Anderson University students start organic farm

Tue, 2009-05-26 11:56 -- univcomm
May 26, 2009

Standing barefoot in denim overalls and a flannel shirt with a pipe in his mouth, Joe Monroe looked every bit the part of a farmer before the days of tractors, combines and pesticides.

Perfect, since the farm he now helps run uses none of those modern conveniences.

organicfarmTaylor Family Farms, at 4462 E. 200N, Anderson, grows its crops organically — no chemicals and no fancy machinery, just five workers tilling, planting and watering two and a half acres filled with about 35 kinds of vegetable and some watermelons, cantaloupes and herbs thrown in. [Photo on left: AJ Taylor and Christa Ballinger]

“It’s a pretty grueling process,” said Monroe, who usually starts his day outside by 8 a.m. and works through the evening. “People remember this is how we used to do it, and how we used to do it isn’t all wrong.”

When they are on the farm, Monroe and his three part-time co-workers, Ben Orcutt, Kirsten Milliron and Levi Douglas, are far away from how most other college students spend their summers. The four are in various years of study at Anderson University and met through the school’s Orange, Black and Green environmental club.

A.J. Taylor, who owns the newly formed Taylor Family Farms LLC, graduated from Anderson University on May 9 with a finance degree.

“The idea behind it is that we’re growing organic produce for the Anderson area,” Taylor said. “The environmental impact of growing local produce is significantly less. We’re trying to make money, but also help people find where to buy better food.”

The farm's workers attend farmers' markets in local communities to promote their business and sell shares, which will fund the farm and its workers. So far, Taylor Family Farms has sold 25-30 shares to families, and its largest shareholder is AU’s dining services.

Shareholders receive 20 weeks’ worth of vegetables and fruits grown in the garden and can buy half shares (feeds two people) or full shares (feeds four to five).

Shareholders can pick up their week’s worth of food 4-7 p.m. Wednesday and Friday or can have it delivered to their home for an extra $40 a season if they live in the Anderson or Pendleton areas.

Taylor said most produce travels at least 1,500 miles to reach Indiana grocery stores, which could affect its freshness and puts more harmful gases in the air from the transportation process.

The farm, a community-supported agriculture farm, also allows its workers to get back to the roots of farming. [Photo on right: AJ Taylor and Christa Ballinger]

“This is all part of a lifestyle change for many of us, I think,” said AU senior Ben Orcutt, who works part-time on the farm. “We’re not wearing boots, we’re not sitting on tractors. We’ve got dirt under our fingernails even when we go home.”

Taylor leases the farm property from his parents, and he hopes to use all 10 acres once the farm gets up and running.

“In order for us to do that, we’ll have to expand our co-op accounts,” he said.

Although the unusually wet and cool spring has set the farm back slightly, it’s in better shape than some of Indiana’s farmers, Taylor said. They aim for mid-June to start producing their shares of vegetables and fruits.

Monroe said the farm is a smaller example of what needs to happen in the larger economy and focuses on sustainability and social responsibility.

“We’re a microcosm of what everybody could be doing,” he said. “In some ways, our economy got bloated, and it’s coming back to normal size.

“We’re taking a stand for what we think is right, even thought it’s small.” -----

Taylor Family Farms organic share costs for 20 weeks

— Half share (feeds two): $15 per week; $300 total. Add $40 for weekly delivery for entire season.

— Full share (feeds four to five): $25 per week; $500 total. Add $40 for weekly delivery for entire season.

— Contact: 765-215-7248; taylorfamilyfarms@gmail.com

—Aleasha Sandley is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.