Farm-to-table movement spreads in Indiana with natural farming and delivery services

INDIANAPOLIS - As the farm-to-table movement continues to take off across the nation, Hoosiers are becoming more conscious of where their food is coming from.

Younger Hoosiers, in particular, are paying close attention to buying organic and natural products.

The farm-to-table movement starts -- where else? -- at the farm. And it really starts with one man. The New York Times referred to him as the high priest of pasture.

Joe Salatin, a pig farmer from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, is a driving force behind the country’s eco-farming trend. He’s inspired a number of farmers nationwide, including here in central Indiana.

In Hancock County, farmer Chris Baggott raises grass-fed pigs, following natural and sustainable farming methods.

“We want to have the best-tasting pork that you can ever have,” Baggott said.

He raises only heritage breeds: Berkshire, Old Spot and Old-English large black.

“Goal one,” Baggott said, “Happy animals taste better.”

So Baggot is doing something rarely seen in the Midwest.

"Iberian pork from Spain is considered to be the best pork in the world. The pigs there live in forests like here -- they eat acorns and hazelnuts -- and that's what they're trying to recreate here in Hancock County," Baggott said. "Every one of my pigs is going to taste different. You (Drew Smith) saw them -- they're all unique, and people are starting to appreciate that."

Especially people like Chris Eley, a master butcher and owner of the Smoking Goose and Goose the Market here in Indianapolis. It’s why he’s buying Baggott’s pasture and forest-raised pigs.

"It has an interesting texture,” Eley said. “It just has a texture that's not dry, it's not tough -- it's tender and it hasn't been treated in any way."

Eley specializes in producing specialty cuts -- slow-cured and smoked meats from healthy animals raised on independent farms like Baggott’s.

"We want to work with people that want to open their doors and want us to come and see what they do, (that) they're proud of what they do," Eley said.

That’s why farmers like Baggott are selling products direct to the consumer, encouraging Hoosiers to come visit his farm and see firsthand where their steaks, poultry and pork chops come from. And, consumers can do all their shopping online.

Baggott said demand is steadily increasing for his meats, and says his bacon usually sells out in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, there’s a green company that delivers right to your doorstep. Green Bean Delivery brings organic and natural food orders to its customers’ homes.

"We're really trying to make healthy food more accessible, affordable and convenient to all the community members within the Indianapolis area," Green Bean Delivery’s John Freeland said.

Freeland said they focus on locally sourced food. The farmers and artisans they work with are listed on their website.

"We've actually spent $6 million in direct purchases from area farmers and from food producers," Freeland said.

Here’s how it works: Customers go on the site and place an order. There is a $35 minimum. Workers in the company’s Indianapolis warehouse fill bins that get loaded onto a truck and delivered to customers’ homes, either weekly or bi-weekly.

"I do mine bi-weekly so now I don't have to go to the grocery store every week jusy to replace the fresh stuff, and it lasts so much longer than anything I buy at the grocery store," Fishers resident Jenny Shopp said.

Shopp is a busy professional mother of two who started with Green Bean for convenience, but now she said she buys locally produced natural food for her kids’ sake.

"So it's really important for me that they have good, healthy, non-processed -- you know -- no-pesticides kinds of foods that they can just go snack on," Shopp said.

Baggott said that’s exactly why he does what he does.

“People start to really care about not only their own health and the health of their children but the taste and the quality of what they're eating," Baggott said.

Those people Baggott mentions are mostly millennials (a.k.a. Generation Y) -- they are the force behind the food movement. A recent report in Forbes Magazine said millennials are more willing to pay for specific attributes in food, such as organics and natural.

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