September 26, 2018
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Growing to Give

Farm donates fresh, pesticide-free produce to local charities
Seton Harvest has donated more than 70,000 pounds of fresh produce to local charities since 2005.

Inside the barn at Seton Harvest, produce is placed in bins market-style, and scales are readily available for customers to weigh and bag their choice of healthy offerings. But no money is exchanged here; instead, shoppers own shares of the harvest.

Seton Harvest — located at 9400 New Harmony Road off University Parkway near W. Diamond Avenue — started in 2005 as an environmental initiative and has since donated more than 70,000 pounds of fresh produce to local charities. The Daughters of Charity decided to pursue the idea of a farm as a way to provide local and healthy food to area people in need. After several informational meetings, the farm opened in 2006, making this its ninth successful season.

“I was gardening when I was a kid, and then (after growing up) swore I was never going to do it again,” chuckles Joe Schalasky, Seton Harvest’s farmer who works six days a week and anywhere from seven to 12 hours a day during the season. “I did landscaping for 22 years, and then after my family got started, I started gardening at home again. From there, I came to one of the first meetings they had about this place, and kept answering all the questions, so they asked me to come here full-time.”

People are invited to purchase shares in return for fresh produce during a 26-week growing season, with 20 percent of the yield donated to local charities weekly. Seton Harvest started out with 65 shareholders and has grown to 151 this year, not including the 15 shares owned by the Daughters of Charity.
“When you’ve got 151 families relying on you, plus the charity side of it, it’s a passion,” says Schalasky.

Seton Harvest donates 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of produce each year to organizations like the Ozanam Family Shelter and Evansville Christian Life Center. The season starts in mid-May and the last pickup, for people renewing their share for the following year, is the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It typically consists of turnips, radishes, lettuce, Asian greens such as bok choy, hot peppers, parsnips, carrots, beets, Napa cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale —the same food types that are donated. In addition, the farm is certified Naturally Grown — the grassroots version of certified organic — meaning no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides are used.

Outreach Manager Julie Dietz schedules community informational talks, health fairs, fundraisers, and field trips to the farm.

“It’s something different eating it out of the patch or off the vine than it is just seeing it at the store,” says Dietz. “And kids get excited about it just like everybody else does.”

This year, a farm-to-table fundraiser was started as a way to cover donation costs. Twilight Dinners are meant as an opportunity for guests, including non-shareholders to enjoy some of the farm’s produce. A chef from Culinary Innovations works with available ingredients to create a menu, and Tin Man Brewing Co. sponsors alcohol for the evening.

“Our goal is bring people out to the farm, to experience the farm, and understand our farm,” says Dietz.

The first dinner in mid-May was intended to be small and intimate at 120 guests, but tickets sold so quickly with calls continuing to come in, the number was pushed to a total count of 152 the night of the dinner.

“It’s something that the community doesn’t offer,” says Dietz. “It’s different, it’s fun, and it’s a relaxing evening. And I think that people are kind of looking for that. There are no auctions. People are invited to come out, take a tour of the farm, and have a wonderful evening.”

For more information on Seton Harvest or its Twilight Dinners, call 812-963-7692 or visit setonharvest.org.

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