Monday, November 16, 2009

A Wonderful Night of Food & Community

Thank you to everyone who responded to or attended the Spirit and Place Festival event Sunday, Nov. 15: "Local Food Trends: Growing Community, Economy and Mutual Delight." The response was truly overwhelming. I received nearly 100 reservations - enough to double the event; a loud and clear indication that there is lots of interest in local food topics. A total of 64 people crowded into CitYoga and brought fabulous food for the potluck dinner, even on a night when the Colts played New England! Click here to see photos from the event.

Here's a brief summary of our topics and conversations and contact information for presenters if you would like to follow up for more information. I welcome additional insight from those who attended or have more information.

David Wu, Policy Director for the City of Indianapolis opened the evening offering his perspective on how the City should be positioning itself nationally through food and agriculture. "Some cities boast that they are on the ocean or the water; other cities have mountains. Some people refer to Indianapolis as being 'out in the middle of a cornfield.' Rather than making that a negative statement, we should be using it to our advantage. We should be saying: 'We're located in the heartland, in the middle of the best farmland and agriculture heritage in the country.'"

- Neal Brown, owner Neal Brown Hospitality Group and Mapleton Fall Creek resident
- Laura Henderson, manager Indy Winter Farmers' Market and co-partner in Growing Places, an urban farming initiative
- Janine Betsey, president King Park Neighborhood Development Corp.
- Ann Schmelzer, Indiana State Dept. of Agriculture
- Matthew Jose, owner Big City Farms CSA and co-partner in Growing Places
Moderator: Marc McAleavey, director of Public Allies, Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center and Mapleton Fall Creek resident

Janine Betsey spoke of how many different types of food offerings there are in just the King Park area. "We mesh different food traditions with Tease Me, Country Kitchen, and Goose the Market. Each one is a valuable food destination in the neighborhood, serving different people." She added that King Park and Mapleton Fall Creek are working together to embrace what is going on in either adjacent neighborhood and help residents be better connected through food-related businesses and projects.

Neal Brown spoke about spending time away from the city this summer and coming back to realize we aren't doing as bad (on local food issues) as we might think. "We still have a long way to go but it is definitely better [in the food business] than it ever has been."

Laura Henderson reported that more than 1,500 attended the opening of the Indy Winter Farmers' Market on Sat., Nov. 14, showing a growing support for local products. "Farmers' markets are not an elitist thing. They need to be inviting to everyone. Everyone wants and deserves good food."

Matthew Jose added that he thinks that despite the renewed interest in local food, he believes that our "agricultural intelligence" has been lost. "We may know what we like to eat and what's good for our bodies, but so few seem to really understand how our food is grown; how it is produced." Janine added that we also need to teach awareness around growing safely by testing land and being aware of possible pollutants.

Janine and Ann agreed that we need to capitalize on what we have and tell our story. "We have to look at what's here and be proud of it," said Ann.

Participants could choose from the following six topics to have dinner and conversation:

1. Community Kitchens - Local entrepreneur Linda Gilkerson led a conversation about her new venture, Indy's Kitchen, a fully equipped, commercially licensed kitchen available for rent by the hour. Shared-use kitchens are in operation in several other cities, and the owners of Indy’s Kitchen believe that Indianapolis will benefit from this idea. Indy’s Kitchen will be available for small business entrepreneurs to test, start, or expand their food-based enterprises as well as for cooking classes and cooking parties. For more information:, 317.631.1923.

2. East 10th St. - Jane Henegar, Spirit and Place board chair, co-chair of 10 East District Team for the Superbowl Legacy Project and long-time east-side resident, and Becky Hostetter, a local chef, member of 10 East District team and also a long-time east-side resident, led a discussion about creating a thriving local food scene on the near eastside, including street vending food carts, food co-op, and locally-owned restaurants serving diverse and locally-grown food. "We discussed realism versus optimism," Jane summarized. "We want to encourage entrepreneurs and eliminate barriers; sell to neighbors while also attracting people to the neighborhood; and seize momentum on Super Bowl legacy project in 2012 while being realistic about development and pace." For more information contact Jane:

3. Food for Thought - Indiana Humanities Council President and Spirit & Place advisory committee member Keira Amstutz led a conversation about next year's theme in both organizations: "Food for Thought." Her table suggested the following topics: roof-top gardens, community gardens, films and speakers such as Judy Schad or Bill McKibben, food celebrities like Wolfgang Puck, field trips, Indy's ethnic culture and history, a large one night potluck, and community cookbooks. For more information contact Keira:

4. Urban Farming - Matthew Jose and Tyler Henderson, partners in Growing Places, an urban farming initiative, discussed what it means to be an urban farmer and how to encourage more local growing. Specific topics discussed included clarifying the difference between community gardening and urban farming. Urban farming is a for-profit company, no different than a normal farmer. It's just located in an urban environment instead of rural area. Growing Places' new garden at White River State Park will be a demonstration and training garden where anyone can come learn how to grow food and seed other community gardens. They also hope to encourage urban land owners to consider converting empty lots into useable farm land. For more information about Big City Farms' CSA contact Matthew:

5. Dig In - A Taste of Indiana - This will be a new event featuring locally grown foods and restaurants. Neal Brown and Ann Schmelzer led a discussion about this new celebration of Indiana agriculture. The group discussed how this can be education through entertainment; redefine our external perception of ourselves and our strengths; and bring people together in a food community. For more information, contact Ann:

6. Farmers' Markets - Laura Henderson led a discussion about how to strengthen all the local farmers' markets. Safety is a top priority and all vendors should be consulted about rules and regulations on labeling, production, etc. Not all markets accept food stamps, which limits lower-income shoppers from accessing quality food. A farmers' market association, network or at least regular meetings among all markets could help share information, help eliminate duplicative efforts and maximize resources. Starting more markets also requires more vendors. How can we do both without spreading existing farmers too thin and adding new ones to the mix. For more information, contact Laura: or visit

Donations were accepted to benefit the Indy Winter Farmers' Market. After the dinner, Laura announced that these donations would be used to purchase goods at the market to benefit a food community friend, Gabe Jordan, who was the recent victim of a shooting on the southeast side of Indianapolis. Nearly $300 was given to support the Jordan family.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated. Thanks again to CitYoga for allowing us to use its space. It was a great evening and proof that next year's Spirit & Place topic, "Food for Thought," will be red hot!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spirit & Place: Local Food Trends - SOLD OUT

The Spirit & Place event this Sunday, Nov. 15, "Local Food Trends: Building Community, Economy and Mutual Delight" is completely booked. Please e-mail me if you would like to be placed on the waiting list:

I will post a summary of the event later next week.

Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm about local food trends!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good Things Happen When Food & Place Meet

As a part-time fundraiser for some clients, one of my favorite mantras is: "Money follows good ideas."

The same could be said for food: "People (and money) follow good food."

(Photo: Matthew Jose, owner of Big City Farms, greeted shoppers at the Indy Winter Farmers' Market.)

It's no coincidence that the once salvage yard at 24th St. and Central Ave. is now home to City Yoga. Yes, a developer did a good job revitalizing that site. However, it was the Indy Winter Farmers' Market that opened there last November that brought hundreds of people every Saturday to this urban neighborhood, many of whom had only driven through it previously on their way downtown. It didn't hurt that Goose the Market, another huge food success, is located just around the corner, suddenly making the area of 24th St. and Central Ave./Delaware St. a one-stop shop for weekend foodies. Housing the winter market even temporarily convinced tenants like City Yoga that its clientele will come to that location while also making it more profitable for the developer and landlord.

This year, that same developer, Larry Jones, is housing the Indy Winter Farmers' Market in his latest investment at 9th and East St. I have no doubt that this will draw the increasing number of downtown or near downtown residents who have only one grocery store in the mile square.

There are several other great examples of how quality food influences place, builds community and boosts economic development. The key is to learn from these great examples and multiply them across our community.

With this in mind, I invite you to join me for a 2009 Spirit & Place Festival dinner and discussion:

Local Food Trends: Growing Community, Economy and Mutual Delight
Sunday, Nov. 15, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
2442 N. Central Ave. (former location of Indy Winter Farmers' Market)

Bring your favorite dish to share for a potluck dinner and learn about how food influences places, builds community and boosts economic development. Neal Brown, former chef owner of L’Explorateur, will prepare a main course.

Speakers & Presentations

David Wu, policy director, City of Indianapolis – “The Power of Place and Food”

Panel discussion: Neal Brown, Laura Henderson, founder/market manager, Indy Winter Farmers’ Market; Matthew Jose, founder/owner, Big City Farms CSA; Chris Eley, owner, Goose the Market; and Janine Betsey, executive director, King Park Area Development Corporation. Facilitated by Gail Payne, owner, The Goods: Thoughtful Marketing, Authentic Living and Marc McAleavey, Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center.

Round-table discussions: Participate in small group conversations about various local food initiatives such as “Dig In” (the new Taste of Indiana event), a food vision for east 10th Street, urban farming, Indy farmers’ markets, community kitchens, and “Food for Thought,” theme for 2010 Spirit & Place and Indiana Humanities Council initiative.

The event is free. Donations accepted to benefit the Indy Winter Farmers' Market
Space is limited. RSVP by Nov. 12 to Gail Payne: 317.985.5523 or

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Goods Inaugural Celebration

January 20, 2009 was a very special day. It was the day that the United State of America inaugurated its first African American President, Barack Obama. On that day, we all celebrated, regardless of our differences, to take in, just for a moment, the history that you and I were living to tell our children and grandchildren when they ask: "Where were you on that day?"

I did not intend to go to Washington, DC, but I also did not want to celebrate this once in a lifetime event alone just watching tv. As I did with the campaign, I wanted to share it with my friends and even strangers who wanted to be with kindred spirits, too.

Ironically, or coincidentally, this could also describe what I aim to achieve with The Goods: Authentic Living. It will be a series of events that combine my areas of interest: arts, culture, fitness, the environment and the local food economy with those who also seek a deeper understanding, experience and desire to know others like them.

The inauguration provided the perfect opportunity to officially launch "The Goods: Thoughtful Marketing, Authentic Living" and to host the inaugural Authentic Living Series event.

The evening achieved all of my goals: beautifully prepared local food by chefs and artists Regina Mehallick and Greg Hardesty and hosted in Regina's wonderfully authentic neighborhood favorite, R'Bistro; wines selected by next-door-neighbor, Jill Ditmire at Mass Ave Wine Shoppe; personal toasts from Harry McFarland and Lisa Keenan; a colorful keynote speech by historian Dan Miller president of Historical Solutions, who wove the similar plights of Abraham Lincoln and MLK to President Obama; and a sell-out crowd of nearly 60 kindred spirits who enjoyed meeting for the first time or getting to know each other better.

Its about building community, expanding our networks and minds while supporting local businesses and causes.

Don't just take it from me. I've received good reviews, including this one from Pam Velo:

"This is such a magnificent concept and you deserve a medal for conceiving it and implementing it in such a classy, thoroughly enjoyable way. This is something this community will really benefit from. ...This concept captures really interesting new people to meet, and excellent food and wine (necessary components to a great time in my book!). Congratulations for coming up with this and making it happen. It was the perfect end to a perfect day."

Here are some photos from the event. (Special thanks my assistant cameraman, Greg Perry).

Thanks to all who attended, and even those who couldn't be there, who have helped me reach this milestone.

Future Authentic Living Series events are underway.
Tell me what you want you think would make a great Authentic Living Series event.