Summer months, when farmers markets are laden with fresh-from-the-farm produce, are a time for local growers to shine. But the fruits of their labor belie the year-round work that goes into growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and more.
These Evansville-area farming businesses — whether carving out a corner in a niche industry, sustaining fields through shareholders, or maintaining acres of orchards — know exactly where the food on your plate comes from. Here, get to know three local growers.
ALL THE PEELS: PICK FRUIT AND MAKE MEMORIES AT EVANSVILLE COUNTRYSIDE ORCHARD
There’s something special about picking your own fruit and vegetables from a garden and not a grocery store bin, says Kristi Schulz, who with her husband, Tim, has operated Evansville Countryside Orchard since 2015.
The business has 50 acres, with peaches and apples being the primary focus, plus strawberries, sweet cherries, pumpkins, and garden vegetables. There are also sunflowers and zinnias to explore.
Strawberry season has wound down, but visitors should have plenty of tasty apples to pluck from the orchard’s trees by mid-July through October, with over 15 varieties, Schulz says.
Peach harvests, unfortunately, are a bit spotty this year, because of big temperature swings in February that damaged the buds.
Nestled in northern Vanderburgh County at 16800 Old Petersburg Road, Evansville Countryside Orchard is a year-round grower and has a farm stand where pre-picked fruit and preserves can be purchased. Those who want their own fruit should prepare for the elements and for a real working farm, with uneven, grassy lands.
But it’s well worth it, Schulz says, and an opportunity for children to learn about nature and where healthy foods come from.
“We think that’s a good experience and a good family time,” she says
GROWING FOR GOOD: SETON HARVEST JOINS WITH COMMUNITY SHAREHOLDERS FOR A COLLABORATIVE FARMING EXPERIENCE
Seton Harvest’s 25 acres near the Vanderburgh-Posey County line are a blessing in more ways than one. Sponsored by the Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise, since 2006 the farm provides fresh food in a collaborative environment while meeting the needs of the community’s most vulnerable residents.
Ten acres are reserved for a community-supported agriculture farm. More than 100 shareholders pay the farm an annual membership fee to cover production costs. In return, they receive a weekly “share” of the harvest, usually enough for a family of four.
From mid-May to mid-November, shareholders purchase site-grown produce, flowers, honey, and more. No synthetic chemical insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers are used on the crops.
“Everything field-grown is certified naturally grown. Here, you know every person who is part of the farming process,” says Julie Dietz, Seton Harvest’s community outreach manager.
The farm has grown with the addition of hydroponics and aquaponics farming systems, an education shelter for events and summer camps, and Common Home walking trail around the property. Four farm employees under the direction of farm manager Joe Schalasky tend to the crops.
Continuing a Daughters of Charity tradition, Seton Harvest donates a portion of each week’s harvest to area charities serving the poor. Of the 35,627 pounds of produce harvested in 2022, 7,788 pounds went to shelters, food banks, and church pantries. More than 149,000 pounds of food have been donated since the initiative started in 2006.
MAD ABOUT MUSHROOMS: BEAUTIFUL EDIBLES UNLOCKS THE KEY TO SUCCESS
Diversification and mushrooms are helping Beautiful Edibles in Newburgh, Indiana, thrive.
Since 2016, owners Roger and Mary Winstead have grown vegetables year-round on the Newburgh, Indiana, property that years ago was Roger’s family homestead and farm.
They had only one wholesale customer at first, but when that business closed in 2019, the Winsteads realized “we didn’t need to have all our eggs in the same basket,” Mary says.
The Winsteads shifted gears to focus on direct-to-customer sales, as well as new wholesale accounts. You might say their business “mushroomed” in more ways than one.
Mary took a class in Wisconsin on how to inoculate mushroom logs, “and we were enamored with the quality of those compared to what we’d buy at the grocery store,” she says.
The Winsteads grow them using biodegradable bags, which let oxygen in while guarding against bacteria and viruses. They say they love mushrooms because of their high nutrient content and their benefits to the soil.
Today, Beautiful Edibles supplies some combination of mushrooms, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, peppers, turnips, herbs, and edible flowers to Evansville restaurants, such as Pangea Kitchen, Copper House, Schymik’s Kitchen, and Sauced.
Gourmet mushrooms and other products from Beautiful Edibles also are avail- able for purchase through Local Source, which offers both in-person pickup and delivery options.
Harvesting mushrooms, Roger says, “gave us a product to grow year-round, and it’s been well-received by the restaurant community.”