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When It Comes to Local Food, Are Hoosiers Buying It?
Indiana Ag Connection - 02/13/2018

Everyone's talking about buying local food, but do Hoosiers shop local? The answer, it turns out, is complicated.

If you ask officials at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, chances are they'll say no. Indiana is the tenth most productive agriculture state in the nation, and yet Hoosiers only source 10 percent of their annual $16 billion in food purchases from local providers, according to ISDA's Indiana Grown media kit. (www.in.gov/isda/files/Media_Kit-Indiana_Grown.pdf)

But 40 percent of farms recently surveyed by ISDA reported sales increases in the past year. Confused yet?

Indiana Farmers Union member Market Wagon, now the state's largest farmers market, has seen these sales increases firsthand. Over the past six months, Market Wagon has nearly tripled the amount of local food it delivers--a 287 percent increase over previous six-month sales figures. And while that's great, local farmers are struggling to keep up with such demand.

Now is the time for Indiana farmers and artisans to expand. "Last year, we had unsold produce that we had to either donate or take to clearance auctions," says Dion Graber, farmer at Micro Farms in Bremen. "Since we started selling on Market Wagon, though, we've sold out of every pepper and cucumber we can grow. We tripled our production of leafy greens and added rows to keep up with orders. We'll have to expand even more this year to meet the demand."

Hayley McGinley, owner of Native Bread in Indianapolis, says she started out small when she founded her bread-making business, but since she began selling through Market Wagon, she is now "nearly selling out on Market Wagon every week. I soon will need my own kitchen space so I can keep up with the growing demand for my products."

We believe there's a story here that needs to be told, and we hope you can help us do it. Indiana needs more farmers and artisans to start or expand their businesses. Hoosiers want more local food, and farmers and food makers need to ramp up to answer the demand.

For more information or to interview farmers who sell through Market Wagon, please feel free to contact Nick Carter, owner and founder of Market Wagon, at (317) 460-1173 or by email at nick.carter@marketwagon.com. For state-specific trends, please contact Sherri Dugger, media and outreach director for Indiana Farmers Union, at (317) 371-2970 or by email at sdugger@nfudc.org.

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