IBJNews

Downtown garden growing more than food

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In one direction, cars buzz by on Washington Street. In another lurk the shadows of the Indiana State Museum, the NCAA headquarters and the pedestrian bridge that once ferried U.S. 40 traffic across America.

Amid the traffic, joggers and tall buildings, rows of beets, peanuts, squash, tomatillos, beans, turnips and other vegetables are being cultivated on a 6,000-square-foot garden in White River State Park.

Now in its second year, the Wishard Slow Food Garden grows produce for local markets, restaurants and residents alike. And from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays, consumers can sample some of the harvest as the Duos Indy Mobile Kitchen sets up shop a few steps away.

Wishard Slow Food Garden, Duos food truckThe Duos Indy mobile food truck sets up shop at the Wishard Slow Food Garden downtown every Thursday. (IBJ Photo/Perry Reichanadter)

The public garden sits on a bend in the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, between the White River State Park visitor’s center and the NCAA headquarters building. Its location is no accident: One of the garden’s goals is to raise awareness of small-scale urban agriculture—part of the so-called "slow food" movement that emphasizes locally grown ingredients.

“We really just want it to be a point where people start to think about food,” said Laura Henderson, founder of Growing Places Indy, a local organization that promotes urban agriculture and operates the garden. “If we’re there, they can talk to us. We have lots of wonderful conversations.”

That feedback already has prompted changes in the garden, launched last year with the help of a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 2010, garden staff focused on growing vegetables native to the Midwest. This year, organizers decided to divide the garden into five distinct beds, each of which aims to educate the public on different ways to access locally grown food.

One of the beds is for “grow your own” produce and community gardens, distributed to volunteers and park staff. Another is for a Community Supported Agriculture group, which buys shares of the garden and receives produce each Wednesday. Two beds represent local grocers—providing food for the Pogues Run food co-op at 2110 E. 10th St.—and farmers markets, with produce sold at the Wishard Farmers Market on the hospital grounds every Tuesday during the summer.

A fifth bed provides food for the Duos food truck. Its presence each Thursday provides a visual link between farm and plate.

“That was the best part of bringing this all together,” garden co-director Andy Cochran said. “It’s just a visual application of what we’re doing here. When they can come by here, it makes that instant connection. There are a lot of people who don’t know where their food is coming from. To see it growing right there, and to see [Duos owner Becky Hostetter] cooking with it, it opens people’s minds.”

A line begins to form around the food truck shortly before noon, as people walk from nearby workplaces to have a lunch of locally produced salads, soups, Portobello mushrooms and iced tea.

Duos Indy, which sets up for lunch at four locations around the city each week,  has seen steadily increasing traffic since starting in December.

Hostetter, who formerly operated Essential Edibles downtown, has seen a growth in the awareness of local food culture in 25 years as a restaurant owner  and chef. That awareness fuels the truck’s customer base.

“Young adults today [are] very educated, food savvy, curious and participatory,” Hostetter said. “It is a huge difference. The whole slow food movement is like a reclamation of why food is good, why we should be enjoying eating, why we should take the time and have pleasure.”

Some of Duos Indy’s food comes from the garden, which is maintained by volunteers between 4 p.m.-6 p.m. each Wednesday. Growing Places Indy also hosts educational workshops at the same time on topics ranging from soil testing to planting raised beds to beekeeping and composting.

Prior to being turned into a vegetable garden last year, the space had several lives as a floral display. The urban garden has provided an opportunity for White River State Park to fulfill one of its initial goals, which is to promote Indiana agriculture.

It also has provided an opportunity to educate students on field trips, in addition to other visitors.

“You have so many school groups. For a lot of urban children, unless they’re otherwise told, they think perhaps that radishes grow in a little plastic bag,” White River State Park executive director Bob Whitt said. “To be able to bring them to an actual working garden and see how things are grown, see what’s involved, it’s a great educational opportunity.”

The plot drew attention as a flower garden, he said, but it is even more successful now.

”It’s amazing how much more time people spend when they stop, backtrack and realize ‘Hey, these are vegetables.’ They start walking around, pointing,” Whitt said. “There’s much more involvement than there would be with flowers. Maybe it’s because it’s something we actually do consume as opposed to just admire. There’s a closer relationship.“

Garden advocates also focus on the closer relationship that comes from consuming locally grown produce, from the community fostered by tending a garden together to the sense of knowing where one’s food is coming from.

“That’s where I’m really excited to be the Wishard Slow Food Garden and to have the backing and the enthusiasm of the public health hospitals here,” Henderson said. “As our shirts say, ‘Grow Well, Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well.’”

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Liberals do not understand that marriage is not about a law or a right ... it is a rite of religous faith. Liberals want "legal" recognition of their homosexual relationship ... which is OK by me ... but it will never be classified as a marriage because marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. You can gain / obtain legal recognition / status ... but most people will not acknowledge that 2 people of the same sex are married. It's not really possible as long as marriage is defined as one man and one woman.

  2. That second phrase, "...nor make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunitites of citizens..." is the one. If you can't understand that you lack a fundamental understanding of the Constitution and I can't help you. You're blind with prejudice.

  3. Why do you conservatives always go to the marrying father/daughter, man/animal thing? And why should I keep my sexuality to myself? I see straights kissy facing in public all the time.

  4. I just read the XIV Amendment ... I read where no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property ... nor make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunitites of citizens ... I didn't see anything in it regarding the re-definition of marriage.

  5. I worked for Community Health Network and the reason that senior leadership left is because they were not in agreement with the way the hospital was being ran, how employees were being treated, and most of all how the focus on patient care was nothing more than a poster to stand behind. Hiring these analyst to come out and tell people who have done the job for years that it is all being done wrong now...hint, hint, get rid of employees by calling it "restructuring" is a cheap and easy way out of taking ownership. Indiana is an "at-will" state, so there doesn't have to be a "reason" for dismissal of employment. I have seen former employees that went through this process lose their homes, cars, faith...it is very disturbing. The patient's as well have seen less than disireable care. It all comes full circle.

ADVERTISEMENT