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Support your local Indiana veteran owned and operated farms

Look for Indiana Grown Homegrown by Heroes

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Jim and Holly Catron run Hallelujah Acres Farm in Lebanon - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Jim and Holly Catron run Hallelujah Acres Farm in Lebanon
Veterans Day — it’s a day in which we thank those brave Americans who have served in the Armed Forces to protect our freedoms as American citizens. One way you can give back to and thank our veterans is by supporting veteran owned and operated businesses, like Hallelujah Acres Farm.

Jim Catron is an 11-year U.S. Navy veteran and he, along with his wife Holly, is a co-founder and owner Hallelujah Acres Farm in Lebanon, Indiana. According to the farm’s website, “Born and bred Hoosiers, [The Catron’s] followed a dream to transform their 11 acre farm and experience in homesteading and business into a sustainable local farm. In addition to veggies and fruit, the farm boasts the cutest goats in the county and free-range chickens galore.”

Look for this symbol to know your food has been grown by a veteran - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Look for this symbol to know your food has been grown by a veteran
In order to further their business, the Catron’s recently joined Indiana Grown’s newest initiative, Homegrown by Heroes. Indiana Grown was developed by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture in 2015 and has been growing steadily ever since. The program focuses on the promotion of local and sustainable farms and agriculture. According to the program’s website, it has three major components: “[To] help Indiana farmers and producers have a greater market for their products; support Indiana processors in their effort to process more Indiana Grown products; and [to] educate consumers on the importance of buying Indiana Grown products.”

When it launched its first program, Homegrown by Heroes, Indiana Grown had a focus on helping our state’s Veterans get their farms off the ground and into larger consumer markets. According to a press release from February, when the program launched, they also wanted to give “Hoosiers a new, tangible way to support local veterans with an agriculture business.”

According to the Catron’s the program has done all of this and more for their farm since they joined. The family farm has reached many milestones including: 2 additional distribution channels, 8 new products, 2 new business partners, 1 additional retail location. When I asked the Catron’s how they learned about the program, Holly said, “We first learned about Indiana Grown Homegrown by Heroes at the Purdue Extension 2016 Indiana Small Farm Conference.” The event took place in March of this year, which is a testament to just how quickly this program has helped the small farm.

Holly’s husband, Jim credits the program by saying, “As a new farm, it was the first year we sold at the farmers' markets. The biggest benefit of the program has been the signage and stickers, which immediately gave us brand recognition and built trust that we grew/produced our products.”

For many veterans in the state and around the country, they turn to owning local farms after their service has ended because it gives them a way to continue giving back to their communities. It also can be a sort of therapeutic practice for them. Jim says of running Hallelujah Acres, “God created us to be gardeners and I feel calm when I work outdoors growing and caring for plants and animals. I like to be free to move about and there is a lot of satisfaction that comes from growing healthy food for people.”

Navy veteran Jim Catron is Hoosier born and bred - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Navy veteran Jim Catron is Hoosier born and bred
This idea of growing and sharing healthy food with their community was restated by Holly, “It is important to eat fresh, local, sustainably grown food. There are more nutrients in the food because it is fresh, you can help support the growth of local food production in Indiana, and it is fun and exciting to know who grew your food.”

When we thank our veterans this year and every year, we should thank them by supporting them in their endeavors. We should support them by eating the healthy, sustainable food that they and their families have labored over.

As Holly says, in order to get involved and support our veterans, “Consumers can purchase local food bearing the Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes logo. This support will encourage and support our veterans who now farm. You can find the logo displayed by vendors at your local farmers' market. Many veteran owned farms offer Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships to provide local food through the growing season.” This includes Hallelujah Acres, which has a CSA available for 20 weeks out of the year, in 2017 it will run from June 6 - October 17.

Hallelujah Acres Farm at the farmers' market - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Hallelujah Acres Farm at the farmers' market

CSAs are a great way to support local farmers and one of the few ways family farms are able to sell a majority of their crops each season. As the farm’s website points out, “Customers purchase a share at the beginning of the farm season and receive a weekly basket filled with fresh produce and other items throughout the growing season. The bounty is of the highest quality; fresh and local.” So, it is also a great way for you, as a consumer, to have fresh local produce in your kitchen each week.

If you or anyone you know is a veteran running a farm here in Indiana there is no better time than now to look into the program. Holly points out, “Because customers are looking for local food, the Indiana Grown stickers and banner we used afforded us immediate brand recognition. This was true despite being a new vendor. We had the opportunity to discuss the benefits of fresh, local food with hundreds of people and soon expanded to additional markets. Our successful market season led us to the decision to transition the farm into a full-time business.”

Get out there and thank and support your local veterans at Hallelujah Acres Farm and many others including:

Sara Creech, Blue Yonder Organic Farm, in North Sale
Zachary Morris, Freebird Farm and Homestead, in Walton
Jesse Andrew, The Pines Farm, in West Point
Cadel Crowl, Crowl Cattle, in Lafayette
Alan McKamey, Heritage Meadows Farm, in Clayton
Steve Carrell, Ponderosa Aqua Farm, in Spencer
Elias Donker, Red Hawk Hill Farm, in Terre Haute

www.IndianaGrown.org

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