Fishers to hire agriculture manager to replace Brandywine at Agripark

The Fishers AgriPark is expected to include a community barn and pavilion (1), public gardens (2), orchard (3), pumpkin patch (4), meditation garden (5), animal interaction area (6), flower gardens (7), and an events lawn (8).

The city of Fishers has ended its partnership with Greenfield-based Brandywine Creek Farms to manage the city’s new agripark and will hire an individual agriculture manager instead.

Fishers Agripark is expected to open to the public in spring 2020 at the southeast corner of 113th Street and Florida Road, about two years after plans for the project were first released.

Fishers Deputy Mayor Leah McGrath told IBJ on Thursday that the city and Brandywine mutually agreed to “discontinue” their partnership earlier this month after the city’s vision for the park grew beyond Mayor Scott Fadness’ early concept.

Originally, Brandywine Creek Farms had been contracted to run the park. Brandywine was supposed to be responsible for farming the 33-acre park and running educational programming. The agreement also required Brandywine to donate a third of the produce raised at the park to Good Samaritan Network in Fishers, which distributes goods to food pantries across Hamilton County.

The rest of the produce was to be sold on a wholesale or retail basis by Brandywine, which operates a few urban farms around central Indiana.

Now, Fishers is looking to hire an agriculture manager to operate the park. The Fishers City Council this week approved the new position, and the job opening has been posted.

The job listing, posted on governmentjobs.com, lists a salary of $55,597 to $66,715 for the full-time work. As approved by the city council, however, the job could pay up to $3,112.41 biweekly, or as much as $80,922.66 annually.

The agriculture manager would work under the Fishers Parks and Recreation Department. Duties include operating the agricultural component of the farm, assisting with public programming, and cultivating working relationships with community, educational and agricultural partners.

The vision for the park still includes an urban farm, gardens for programming and educational purposes and livestock interactions. And the city still intends to donate one-third of the produce grown to local food shelters, McGrath said.

“We definitely appreciate that vision of Brandywine Creek Farms,” she said. “The mission for this park would still be to donate a portion of this produce to local food programs.”

After the park was first announced, the city was inundated with requests from people looking to volunteer and be part of the programming. There was so much interest, the city delayed the park’s anticipated fall 2018 opening and spent the past year meeting with organizations and stakeholders to redefine the park’s offerings to maximize community engagement.

For example, the city has talked with Hamilton Southeastern Schools about the AP environmental science classes helping test soil. The city would also like to see a meditation or reflection garden at the site, which students could help design.

“Part of what we saw was an opportunity to bring the community into the process,” McGrath said.

To make that happen, the city needed to be more involved in constructing and operating the park, which McGrath said will likely be a work in progress when it does open next year.

Jonathan Lawler, founder of Brandywine Creek Farms, confirmed to IBJ the decision to end the agreement with Fishers was mutual. He said his organization has planned since 2016 to open an agripark close to at-risk and at-need communities. The organization will open its own agripark in Cumberland near the Hancock and Marion county lines next spring. It will be four miles from the largest food desert in Indianapolis, he said.

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