September 25, 2018
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Homegrown

For the full feature, pick up the latest July/August issue of Evansville Living.

From savoring produce at the peak of freshness to meeting the people who grow your food, there are countless reasons to live like a locavore. Taste real flavors, buy in season, support family farmers – navigate our sustainable food landscape with this guide to Homegrown Southern Indiana.

Produce

Raised Right

As Mayse Farm Market continues its 75th year of operation, 67-year-old Paul Mayse says he’s now serving his third or fourth generation of customers.

“Back in the early days, we picked the sweet corn using a horse or mule hitched to a large, wooden sled,” says Mayse, who took the farm over in 1974. “It was a big attraction. A lot of people come in — who were children back then — and still talk about that.”

Mayse’s parents Vance and Minnie Mayse started Mayse Farm Market in the early 1940s at the old farmers market on Fourth Street. After Mayse graduated from F.J. Reitz High School and Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, he took over the market. In 1977, he built a roadside farm market onsite at their family farm at 6400 N. St. Joseph Ave., and has continued to expand to a full market. Today, Mayse Farm Market grows produce on 70 of its 90 acres with crops including strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, and more. The market also offers an on-the-farm bakery with signature fruit breads, pies, cookies, fudge, and other desserts.

Sherrill & Paul Mayse. Photo by Julie Hope.

“We think back to his parents and how hard they worked,” says Sherrill Mayse, who met Paul at Reitz. The two have been married for 47 years. “Today, we have tractors, more equipment, and things are modernized. It’s a good, busy life. Farming is rewarding. The market is closed February through April, but when we open back up in May, our customers tell us they are glad to have us back open again. Of course, that makes us happy and proud to offer fresh, farm produce for our customers who are glad to see us again.”

In the last 75 years, Paul says the customer base is more conscious now of where the food is actually coming from and exactly whom they are buying from.

“We are established and we are not going anywhere. I think people like consistency,” says Paul. “My mom used to say that retirement on the farm is death.”

Mayse Farm Market picks its produce fresh daily and is open every day from May to October. The farm also participates in the Franklin Street Bazaar, which is held every Saturday until Sept. 19. The farm is hosting a customer appreciation day at the end of August where Paul will re-enact the horse-drawn sled pull and gather crops. The event also will have hot dogs, soft drinks, and promotions. During six weeks in the fall, Mayse Farm Market offers Family Fun on the Farm featuring daily school tours and weekend fun with two corn mazes, wagon rides, pumpkin picking, pony rides, a Jumping Pillow, and several other attractions.

“We want people to have a farm experience here,” says Paul. “They can actually see us coming in with a load of strawberries, sweet corn, or tomatoes, which is something they don’t see in a grocery store.”

For more information about Mayse Farm Market, call 812-963-3175 or visit maysefarmmarket.com.

Ripe for the Eating

Bud's Farm Market shares the secret behind its tomatoes

We all know the best tomatoes are grown in Southern Indiana, and there also is wide agreement that Bud’s Farm Market offers the best in the area. Therefore, we think Bud’s grows the best tomatoes in the world. Who’s to argue?

Bud Vogt of Evansville has managed the 30-acre farm located at 3301 S. Weinbach Ave. for 19 years and has a few secrets he agreed to share.

Heat and humidity in the region benefit tomatoes. Vogt believes the stress exerted on the plants triggers the perfect combination of sweetness and acidity.

Variety of selection also is important — Vogt currently has 25 to 30 varieties of tomatoes planted and tries five to 10 more every year to judge their quality. He says the most popular is Cherokee Purple.

Vogt, who uses natural fertilizers, says it’s vital to treat the soil like a living organism to produce tomatoes with better taste, quality, and texture.

“I’m using naturally-occurring compounds, and the idea is to increase biological activity in the soil,” says Vogt. “It’s a difference of pumping the produce with steroids versus natural biological activity.”

Passion Fruit

Throughout Bill Engelbrecht’s life of 64 years, he’s been faced with moments where he could have said goodbye to his family’s Newburgh, Indiana, orchard. But to him, those situations were opportunities to say yes to its continuation.

The Engelbrecht family orchard, started by Bill’s grandfather, began growing peaches and apples in 1919 on the North Side of Evansville. Bill’s father Bob and his mother Peg worked to expand it in the late 1940s. Thirty years later, Bill and his wife Debbie took over the operations and moved it to Newburgh.

The orchard eventually was sold in the early 2000s and the land was converted into two subdivisions, but Bill couldn’t stay away. In 2004, he planted a new orchard on Old Petersburg Road and worked it until his son took over and ran it as Joe Engelbrecht’s Fourth Generation Orchard for four years. Bill was then presented with the choice to come out of retirement and he took it.

“We are not as big as we once were, but the Engelbrecht name is still out there,” says Bill, who was selling insurance when he reopened the market in Newburgh three years ago. “We still have the same peaches, but I think they are better than they ever were.”

Today, Engelbrecht’s Homegrown Goodness, 7766 Fruitwood Lane, sells peaches, apples, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, and more at its storefront while farming 60 acres of 2,500 peach trees and 1,500 apple trees.  

Eggs

Happy-Go-Clucky

Jake's Happy Hens provides supreme care for its chickens

Crack open an egg from Jake’s Happy Hens and watch it hit the frying pan. You’ll see the rich, orange yolk not common in store-bought eggs. Jacob Carneal of Jake’s Happy Hens says his farm’s eggs are more flavorful and nutritious, which occurs from having healthier chickens.

Carneal has lived on the farm his entire life and always has been around animals. His family raised Thoroughbreds, and he also grew up with hens. His neighbors owned goats, and they recommended starting a chicken farm, which he did in the fall of 2011.

As the owner of Jake’s Happy Hens, located at 2700 S. Green River Road, Carneal began with about 500 Golden Comet hens, which are known for their brown egg production. Because he couldn’t keep up with the demand, he now keeps roughly 1,000 chickens. Carneal also formulates his own feed to ensure the hens are healthy, which leads to healthy eggs. Everything about the process is natural.

“We don’t have to jack them up with antibiotics or steroids to keep them alive,” he says. “We don’t give them any hormones. Our top priority is the health of the bird to provide the best product.”

Jacob Carneal with a flock of his happen hens. Photos by Julie Hope.

The upkeep of the coop shows this as well. The system can hold 1,200 hens, but Carneal keeps only 1,000 to provide ample space for healthy living. There are rows of nests, and eggs roll out on a central belt, where 80 dozen are collected every day during peak season. It is vital, says Carneal, to make sure the coop is as clean as possible.

“We maintain the house and keep it clean, and the system makes it easier,” he says. “The nest system is elevated off the floor so the manure falls into a pit, keeping it away from the hens and ensuring their health.”

Outside the coop are four acres of alfalfa and fescue grass, where the hens range free to gather nutrients. Carneal rotates which part of the land on which the brood can range. This makes the process more expensive, but Carneal takes pride in being able to provide the best for his animals. His peacock, Houdini, protects the hens from other wildlife.

Carneal also is planning to use his land for Freedom Ranger chickens. They are raised for their meat during a 10-week process, which would provide another product for customers.

Patrons can buy the company’s eggs at Adele’s Naturally, Elbert’s Natural Food Market, Aihua Oriental Market, and Fountain View Mini Market, all in Evansville; Pearson’s Rivertown Butcher Shop and Paradise Organics, both in Newburgh, Indiana; or right out of the house on the farm.

He credits the Will family of C & C Farms, Inc. in Evansville, the Wathen family of Wathen Farms in Evansville, his own family, including his father Jeff, and various friends for helping him every step of the way.

“I’ve always liked animals,” says Carneal. “I got my first chicken when I was nine. I like being able to provide a real product to people.”

For more information about Jake’s Happy Hens, call 812-476-5558 or visit facebook.com/JakesHappyHens.

Orange is the New Healthy

Ask anyone who grew up eating farm-fresh eggs, and you’ll hear about the difference between the eggs of their childhood and what is sold today in supermarkets. Jacob Carneal of Jake’s Happy Hens explains a few advantages farm-grown eggs have over other eggs.

First, the eggs his hens produce contain a yolk that is more orange than the common egg. Instead of being watered-down, farm-grown yolks also have more substance, which aids in the flavor. Most importantly, they are a healthy alternative because of their natural nutrients.

“The eggs have high Vitamin D and also have high omega-3 fatty acids from the fishmeal we put in the chicken’s feed,” says Carneal.

Purdue University professors from West Lafayette, Indiana, visited the farm in June to teach Carneal more about the bird flu. He is precautious to ensure his chickens and their eggs remain healthy. 

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