Women who farm: The changing face of Indiana ag

Kate Franzman, head grower at Public Greens, talks to a group of women at a garden tour as part of a Women Growers Learning Circle, put on by the Marion County SWCD, Women 4 the Land and Farm Bureau.

INDIANAPOLIS — There is a burgeoning group of generationally and ethnically diverse women growing food in central Indiana.

The face of agriculture is changing, and there is great momentum behind the trend of more women involved in agricultural enterprises, said Eliana Blaine, soil health outreach coordinator at Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“Women run and work with a wide range of organizations that grow food as part of their mission and activities,” Blaine said. “These include market farms, community gardens, youth education and non-profit organizations, and school and university gardens.

“There are countless women that grow vegetables and establish native and pollinator habitats in their backyards.”

Resources For Women

Several organizations offer a place for women to make connections and access resources as farmers.

These include the Master Gardeners, Indiana Black Farmers Co-op, Urban Farm Incubator Network, Purdue Urban Agriculture Certificate program and the Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition.

A year ago, a group of women growers came together to form Females Farming Forward, a chapter of the Indiana Farmers Union.

Another organization, Women 4 the Land, offers a place for women farmers and landowners to network. The organization hosts Conservation Learning Circles — outreach events that focus on conservation and land stewardship as an avenue to get women together to discuss farming.

There are a number of non-profit organizations in Indianapolis where women growers and educators focus on youth education and community development through agriculture.

“Our youth are learning that when we take care of the soil, it will take care of us,” said Phyllis Boyd, executive director of Groundwork Indy Garden.

Through these organizations, young people learn the responsibilities and joys of growing food. These lessons often translate to other areas of their lives.

“It’s simple, when youth grow vegetables, they tend to eat them,” said Kathy Tierney, a registered dietitian at Damar Services, Inc.

Many women growers also work with organizations focused on food security. These include Lawrence Community Gardens, Indy Urban Acres, Kheprw Institute and the Black Farmers Co-Op.

Kheprw Institute runs a number of community food programs, including the Community Controlled Food Initiative, Growin’ Good in the Hood and We Run This catering business.

“It is exciting to see the increasing number of women that are involved in agricultural work in Indiana, and whose involvement spans a broad spectrum of activities,” said Blaine.

Meet The Women

Here are a few of the many faces of women who farm in Indiana:

Phyllis Boyd is the executive director of Groundwork Indy, a non-profit focused on community revitalization. Their Green Team program employs youth ages 14 to 18 to learn about environmental stewardship and local food through community improvement projects including gardening.

Leah Humphrey at Kheprw Institute uses a sod cutter to break ground on one of the new sites in the Growin’ Good in the Hood program in Indianapolis.

Erika Hensley harvests kale with her husband Scott Hensley at Hideaway Farm in Pittsboro.

Kathy Tierney, registered dietitian at Damar Services, runs the garden at the organization, and gets youths at Damar involved with growing food. She has worked to increase the conservation practices they use while growing vegetables.

Sara Creech is the owner and operator of Blue Yonder Organic Farm in North Salem. She started her organic farm from the ground up, which now consists of livestock, bees, produce and mushrooms. Creech sells at local farmers markets and is active in agricultural training programs with veterans.

Erica Quinlan can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 193, or equinlan@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.

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