Indiana making great strides for local producers and consumers
by Christina DiMartino | June 16, 2010
The Indiana Department of Agriculture has made great strides in not only
promoting state-produced foods, but in bringing consumers and producers
Tony Hahn, deputy director of the department, headquartered in Indianapolis,
said that the agency's web-based Indiana Agritourism and Farmers' Market
Online Directory is a new program now accessible at
"The site was launched this spring, just in time for the Indiana's farmers
market season," said Mr. Hahn. "Visitors can search for local foods and
agricultural destinations throughout Indiana, and find additional resources for
local foods, agritourism and producers. Search by product, [pick-your-own]
farms, by city or county. Click on a virtual map of any county to pull up all the
entities registered under each category. It's a great way for local producers to
promote their products, and to help consumers find them. Producers can
update their listings on the site, or they can add a new destination they would
like to be featured, all at no cost."
Mr. Hahn said the directory also offers information about locally grown
products, and will feature a blog about what is in season and how to handle
and prepare items. Available year round, the site is updated continually to
offer current information.
Annie Schmelzer, program manager for entrepreneurship and diversified
agriculture for the agriculture department, is in charge of the on-line
directory and of locally grown and consumer programs. Mr. Hahn said she has
a full plate of projects to manage this year.
"One program we have participated in for several years, MarketMaker, is a
national partnership of land grant institutions and state departments of
agriculture," he said. "It is dedicated to the development of a comprehensive
food industry marketing and business interactive database. The free
interactive web mapping system locates businesses and markets of
agricultural products, with the goal being a resource for all businesses in the
food supply chain - from helping grocery stores find fresh organic vegetables
to helping farmers find a place to sell them. Foodservice operators also find
MarketMaker a useful tool."
MarketMaker also provides demographic and business data. Details are
summarized on a map to show concentrations of consumer markets and
strategic business partners. For example, a user can request lists of federally
inspected packing plants along with a map that identifies their locations. The
program was developed by the University of Illinois. Indiana participates in it
in conjunction with Perdue University and Perdue Extension Service. About 15
states are now partnered with MarketMaker, and Indiana, Mr. Hahn said.
The agriculture department is also working with multiple entities across
Indiana for another program titled Dig-IN, a revitalization of the previous
Taste of Indiana event.
The event, scheduled for Aug. 29, is a partnership between the ISDA and
other agencies. One partner is White River State Park, an urban park located in
the heart of downtown Indianapolis, which is the venue for the event. Other
partners are Slow Food Indy; Indiana Artisan, a state-based agency that
supports and promotes Hoosier artisans and handmade products; and the
Neal Brown Hospitality Group. Restaurant owner Chef Brown is known for his
artisan food ingredients and his dedication to food causes and improved
"Dig-IN will be a showcase of growers demonstrating high quality foods that
are grown in Indiana," said Mr. Hahn. "We'll pair local producers and their
products with state chefs who show tremendous culinary talent. The event will
also include an Indiana wine and beer tasting. But it's also an educational
event. The venue will feature seminars, discussion panels, Q&A sessions and
Mr. Hahn added that this is the first year that Dig-IN will be presented, but
the state and its partners hope to make it an annual event.
"Many of our projects are possible because of the [U.S. Department of
Agriculture]'s Specialty Crop Block Grant," he added. "Under Annie's guidance,
the funds are distributed in ways that help organizations such as the Grape
and Wine Council and others in Indiana.
"We also have a farmers market cost share program that is funded from the
grant," Mr. Hahn continued. "The ISDA will match up to $500 that any market
incurs for promoting [its] market."
Mr. Hahn said that it is impossible to keep track of the number of farmers
markets in Indiana because they are popping up so fast.
"The markets used to represent vegetables and fruits," he said. "But today they
offer meats, flowers, cheeses, arts and crafts and much more. It's great to see
entrepreneurs get involved at these markets, and it's just as great to see
consumers getting to know the people who produce their food. It creates a
sense of community by bringing people face to face. A person may see his
vegetable vendor at church on a Sunday and say, 'That's the guy who grows
my tomatoes.' It is warming to people to interact with someone else based on
something as simple as food."
(For more on Indianapolis, see the June 21, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)