Indiana Grown: Harvesting the Hoosier Brand
Close your eyes and say “Indiana.” What image pops into your mind?
Do you see row after row of green plants growing to the horizon, with barns and silos casting their silhouettes on the landscape? Do you see farmers’ markets selling small mountains of apples and kale … along with jars of honey, artisan oils and frozen meats?
Indiana is home to 15 million acres of farmland, making it a major player in the feeding of people across the globe. Although demand for Indiana products is at an all-time high, we Hoosiers only get about 10% of our food from our own Indiana farmers and producers. That number is on the rise, though, as consumers become more aware of how we eat and what we’re feeding our kids. We are quickly moving away from pre-packaged food items and are learning how to once again eat and drink locally and seasonally.
To foster that new understanding, how can Indiana’s food growers find a way to connect to fellow Hoosiers, so more of us can make meals or buy merchandise in a way that’s mutually beneficial for our families and for our Indiana businesses? Thanks to the efforts of some Indiana lawmakers and the Indiana Department of Agriculture, we now have a way: the Indiana Grown program.
Launched in July 2015, Indiana Grown is a collaborative membership that brings makers of Indiana foods and products together to help each member grow and succeed, here at home and nationwide. Indiana Grown supports its members through marketing, opportunities to make new products, processing more food and growing the output of product in Indiana. It also works to educate consumers about why buying Indiana Grown products is important and worthwhile.
Members of Indiana Grown include farms, retailers, restaurants, breweries and distilleries, artisans and food processors, along with large grocery and small local food stores. Products sold by Indiana Grown members display labeling that allows shoppers to easily identify local and locally resourced items, making it simpler to support Hoosier businesses and family farms.
Recognition and support of Indiana Grown has been swift. In September, one of the earliest supporters, Indiana’s Marsh Supermarkets, announced a partnership with Indiana Grown and placed kiosks in 50 stores that feature 100 Indiana Grown products. In October, Kroger Co. followed suit, installing kiosks in every Indiana store. Kroger kiosks also feature local, Indiana Grown–labeled products, including their own Kroger brand milk. Kroger has installed additional Indiana Grown signage in each store, which helps make buying local easier than ever before.
One of the largest members of Indiana Grown is Red Gold, based out of Orestes, with plants in Elwood and Geneva. All 8,000 acres of Red Gold tomatoes are grown on local family farms and delivered directly from the field to the processing plant during harvest season. Family owned and operated, Red Gold makes a variety of canned tomato products sold around the world. The company supports its home state and its local Orestes/Elwood community through major charitable donations, and recently began an employee program to assist with the purchase of homes in the area.
Many Indiana Grown members operate on a smaller scale, including Bloomington’s Earth Drops Natural Handcrafted Soap Company (EarthDrops.com). Earth Drops hand-makes a large variety of soaps for people and pets from all natural ingredients. Their products can be found in several western and southern Indiana stores.
Another Indiana Grown member is Local Folks Foods (LocalFolksFoods.com). All Local Folks products are made right here in Central Indiana using produce and ingredients from regional farmers and gardeners and include pasta and meat sauces, mustard, ketchup and salsas. Local Folks Foods can now be found in many Marsh and Kroger grocery stores, as well as some Whole Foods locations.
If you live on your phone and love buying local, a new phone app is on the horizon for Indiana Grown. The Indiana Grown Locator app will allow buyers to scan UPC codes on product labels to learn more about where the item came from and who produces it. The app will be one of the first of its kind in the United States.
For more information about Indiana Grown, or to complete the free application, visit IndianaGrown.org. They are also on Facebook at Indiana Grown and on Instagram @Indiana_Grown.