each week. We offer a 10-week Veggie Share program, which is about half the length of a typical CSA program in Central Indiana. Part of our mission is to educate about local food communities and offering an introductory, short-season Veggie Share allows individuals and families to join at a lower price point and time commitment than other shares in the area. To join our Veggie Share, please fill out and return this application. We encourage potential members to apply early as the program fills up quickly each year.
Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center Farm Stand
From 4:00pm – 6:00pm on Tuesday evenings from early June to early August, we run a farm stand on-site at the Legacy Center. Shoppers do not have to be members of the Legacy Center to shop at the farm stand and we encourage as many area residents as possible to make this a regular stop for their weekly vegetables.
Indy Winter Farmers Market
We sell at the beginning of the Indy Winter Farmers Market, from mid-November to mid-December, and again at the end of the market in April. We do our best to take a farming break in January, February and March in order to re-energize for the following season and do not sell during this period.
We sell to many local restaurants and our primary buyers are Black Market, Blue Beard, Fermenti Artisan, Libertine, Napolese, Natural Born Juicers and R Bistro. For restaurants interested in purchasing produce from Growing Places Indy, or other urban farms in the city, please contact Tyler Henderson, Growing Places Indy Farm Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to selling our produce, we donate a portion of our harvests each season. Our major outlets for donations are cooking classes at the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center as well as Second Helpings.
How we Grow and What we Grow
Given the timeline and cost to obtain certified organic status, Growing Places Indy is not pursuing this path. However, you can trust that our standards are “beyond organic” and we never use chemical fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides on our farm, as we believe healthy soil yields healthy plants, which in turn yield healthy people and communities. We would never jeopardize this for short-term gains or convenience. In addition, the vast majority of our work is done by hand, requiring no machines dependent on fossil fuels thus further decreasing the carbon footprint involved in our growing process. We utilize organic soil amendments and techniques to continually build the health of the soil including compost and compost tea that we create, worm castings, blood meal, bone meal, alfalfa meal, horse manure, chicken manure and cover cropping. We also utilize some of the most well-respected seed companies in the country including Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Fedco, Johnny’s Selected Seed, Nature’s Crossroads and Seed Savers Exchange.
Despite being a small farming operation, we grow more than 60 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs each year. Our typical portfolio of crops includes, but is not limited to: artichokes, arugula, asparagus, basil, beans, beets, blueberries, brocoletti, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, chives, cilantro, collards, cucumbers, cumin, currants, cut flowers, dandelion greens, eggplant, endive, escarole, fennel, garlic, husk cherries, kale, kohlrabi, lavender, leeks, lettuce, mint, mizuna, mustards, nasturium, okra, onions, oregano, pac choi, parsley, peppers (hot and sweet), potatoes, radicchio, raspberries, rhubarb, scallions, shallots, snap peas, snow peas, spinach, squash, strawberries, tomatoes (cherry and slicing), tarragon, thyme, tomatillos, turnips and zucchini.
How to get Involved
We have several points of entry for involvement with Growing Places Indy including:
- Summer Apprenticeship Program – This is designed for college-aged participants and older who can fully commit to a 10-week summer program (June-August) at approximately 25 hours per week. The program is intended to immerse participants in “real-life” training and activities related to the Growing Places Indy mission to empower individuals and communities to Grow well, Eat well, Live well and Be well. Participants will learn the principles of operating a small urban farm, explore the challenges and opportunities to improve access to fresh, healthy foods in the Indianapolis area, lead educational experiences for youth and other community members and investigate whether/how community-based food systems support community development. The summer program application is available here. The application is posted each February, has an April application deadline with decisions made in early May. Typically, six to eight participants are involved in the summer program each year.
- Volunteer Opportunities – We send a weekly volunteer email to individuals interested in assisting us with our day-to-day or week-to-week work in order to learn more about how to grow food in the city. In addition, we are able to host groups of no more than fifteen participants and will organize projects to accommodate groups of various sizes. For more information about volunteering, or to be added to our volunteer email, contact Tyler Henderson at email@example.com.
- Workshops, Trainings and Public Conversations – A major part of our mission is education, which is why we offer workshops and trainings on how to grow food, how to increase food access and how create a more sustainable existence for ourselves and our communities. Educational programming typically occurs at one of our farming sites, but may also occur at other locations depending on the partners involved in the activity.
- Tours – We run tours of our farm sites for groups wanting to learn more about the work we do and more generally about urban agriculture in Indianapolis. These tours are often very useful for school groups, as well as community groups. Tour groups must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance of the intended day of the tour by contacting Laura Henderson at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a non-profit with very few staff members, we ask tour groups to consider making a financial donation to offset the cost we incur in taking time off to run a tour. The typical donation is at least $50 for a tour.
- Financial Donations – Many people want to support the work we are doing by making a financial contribution to Growing Places Indy. Given the scale of our farming operation, and the focus we have on education, we depend on individual and corporate donations to keep the organization running. The sale of produce is simply not enough to keep us financially viable. We are a 501c3 non-profit so all your donations are tax-deductible.
- Farming Donations – As a small, non-profit farm we are always in need of various tools to keep our farming operation running smoothly. We attempt to reuse as much as possible on the farm, and are always in need of various tools and supplies. If you have any items you would like to donate to Growing Places Indy, please contact Tyler Henderson at email@example.com.
Growing Places Indy was founded by Laura Henderson in the fall of 2009, with the farming expertise and encouragement of Matt Jose, owner and founder of Big City Farms. Laura and her husband, Tyler Henderson, had been approached with the idea of a creating a vegetable garden at White River State Park in May 2009. Laura immediately saw the unique opportunity that having a vegetable garden in a highly visible, public thoroughfare in downtown Indianapolis presented to re-engage people in their relationship with food, community and life-long health.
In July 2009, Henderson and Jose, with assistance from the local Slow Food Indy chapter, applied for a USDA Specialty Crop Grant through the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. After learning they would receive the full $30,000 grant, the two set about to securing the additional funding required to seed the White River State Park vegetable garden project.
In November 2010, Henderson presented in the first Spirit & Place Pecha Kucha event on the theme of Inspiring Places – the Next Indianapolis. Henderson captured the attention of the crowd and ultimately won the hearts of the judges, as she opened with an enthusiastic call, “Let’s get growing places.” The project secured an additional $10,000, and the new organization found it’s name – Growing Places Indy.
The Slow Food Garden was established in Spring 2010. The garden concept was designed to capture the attention of passers-by, to invite them to observe and thus think about where food comes from and how it is grown, and to offer additional information about the Slow Food Movement and Indianapolis’ own local food movement.
In 2011, the garden was renamed the Wishard Slow Food Garden, and Growing Places Indy began working with Wishard Health Services to explore how urban and sustainable agriculture contribute to community wellness.
In addition to offering regular opportunities for volunteers to do everything from turn the soil, spread the first aged manure and lay the first walking paths, to weekly summer Work & Learnsessions, Growing Places Indy offers a ten-week summer internship. Interns learn all the basic skills of planning, maintaining, harvesting and distributing produce from an urban “market garden,” as well as exploring how urban and sustainable agriculture contribute to healthier and more robust communities, ecological systems, local economies, educational and recreational opportunities, and individual wellness. More information about the Growing Places Indy Summer Internship will be available soon.
Slow Food represents a collective vision of farmers, producers, consumers, educators, students, health care providers and policy makers locally, nationally and internationally. The Slow Food vision is for a food system in which food that is “Good, Clean and Fair” is an accessible option for everyone.
Food that is Good is healthy, nutrient dense, fresh, seasonal and delicious: capable of pleasing the senses as well as nourishing the body.
Food that is Clean is produced using methods that support human health and ecological balance by nurturing living soil systems, healthy waterways and clean air, and preserve our natural resources.
Food that is Fair is grown by farming systems that are respectful of human and animal rights, promote social justice and equal access, and provide fair pay and working conditions for everyone in the supply chain from production to consumption.