Eating Indiana Agriculture (ISDA’s Holiday Gift Guide)

Need a last minute gift idea?  Indiana agriculture comes in many forms and it may be the present you’re looking for to finish

Christmas cupcakes

Christmas cupcakes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

your Christmas shopping. To celebrate the season, I compiled gift ideas from some of the staff here at ISDA.

When it comes to edible gifts, Indiana agriculture has a plethora of options to satisfy the demands of your Christmas list.


Chocolate covered pretzels.  Popcorn.  Beef Jerky.  Salsa.  These are some of my favorite snacks, and just a few of the food items that are produced and/or processed right here in Indiana.  To order snack items for your friends, visit a website like Hoosier Market Place, place your order and pick up at a desired location.


Who doesn’t like sweets around the holidays?  Fortunately, Indiana is home to lots of options in this area.  Some highlights include…

  • Places like 240 Sweets and Not Just Popcorn.  Indiana offers several artisanal products that are guaranteed to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
  • Maple syrup tapped in Indiana, and definitely worth the purchase.  There’s no better treat than pancake drizzled with real maple syrup.
  • Indiana honey is also the perfect gift for anyone on your list who enjoys cooking, baking and/or a good cuppa.  Use resources like to find Indiana honey for sale near you.

For your table

Practical gifts are (almost) always appreciated.  They offer me special treats for daily life.  If I were making myself a practical Christmas list, here’s what I would request.

  • Community Supported Agriculture Share: Did you know that Indiana is home to more than 30 fruits and vegetables?  A CSA is a program where farmers sell “shares” or baskets of their produce before it is ready for market.  A customer pays a farmer up-front for X amount of products/week throughout the summer.  Between a certain period of time (usually May through September), the customer picks up his/her share of products at a designated location once a week.  What could be a better gift than fresh produce throughout the summer?
  • A Side of a Cow/Hog: Since I was a young girl, my parents have often stocked our freezer with a side of a cow.  Although I have no qualms about buying meat from grocery stores, it’s a treat to have a freezer full of delicious meat in a variety of cuts knowing that your purchase benefited a farmer in or near your community.  Also, buying a whole steer/partial steer can be very affordable per pound if you have the resources to pay for the meat up front.  One Indiana producer estimates it costs about $4.32/lb for all cuts (including steaks and filets). Another option that sounds tasty (but I haven’t tried yet) is purchasing a whole or half of a hog.  As our state is the fifth largest producer of pork in the United States, nothing says Indiana like gifting a pig 🙂

What Indiana food products would you add to this list?

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Introducing… Laura’s Links: Ensuring Your Ag-Tech Literacy

Twice monthly, Agriculture Advancement and Promotion Program Manager Laura Buck will provide a series of links that touch upon emerging technologies and innovations in agriculture. Topics will range from robotics to genetic engineering and everything in between. If it involves agriculture and technology, we want you to know about it (and sound smart when talking to your friends). For questions or comments, contact Laura Buck at


Canola field in Temora, New South Wales

Canola field in Temora, New South Wales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Could Self-Fertilizing Canola Be Coming Soon?”

English scientists have already developed self-fertilizing sugar cane, and canola may be the next addition. If plants could sufficiently fertilize themselves through atmospheric nitrogen, the need for land-applied nitrogen-based fertilizers would be reduced. In turn, the environmental burden of nutrient overloading could be lessened.

“Transformational Robotics and Its Application to Agriculture”

This article discusses the vast potential of agricultural robotics and some challenges this emerging technology will face.

“New Grass Developed to Curb Greenhouse Gas Emission”

International scientists have developed a tropical grass that may reduce agricultural emissions of both methane and nitrous oxide. For example, cattle that eat the grass are reported to produce less methane while also showing improved nutrition.

“USDA Grant Aims to Convert Beetle-Killed Trees into Biofuel”

Colorado is hoping to create opportunity out of a common insect problem. Bark beetles can kill off millions of acres of trees, and the dead trees that remain increase the risk of devastating forest fires. With the support of a USDA grant, the state will be researching the conversion of trees killed by bark beetles to a high-octane biofuel.

“Genetics Might Lead to Better Apples, Other Types of Food”

Canadian Okanagan Specialty Fruits is hoping their Arctic Apple will be approved for human consumption in the U.S. within the next two years. The Arctic Apple has been engineered to not turn brown when cut or bitten.  Researchers hope this trait will reduce food waste and increase the use of fresh apples.

AgriRover Brings Mars Technology to the Farm”

The AgriRover is a tool of precision agriculture, based off the Mars Rover. The AgriRover can easily maneuver in the muddiest conditions and provide farmers with data about animal waste and weeds in the pasture (called paddock in this New Zealand article).

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The People of Agriculture (Thanksgiving Series Pt. III)

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”  To commemorate Thanksgiving, “The (agri)Cultured Foodie” will use the next week and a half to look at the “ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts” that put food on your table.

Farmers. Repairmen.  Crop scientists.  Veterinarians.  Communications specialists.  Engineers.  These are the people that make agriculture possible.  These are the people that help get food from the field to the kitchen.  These are the people we should be thankful tomorrow as we sit down and enjoy a meal with our families.

But who are these men and women that produce our food?

They’re the Beck Family from Indiana who raise crops and own the largest family-owned seed company in the United States.

They’re the Gyrgleski Family from Wisconsin who grow cranberries for Ocean Spray.

They’re the Nilsen Family from California whose turkey operation uses “natural resources to create sustainable energy and eliminate waste.”

I’m thankful for the men and women who have devoted their lives to cultivating and stewarding the earth, and providing food for my family and yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Categories: Farming in the 21st Century, The Faces of Modern Agriculture | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Food for the holidays (Thanksgiving Series Pt. II)

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”  To commemorate Thanksgiving, “The (agri)Cultured Foodie” will use the next week and a half to look at the “ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts” that put food on your table.

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you sit down at your table this Thanksgiving, don’t forget that farmers played an important role in producing that food.  We’re fortunate to live in a country where food is readily available.  And not only are we blessed with affordable food, the food is high-quality and safe to eat. 

Some farmwives from across our state have recipes on their blogs that celebrate the good food we enjoy because of the people behind agriculture.  I have included some links to recipes below that might make great additions to your Thanksgiving meal.

Crockpot Turkey Breast | If you’re having a smaller gathering for your Thanksgiving dinner, this recipe from “Beyer Beware” could be just the solution for you.

Lighter-Than-Air Potato Rolls | Homemade rolls are always a treat for the holidays.  I’ve never made rolls with potatoes, but I’ll probably give this recipe from “Two Maids a Milking” a try this year.

Creamy Grape Salad | My aunt makes a variation of this salad from “Goodeness Gracious” for holidays.  It’s a great (though not particularly healthy) way to incorporate fruit into your menu.

Caramel Glazed Apple Cake | I’m always a fan of any dessert with apples, and these cakes from “A Latte with Ott, A” look especially yummy.

What are some foods you enjoy making for Thanksgiving?  Comment and include a link below!

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Consider food’s cost (Thanksgiving Series Pt. 1)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”  To commemorate Thanksgiving, “The (agri)Cultured Foodie” will use the next week and a half to look at the “ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts” that bring food to the table.

The grocery trip before Thanksgiving is one that takes careful planning.  In high school, I remember the year my mom tasked me with going grocery shopping for the holiday.  Armed with a list and money, I drove to our local Kroger and started carefully selecting items.  Growing up, my mom had taught me how to check an item’s price/unit, make sure the sales are really the best deals, and strategically buy in bulk.  I left the store not quite as rich as when I entered, but nonetheless excited about my purchases and the impending holiday meal.

In America, we’re fortunate when it comes to the cost of groceries.  Did you know that Americans are currently spending less on food (as a percentage of their income) than they did in the 1980s?  Bloomberg Businessweek explains: “In 1984, the average U.S. household spent 16.8 percent of its annual post-tax income on food. By 2011, Americans spent only 11.2 percent. The U.S. devotes less of its income to food than any other country—half as much as households in France and one-fourth of those in India.”

The cost of your Thanksgiving meal will likely be less expensive this year because food inflation and turkey prices are lower than usual, according to Purdue Ag Comm’s annual article on Thanksgiving’s cost.  Purdue Economist Corinne Alexander noted that the decreased cost could allow room for additional treats this Thanksgiving.  She also noted that although the average family spends about 10 percent on food, families impacted my unemployment and minimal wage could spend up to 25 percent of their income on food.

“For these families, any food price rise is significant,” Alexander said in the article. “We should remember those who are less fortunate and share our food bounty.”

Thanksgiving offers us a time to be thankful for a sound ag infrastructure that brings us quality food at an affordable price, and to celebrate our thankfulness by offering what we have with those in times of hardship.

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How should we champion agriculture?

Photo: Campbell

Photo: Campbell

Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture staff, and a group of Indiana agriculture leaders have formed a task force to determine “how might we promote the good works of Indiana agriculture.” The group named, “Lt. Governor’s Task Force to Promote the Good Work of Indiana Agriculture” has met many times and has focused on the following challenges:

  • Developing a proactive message
  • Reaching the general public
  • Communicating to the target audiences of 18-35 year olds
  • Keeping the message fun and easy to communicate

Visit our website to learn how Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and the task force are addressing these challenges.

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Tell us what you know about community {A Letter}


Indianapolis Star Columnist Erika Smith recently wrote about the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood of Indy.  She told the story of Justin Moore, a resident of the area whose grandfather was the agricultural director for Flanner House in the mid-20th century.  Inspired by his grandfather, Moore and his family are trying to educate their inner-city neighborhood about self-sufficiency.

Smith described their mission this way:

“We’re talking about teaching people how to grow their own food, how to can it, how to cook it. How to sew so that people can make and repair their own clothing. How to renovate their own homes, repair their own appliances and build their own raingardens. And most of all, how to reconnect with their neighbors and rebuild the social cohesion that has been lost over time.”

The Moores want to create community.  And they realize that two of community’s building blocks are ingenuity and productivity.

"Meal Time" by Brunette

“Meal Time” by Brunette

“We have just become consumers,” Joyce, Moore’s mom, says in the article.  “We forgot how to do for ourselves.  And it’s important people know that.”

Do you hear what the Moores are say, my friends in ag?  They recognize their lifestyle is one of consumption, and they want to engage in the processes involved with production.

I know you are acutely aware of the gap between producers and consumers.  You encounter it every day when you turn on the news, visit social media sites and talk to those outside your rural communities.  I know you often hear hurtful and false things about your practices, farms and way of life. 

If you read my bio, you know I’m not a farmer.  I didn’t know the difference between a Holstein and Jersey cow until I got to college.  But I know enough about agriculture to see an opportunity for you.

You hold important knowledge about what makes communities.  You understand the need to invest yourself in a single place for the long-haul, make wise use of your resources and act with integrity in everything.  I’m not the only one who recognizes this.  Smith described it this way:

To many older people, and perhaps those who grew up or still live in Central Indiana’s rural communities, all of this may sound like a no-brainer. Of course, you have gardens. Of course, you can food for the winter. Of course, you learn how to repair a leak in your roof. Of course, you depend on your neighbors for help.

I’d add an important item to Smith’s list.  You know that community doesn’t happen— it’s made.  It’s made by offering your garden’s bounty to those nearby.  It’s made by sharing a tractor with your neighbor, and helping him repair his truck.  It’s made by inviting people into your home for a meal.  It’s made by serving at your church, volunteering with PTA, and showing up at

"Raking Hay" by Seest

“Raking Hay” by Seest

the town meetings.

You also know that anything worth making takes hard work.  I remember sitting in an ag econ class at Purdue and being shocked hearing the stories of my fellow classmates putting in 80, 90, and 100 hour weeks during planting and harvest.  Your work ethic is the quiet force behind your communities.

So I have a question for you.  Will you engage in this conversation about what makes community?  I think we’re ready to learn from you.  You know consumers are concerned about some of you practices, and it might take people time to trust you.  So be patient as people quiet the buzz of the media and learn to listen to you, not just listen to what’s said about you.

And I think there’s an opportunity for you to learn too.  The Moores are making themselves vulnerable as they figure out how to make the place where they live better.  That vulnerability in seeking out solutions to problems sets a model for anyone to follow.  I know that you bear the burden of producing a lot of food to feed a lot of people; I don’t envy you.  But I challenge you not to bear the burden alone.  Make yourself open to learning new ideas and having conversations with unconventional allies. 

I believe the future of agriculture is bright in the United States because of the men and women like you.  Share the wisdom you have with burgeoning leaders, and be ready to listen to their good ideas too.

Thanks for reading,


Categories: Agriculture in Indiana, Farming in the 21st Century | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

3 take-aways from our radio appearance

Black and white photograph of a Neumann U87 mi...

Black and white photograph of a Neumann U87 microphone | Wikipedia Commons

Last Tuesday, my colleague Jordan Seger appeared on WFYI’s “No Limits” radio show.  Jordan is the director of ISDA’s soil conservation division.  The topic of the show was the future of agriculture, and Jordan was joined by Kim Ferraro of Hoosier Environmental Council and Laura Henderson of Growing Places Indy.  John Krull of Franklin College moderated the conversation.

I had the pleasure of listening to the show live in a WFYI studio with the show’s producer and engineers.  It was also great to meet Laura and Kim and visit with them briefly before and after the show.

Throughout the show, a variety of topics surfaced, from legislation to farmers’ markets to community development.  Here were my key take-aways from the show.

Like Laura Henderson said, the future of agriculture needs to be polyfaced.  Agriculture is a multifaceted field with many players, issues and concerns.  There is not a “right” farming method, way of approaching a problem, or solution to the issues we see surfacing.  We need CAFOs and the farmers’ markets.  In September, I interviewed Kip Tom on my blog and he put it this way: “I and many in agriculture embrace all forms of food production, whether organic, natural, local or commercial modern agriculture.  We need them all for today and tomorrow.”

Radio is a place to gain an introduction to complex topics.  There were several “hot topics” brought up on the show, including the “Ag Gag” and “Right to Farm.”  These are subjects that were introduced on the radio, but couldn’t be fully explored.  Before you make a decision on either of these topics, talk to a farmer, read some literature from both sides, and call your senators and representatives to see where they stand.

ISDA wants to help agribusinesses and farms of all shapes and sizes as we explore the future of agriculture.  Our division of soil conservation works with farmers throughout Indiana to implement stewardship programs.  In the radio program, Laura Henderson mentioned our economic development team’s efforts to assess the viability of “food hubs” (or virtual farmers’ markets)The goal of our grain warehouse licensing branch is to foster a sound grain marketing infrastructure so that Indiana can continue to be a standard in grain production.  ISDA recognizes that Indiana is a global leader in agriculture, and we want to make sure that continues into the future.

Have you had an opportunity to listen to the radio show?  If so, what questions did you have?

Categories: Farming in the 21st Century, Informational | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating relationships between farms and schools

October is National Farm To School Month.  Check back every Monday of the month for a post about how to incorporate agricultural themes into the classroom.  Today is the last post in this series. 

On Thursday, I had the privilege of going to Mintonye Elementary School in Tippecanoe County to see how the school celebrated Farm to School, and to learn more about Farm to School efforts throughout Indiana.  ISDA is helping lead the efforts alongside Purdue University, the department of education, the department of health and Indiana schools.

WLFI of Lafayette, Hoosier Ag Today and AgriNews all visited.  You can see some of the stories here and here.

I also took quite a few pictures documenting the day.  I enjoyed sampling the cheese from Fair Oaks and bread from Great Harvest, and hearing about the projects students worked on all month.

Did your school do anything special to celebrate Farm to School month?

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Facts & Figures of Indiana Ag

October is National Farm To School Month.  Check back every Monday of the month for a post about how to incorporate agricultural themes into the classroom.

Agriculture is an important aspect of Indiana’s cultural and economic identity.  As we talk to students about farming and agribusiness, we need to make sure we’re not merely talking about the science of the industry, but the social contribution of agriculture to our communities and state.

Below is a fact sheet about the agriculture in Indiana.  As you read through the handout, remember that each fact and number represents families, farms and agribusiness throughout Indiana.

Indiana Agriculture

Fact Sheet by Indiana State Department of Agriculture

Categories: Agriculture in Indiana, Farming in the 21st Century | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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