Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Event shines spotlight on local food producers

Farmers offering inside look during Local Food Week

Consumers get to know their farmers during Local Food Week.

Anthony Gadson

Associate Editor

Published July 27, 2022

The importance of fresh, diverse local food cannot be understated, and a local nonprofit is looking to make it even more prevalent.

Beginning Friday, July 29, Northeast Indiana Local Food Network begins its third Local Food Week, spanning 10 days and 28 locations.

“Many of these events are very kid-friendly, people can take their kids to see the farms and the farm animals. Some are more food-focused, where people would like to try new and interesting foods,” said Janet Katz, the nonprofit’s founding director. “It’s a whole variety of events, but they’re all tied into local food.”

Growing participation

Beginning at 10 a.m. on July 29 with a food scavenger hunt at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, the “week” will feature events at numerous farms in the area, as well as coffee houses, shops, and parks, where numerous activities will be taught, such as composting, pickling, fermenting, and beekeeping.

“There will be a grand opening of Rowdy Rooster (Artisan Meats on Aug. 6), a new local charcuterie business (in Churubusco), and Lunar Infusions (Kombucha on Aug. 3), who has a taproom (in South Whitley),” Katz said of venues taking part in the event. “A lot of these are behind-the-scenes tours.”

The organization has also teamed up with Eco Fest to host a beginner’s cooking class with Copper Spoon’s executive chef Aaron Butts on July 31 at Mills Education Center at LC Nature Park.

Among the farms taking part will be Berry Hill in North Manchester, Broxonberry in Markle, Esterline in South Whitley, Hawkins in North Manchester, Ivy Urban in Fort Wayne, Rose Avenue Education in New Haven, Salomon in Fort Wayne, Windrose Urban in Fort Wayne, and Wood in Fort Wayne, as well as Eel River Bison Ranch in South Whitley.

In just its third year, Katz said the program has been gaining momentum, and getting participants has become increasingly easy.

“People are coming to us, saying, ‘Hey, we really want to participate.’ We’ve gotten a great response,” she said. “All these people are intensely busy.”

Community interaction

The local farmers might be busy, but they don’t mind chiseling out some time to welcome consumers in, especially with farm-to-table picking up so much steam in recent years.

“They love connecting, and a lot of these folks do direct-to-consumer sales, whether it be at farmers markets or at Community Supported Agriculture or online stores that they run,” Katz said. “The farmers and the artisan food producers want to interact directly with the consumers: These events let them do that.”

A by-product of the pandemic seems to have led to an increase in the popularity of farmers markets and CSAs, as well as consumers wanting to develop relationships with the people they’re getting their food from.

“When we didn’t know what was going to be at the grocery store, I think people started looking into different resources, and they stayed: that’s what the farmers tell me,” Katz said.

“Our farmers markets are busier than ever. First of all, I think people find the food delicious. Second of all, they just enjoy supporting somebody local, but I think they just also enjoy the relationship.”

Farm to table

Creating an ecosystem of making and consuming food in the region was the goal of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network when it was created in 2017. With a mission to increase “the visibility and economic opportunities for our region’s local food producers and businesses,” Local Food Week was created in 2020.

“We define (the local food economy) as food that is grown, raised, processed, sold, and eaten in northeast Indiana,” Katz said. “Our tagline is, “Our Land. Our Tables,” so we’re trying to celebrate this connection we have here between the farms in our 11 counties and the food that is consumed here.”

With a wide variety of events featured over the course of the 10 days, there will be something for everyone, regardless of experience level.

“Some people have their own vegetable garden, but they want to go see how the experts do it,” Katz said. “Other folks just don’t know what to do at all.”

One thing more and more northeast Indiana residents are getting to know is to buy local.

“Our whole local food economy is just really blossoming here in northeast Indiana, because I think people are seeing the value in it from a whole lot of different levels,” Katz said.

A complete schedule of events for Local Food Week can be found at neifood.org/news/local-food-week-2022.

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