INDIANAPOLIS — A celebration of farm-to-fork food, wines and
brews was held at the Dig IN, A Taste of Indiana festival in Indianapolis.
Thirty-seven chefs, 17 breweries, nine wineries and hundreds
of volunteers came together to make the culinary experience a success.
“We required that chefs select different kinds of
ingredients this year,” said Rob Gaston, executive director of Dig IN. “In the
past, we left it open and would allow chefs to say ‘I want to use lamb or duck.’
What we did this year is provide a list of things that were available. They got
to pick from that list.”
Gaston said that this provided more variety for guests to
enjoy. From Indiana-grown bison to shrimp and perch from local aquaculture
farms, a wide range of foods was offered.
“We provided Indiana-grown ingredients for the chefs, which
is different from most festivals where they invite the chefs to participate and
restaurants are providing the food,” Gaston said. “It helps make these dishes
Indiana based. We can’t get bananas grown in Indiana, but we can get corn,
tomatoes, basil and lettuces.”
The festival highlighted each farm so that visitors could
see where the food they were sampling originated.
Funding for the Indiana foods offered at Dig IN is largely
in part from Indiana’s Family of Farmers and other agricultural organizations
that want to help promote and support Hoosier agriculture.
The turnout for the event was smaller than in the past
because Dig IN leaders reduced the number of tickets available.
“We had a crowd that felt a lot less cramped,” Gaston said.
“The space felt open. The lines for food were shorter. There was smaller
attendance and a better feel for the event.”
The first Dig IN was held in 2010. The concept for the event
was inspired by conversations with farmers and producers.
Dig IN board member and chair Annie Schmelzer traveled
around Indiana and spoke with many small-scale farmers. Through her journeys,
she saw the need to connect people together and promote agriculture on a larger
“Through different conversations, what happened is it got
people fired up to promote local foods,” Gaston said. “Dig IN came out of
conversations like these.”
The director said that, according to a 2012 report, Indiana
is importing 90 percent of its food at a cost of $14.5 billion.
If every Indiana resident spent $3 to $4 more a week on
Indiana-grown products, there could be an extra $1 billion to $2 billion growth
in the state’s economy in a year, he said.
“Having lived here since 1992, there’s so much difference in
the types of restaurants, the types of breweries there are,” he said.
“Even over the past five years, there’s been an incredible
increase in the number of independent restaurants. More and more market
themselves on the fact that they use foods that are local — it’s increasing more
The turnout for Indiana wineries and breweries at the
festival was very strong, according to Jeanette Merritt, marketing chair of the
Indiana Wine Grape Council.
“It was great to see how many people support the local
foods, wines and beers from Indiana,” she said. “Indiana wines are local. Over
650 acres of grapes are grown in Indiana.
“When we do have to source grapes from out of state, it is
still a product that is crafted in the Hoosier state. Our 70 wineries are proud
to be part of the local food movement and appreciate chefs, both at home and in
restaurants, who use our wines with their meals.”
Gaston emphasized that Dig IN is planning more events that
will be held throughout the year.
“In the past, we have just had a one-day event,” he said.
“Now that we’re wrapped up with Dig IN, the next thing is looking at things that
can happen on a somewhat monthly basis. We’ll do it on a smaller scale or at
different areas around the state.”
Potential events include food tastings, workshops, farm
tours and dinners.