Fields of Agape represents the effort of a number of people with longstanding ties to the land. Instead of going the route of all-things-King-Corn, Anna and Keith Welsh and their partners focus on growing golden flax seed, hard red and white winter wheat berries, soybeans, and organic popcorn. All of these products are available in the bulk bins at Bloomingfoods, making them the first bulk grains and seeds we’ve had from the state of Indiana.
Growing specialty row crops requires vision, persistence, and dedication. There are numerous challenges involved in successfully introducing these items to market, especially when consumers don’t expect to see them available from our state. The farm is also midway to gaining organic certification, a process that takes a number of years. It takes time for customers to understand the value of purchasing local, sustainably-grown products, and the farm needs to survive in the meantime.
“Those who help in our project include Michael Smallwood, Judy Avery, Dave Johnson, and Keith and I. We all have various gifts – Keith and Mike do all of the field work, cleaning, and packaging, as well as selling at the farmers’ markets. Dave Johnson contributes land and his knowledge and expertise from years of growing specialty crops. Judy contributes land, equipment, and hosts all of our co-op meetings by cooking with recipes that utilize our field crops. Keith and I contribute land, equipment, and accounting and computer skills. Our son Marc, who lives in Portland, Oregon, contributes grant writing, web, and graphics skills. My Mom and Dad offer moral support, consulting in field work, equipment maintenance, construction, and agriculture. Another friend is joining us to offer carpentry skills for storage spaces that we must have to be certified for bulk food distribution.”
“The biggest message I could offer to anyone is that it takes all of us to meet the needs of the community. We have gifts and talents that we can share with one another to nurture, serve, and bring hope to our communities.”
Plans for the future include adding garlic, greens, beans, and potatoes to the group’s line of specialty crops.
Field of beautiful flax. Flax is recognized as an Indiana wild flower, as well as being a fabulous nutrition source. The Welshes dedicate approximately 23 acres to the production of this crop.
George surveys the field of heritage corn, which had been too wet to cultivate.
Bloomingfoods Merchandising Manager Mac McLauchlin bestows a benediction on Spartacus, the Welsh's Great Pyrenees.
Keith Welsh on his Farmall Super C.
Keith needed specialized equipment with which to deliver an organic soil supplement to his fields. When no suitable model could be found, he simply fabricated his own.
In addition to the newer Farmall, the Welshes also own and operate this fine piece of equipment, a Co-op brand tractor, probably built between 1946-55. It still works just fine.
Two row planter, for planting heritage corn.
One of the most important steps in bring grain to the table is separating out the desired grain from chaff and the other seeds picked up during harvesting. The Welshes use this separator, which performs it's task using a series of screens. The separator, ia Clipper Seed and Grain Cleaners, was made by the A.T. Ferrell Company, in Bluffton, IN, where they have been in business since 1869.
The harvested and screened flax seed must be stored in a cool environment. To provide that, a block building was constructed within the Welsh's barn, and then sealed on the inside with a soy-based foam.
And here is the grinder which converts Fields of Agape wheat and corn into flour and meal, respectively. This machine houses two 4" stone grinding wheels, and has the capacity to handle 50# of corn or 60# of wheat per hour. The corn they grind into meal is actually popcorn, secured from a farmer near Decatur, Indiana, and is the only commercially available organic popcorn in the state.
Here is Hannah, closely watching the grinder.
The grinder deposits the ground grain into the drawer at the base of the machine.
Storage bins for ground corn and wheat.