By Michele F. Mihaljevich
INDIANAPOLIS – Rachel Boyer has been a member of Indiana Grown since she opened her store – Rachel’s Taste of Indiana – in Converse in November 2018. The store features a variety of Indiana Grown products, including meats, sweets, eggs, barbecue sauce, candles, coffee and home décor.
Indiana Grown recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. The program is housed within the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and offers free resources to farms and businesses that grow, raise, produce or process an agriculture item in the state, said Heather Tallman, the program’s director. Members range from row crop farmers to wineries to artisans to value-added food producers, she added.
Boyer and her husband Mark also produce Healthy Hoosier Oil from sunflowers grown on their farm near Converse. They heard about the Indiana Grown program from a Purdue University extension agent in Hancock County. The program has helped promote her business, Rachel said. “My store wouldn’t exist without Indiana Grown; it’s based on the whole Indiana Grown program. The logo and recognition of Indiana Grown helps show you’re trustworthy. I would absolutely recommend it.”
The idea of supporting locally grown agricultural products has been around for 10-12 years, Tallman said. The program began in 2012 and was expanded by the state legislature in 2014. The Indiana Grown initiative officially launched July 7, 2015, and has more than 1,600 members.
“The goal of the program is to connect Hoosier consumers of all types with Hoosier agriculture of all types,” she explained. “We’re trying to show the linear path from the field to processor to grocery store to the plate. We want to give consumers an idea of what Hoosier products are available.”
A product may be eligible for Indiana Grown if it’s packaged in the state but not grown here, Tallman pointed out. For example, mustard seed isn’t native to the state but a processor could get the seed elsewhere and make deli mustard in the state.
The program offers maps, trails and guides showing the locations of members such as breweries, distilleries and Christmas trees, she noted. Indiana Grown has had its Monumental Marketplace in downtown Indianapolis for three years and has also hosted a marketplace during the Indiana State Fair. Officials have worked with the Indiana State Department of Health and Purdue extension on Indiana Grown for Schools. It offers a buyer’s guide listing producers across the state interested in selling to schools, Tallman said.
Indiana Grown officials recently started a two-year study with Purdue on the economic impact of the program, she said. Indiana Grown is working with members to help during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re trying to evolve and change to meet the needs of our members,” Tallman stated. “We’re trying to be sensitive to what’s going on in the state. For people who could pivot to sell online, they were able to do that. Vendors who can’t or don’t have the means to put it together, they have to get really creative. They’re looking for ideas if they normally sell at events and those events are canceled, what can they do? It stands to reason that vendors who sold to schools, institutions, restaurants and hotels have been adversely impacted. We’re also trying to shine a light on those able to sell online. ”
For more information on the program, visit www.indianagrown.org.