INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Two years ago, a local woman named Victoria Beaty was working for a global fast food giant. She was running marketing campaigns, traveling the world, and learning about how the food system worked, especially when it came to the drive through.
But she wanted to learn how food was actually grown.
“I had learned everything about how the major food system works and how you can go through a drive-through but I had no real concept of how food was actually grown out of the ground and how it actually looked,” she recalled. “Like how does celery look when it comes out of the ground? I had no idea”
Then, she ran across a non-profit called Growing Places Indy– based at the Boner Fitness and Learning Center (located at 727 N. Oriental Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202) on the Arsenal Tech High School Campus.
Beaty immersed herself in their program and found the experience to not only be educational, but life and career altering as well.
We’re digging deep in to urban farming on this trip In Your Neighborhood.
“We have a lot of great black female farmers here in Indianapolis,” Victoria Beaty noted.
Now, as the executive director of Growing Places Indy, Beaty is one of them. She’s working to propel their mission of cultivating urban agriculture through urban farming, mind-body education and entrepreneurship.
With the help of a full-time farm manager and over 400 volunteers, Growing Places is literally growing that mission at each their four urban lots: one at White River State Park, two in the Cottage Home neighborhood, and their principal location on the Arsenal Tech Campus.
“You’re looking at our main farm lot… we have two shipping containers where we actually have a fridge back there where we store all of our produce,” Beaty pointed out. “We have a wash station. And these are all of our in ground crops, so we have kale, collards, chard back there.”
“We use all organic practices at our farm. We don’t use any chemicals whatsoever… That’s part of our mission is to make sure we’re growing food the right way,” she added.
On the main lot, you’ll also find two greenhouses as well as a farm stand, which is open every Thursday from 2-5pm.
So how do their prices compare with your local grocery store?
“Oftentimes, it’s a lot cheaper because the produce is a lot fresher… If it goes to the grocery store, it traveled probably thousands of miles, there have been multiple hands going through and packaging it so it’s a lot safer and it will last a lot longer because it’s a lot fresher,” Beaty said.
Not only is Growing Places Indy growing the food, harvesting and washing it, but they are making sure it’s accessible through fair pricing, providing fresh produce to local food pantries, offering 50% produce for those on SNAP benefits, work-share programs and through hosting the Indy Winter Farmers Market.
“[It’s] one of the largest winter markets in the winter and happens from November to April… and we have vendors from all over the county and the city that come in and set up shop and you can meet your local farmers.”
They also offer a weekly subscription box through their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.
“People can come and commit to 3 hours a week and they can go away with a box of produce,” she explained.
One particular focus for Beaty since becoming Growing Places’ Executive Director has been on highlighting black local farmers and bringing light to the social injustices happening to black people all over the country.
“There’s also discrimination not only when you walk down the street but there’s a lot of discrimination built into our systems and that includes our food system as well,” she shared.
Beaty is working to break down barriers and undo the racism in the urban farming and agriculture industry by introducing programs and workshops for children that will enable them to gain the knowledge and experiences to have a sustainable career in agriculture.
“You can actually do a lot of things. You don’t have to just be a farmer. You can be in technology, you can do science,” she said. “And that can all help us make sure we’re growing food for everyone in the world.”
With Beaty at the helm, Growing Places has re-tooled their website and blog to serve as a resource to connect people to their local farmers (with a blog post entirely dedicated to connecting Hoosiers with black farmers) and with information on how to grow their own food. It’s a skill that became more valuable than ever during the COVID19 crisis.
“When the pandemic happened, we really wanted to make sure that we were also a resource for not just food, but for information as well,” Beaty explained. “So we kind of redeveloped our blog to make sure people can find resources on how they can actually get food locally from their local farmer.”
They’ve also been fielding many questions from Hoosiers who are looking to be more self-sustainable.
“They e-mail us all types of questions, like how to store seeds because you can store seeds and grow them next season or in the fall,” noted Beaty.
Interest has increased so much, she says many of their recent virtual workshops have sold out.
“There’s been a lot of interest in people just really looking to grow their own food, even if it’s just something small on their balcony to actually building out their whole garden,” she said.
Whether they’re giving volunteers hands-on lessons in urban farming or using their website to bridge the gap between local farmers and communities, Growing Places Indy is here to plant the seed.
“It’s really important for us to build out our local food system here so when something like that happens again, we have the resources to be able to feed ourselves,” she shared.
For more information about Growing Places Indy, check out their website by clicking here. To see more photos and reviews by local Yelpers, check out their Yelp profile. You can also connect with them on social media via Facebook and Instagram.
Four Things You Need to Know About Growing Places Indy:
- Just two years ago, Victoria Beaty was working in marketing for a global fast food giant. She learned everything about how the food system worked on the corporate end within the fast-food industry, but she wanted to learn more about how food was actually grown. Fortunately she stumbled upon a local non-profit called Growing Places Indy and enrolled in a program that not only educated her on urban farming, but completely changed her life. So much so, that she left the fast food industry and officially was named the Executive Director for Growing Places Indy in December 2019.
- Growing Places Indy’s mission states they are “Committed to building a more just and equitable food system in Indianapolis through urban farming, food access, mind-body education, and entrepreneurship.” They have four urban lots: one at White River State Park, two in the Cottage Home neighborhood, and their main lot and farm stand at the Boner Center on the Arsenal Tech High School Campus.
- Many consider Indiana to be a strong agriculture state, but Beaty revealed some surprising statistics data, including statistics from a 2018 Indy Food Council “State of the Food System” report indicating that Indiana imports more than 80% of our food. On a national scale, she said just 1% of farmers are black (based on a 2017 census report). So, breaking down some of those racial barriers and social injustices in our food system is a major focus for her going forward.
- One way Beaty plans to break down barriers is through kids programs and workshops to teach more about the opportunities available to everyone in the field of agriculture, from farming to science, technology and beyond. “We know there’s a barrier to entry with capital and resources,” she said. “So we want to make sure the people who are actually doing the work are supported so they can continue to do that work. And all those resources and information is on our website.”