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Hope Smith, left, Alma White from the Stewart House Urban Farm and Garden, and Foy Spicer

NWI Food Council uses agriculture to connect communities

Contributed By:The 411 News

Eating local year round with Foy Spicer

“I haven’t bought garlic since 2015,” the speaker at the NWI Food Council’s Food Expo told her audience. Foy Spicer doesn’t dislike garlic; it’s just that she has learned how to grow and store garlic and dozens of vegetables harvested in her 480-foot backyard garden.

Spicer is from North Manchester, about 35 miles west of Fort Wayne. Even though her home sits amidst the farm fields of Wabash County, in Indiana’s breadbasket, she says it is hard to make a meal these days that doesn't contain something from our garden. She only grows what her husband and two children will eat.

Spicer’s workshop “Plan to Eat Local Every Day” was one of the presentations in the daylong expo at County Line Orchard that brought local farmers, specialty growers, home gardeners, and educators to teach and share the message of building a locally-oriented food system.

Using agriculture to connect communities across northwest Indiana has been the council’s focus since its start in 2015. Its influence stimulated the creation of the Gary Food Council, an umbrella organization supporting Gary’s urban farmers and home gardeners, urging them to collective action to provide healthy foods to their neighbors.

NWI Food Council volunteers helped construct hoop houses and garden beds at Gary's Faith Farms, next to Progressive Community Church.

This summer, a mobile food market will visit neighborhoods in Gary and East Chicago that don’t have access to fresh produce. The mobile market is a collaboration between the Legacy Foundation, Purdue Extension, City of Gary Environmental Affairs, and the NWI Food Council to expand marketing and local sales for farmers to reach residents in at least half of the 24 food desert census tracks in north Lake County.

In some years, about 50-80 percent of the Spicer family’s food is locally grown, including meats and dairy. She doesn’t use chemical fertilizers in her garden, and she seeks out food producers who don’t either.

Knowing how to store foods properly is a must, Spicer said for eating locally and when buying in bulk, which she does.

Spicer has kept a record of her yearly plans to feed her family from the garden and on locally grown foods. Follow her journey at

Purdue Cooperative Extension Service staff Janet Reed, left, Alva Muhammad, Theresa Mince, and Erin Sherrow-Hayse

Story Posted:02/27/2019

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