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Cultural Vision Awards 2016: Food

These honorees are delicious.




Jonathan Lawler realized an aspect of Central Indiana that many people seem to forget: there is a rich agricultural community right here, and yet we have an immense group of hungry and food-insecure people. 150,000. That is the number of men, women, and children living right here who don't know where their next meal is coming from. Add to that the even larger number of people who don't have access to fresh, healthy food.

This brought Jonathan to beg the question, "As a farmer, why am I sending my fresh, Indiana-grown produce across the country instead of feeding the hungry people right here in my back yard?"

So, Jonathan asked his wife Amanda if he could stop being a for-profit farmer and give away his produce to the needy, and she enthusiastically gave the okay. From there came Brandywine Creek Farm. In their first year of business, Brandywine Creek Farm will be growing 500,000 pounds of fresh produce (a weight that is hard to wrap your head around) to give out to those in need in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas. In fact, Jonathan says they will most likely surpass that goal.

Brandywine Creek Farm - NUVO FILE PHOTO
  • NUVO File Photo
  • Brandywine Creek Farm
But, that isn't their only goal, Jonathan sees farming as a way to instill a core set of skills and values in our youth. So, to that end, he is reaching out and getting at-risk youth to come out and work the farm with him. They can learn the importance and worth of hard work, respect, and the wonderful feeling of fulfillment one gets from seeing the finished product of their labors. He also is using his farm as a way to teach inner-city children about the importance of sustainably grown and organic fruits and vegetables and how these foods can help them live long and healthy lives.

RELATED: See all your Cultural Visionaries — there's 19! 

Another aspect of the farm is that Jonathan has, and is taking on more, interns who are veterans of the United States Armed Forces. He believes that, through teaching these brave men and women these agricultural-related skills and giving them hands-on experience on a farm, they can potentially start and run their own farms as a fulfilling way of life to continue to give back to their country.

Lawler, his family, and his team at Brandywine Farms truly are doing something innovative and important for our community. Through their efforts we may start to see hunger in our city begin to dissolve. We can all learn from Jonathan's words, "I'm making less money than I ever have in my life, but I've never felt so happy and fulfilled in my entire life."


Hawkins Family Farm is a small, family farm run by father and son team, Jeff and Zach Hawkins. The farm has been quietly producing vegetables, pork, beef and poultry since 1957.

Hawkins Family Farm - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Hawkins Family Farm
Then, all of sudden, the family farm came into the spotlight when they went to bat against House Bill 1267. The bill would have effectively shut down the farm, destroying the livelihoods of many farmers with small poultry farms across the state by making it illegal for them to sell to the many farm-to-table restaurants in Indiana without bird-by-bird inspection (a time-consuming and costly process).

Through their efforts, combined with an outcry amongst Hoosiers and the help of many restaurants like Cerulean, Milktooth, and Rook, Hawkins Family Farm was able to get the state government to amend the bill and to keep chicken on the menu.

(Left to right) Debbie Diaz, John Williamson, Walter Hazelwood, Pastor Fred Knoll - ERNIE MILLS
  • Ernie Mills
  • (Left to right) Debbie Diaz, John Williamson, Walter Hazelwood, Pastor Fred Knoll

Every year in the United States our schools trash one billion food items. In fact, 40 percent of the food made in America is wasted. Enter John Williamson and K-12 Food Rescue. The organization has a simple concept: any food that is untouched, unopened and unpeeled goes into a bin that is refrigerated. A "caring agency" — a shelter, food pantry, or other charitable organization — picks this bin up from the school and doles out the food to Indiana's food insecure.

RELATED: See our cover story on K-12 Food Rescue 

It's a simple idea that has made a massive impact on our state. 170 schools in the state are now a part of the Food Rescue movement and are currently saving millions of meals a year from landfills. Not only are they saving school meals, they also have worked closely with restaurants like Panera, Einstein Bagels and Little Caesars to keep their food from being tossed out at the end of the day. They are helping the nearly 1 in 6 food insecure Hoosiers.

As our managing editor Ed Wenck put it when he did a story on K-12 FR earlier this year, "... through Williamson's efforts, Indiana leads the nation when it comes to reducing school food waste — and sending that nutrition to the needy."


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