Indiana Uplands Winter Food Conference

On January 30th, 2020, Indiana University's Sustainable Food Systems Science and the Center for Rural Engagement hosted the Indiana Uplands Winter Food Conference at StoneGate Arts and Education Center in Bedford, IN.

The conference was designed to bring practitioners together from different economic and community food sectors to learn and share interests in developing our regional food system. Attendees included farmers, food businesses, chefs, food service directors, economic development officers, technical assistance agencies, elected officials, community organizations, health coalitions and organizations, farmers markets, food access organizations, students, and more.

Guest speakers Leslie Schaller and Adam Cody of The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, or ACEnet, presented on innovations, partnerships, and successful models for building a regional food economy in Ohio. They shared data and strategies learned over the organization's past 30 years of operation and encouraged attendees to explore how similar strategies could be applied to food systems work in the rural Indiana Uplands Region. 

You can see the powerpoint of their presentation here.

Morning breakout sessions included:

Market managers, farmers, supporting organizations, and local food eaters were invited to join this session to learn about different types of farmers markets’ and activities to increase market participation. Attendees were invited to share what they are doing at their markets that they like and to learn what others are doing that is successful. Attendees discussed creating an online market using the Market Wagon platform.

Presenter: Amber Kelly, Historic Newburgh Farmers' Market and Market Wagon, an online farmers' market for Indiana.

Resources handed out to attendees or referenced by presenter:

Farmers' Market Vending: A Guide for Indiana Specialty Crop Producers - a 44 page guide to planning and launching a specialty crop farmers market booth for beginners and experienced vendors

Guidelines for Home-based Vendors - presentation from Lisa Harrison from the Indiana State Department of Health on what products do and do not qualify under Indiana's HBV rules 


Visit the new Farmer's Market section of the Indiana Grown program online! 


Food and farm economies can thrive if public policy and community engagement support equitable access to the food system. This session focused on what a food council or network can do, and why a food council may be important for the Indiana Uplands region.

Presenter: Angela Babb, Indiana University Sustainable Food Systems Science and Bloomington Food Policy Council

Resources handed out to attendees or referenced by presenter:

Establishing a Regional Food Network Powerpoint Presentation


Educational and healthcare institutions are demonstrating a stronger commitment to local procurement, but the opportunity of connecting farmers, local food producers, and food service professionals presents unique challenges. Value chain coordinators are people working between growers and buyers to connect the dots by offering creative solutions and strategies to make local food purchasing a reality for institutional buyers like schools.

Presenter: Leslie Schaller, ACEnet

Resources handed out to attendees or referenced by presenter: 

Powerpoint presentation outlining Ohio Farm to School efforts 

Quicksheets for Value Chain Coordination - an assortment of resources made available by the Wallace Center meant to introduce the skills of value chain coordination and the impact effective value chain coordination has on a community, as well as to assist value chain coordination practitioners in measuring the impacts they have

Following lunch, Dr. Rhonda Phillips, Dean of the Honors College and Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, moderated a panel discussion on value chain coordination featuring four regional value chain coordinators who have been hired by our grant partner organizations to help increase local food sales to wholesale buyers throughout the state. Conference attendees were able to ask questions of the panelists about their roles as value chain coordinators in our regional food system.

Afternoon breakout sessions included: 

Agritourism is a growing industry for Indiana farmers and consumers. In 2017, 393 farms generated $8 million in revenue from agritourism activities. This reflects a 42% increase in the number of farms and a 75% increase in revenues for agritourism operations in Indiana since 2012. This session focused on how we might work together in the Indiana Uplands to coordinate, promote, and support agritourism businesses.

Presenters: Roy Ballard, Purdue Extension-Retired; Arann Banks, Jackson County Visitor Center


Resources handed out to attendees or referenced by presenter:  

Indiana Agritourism Resources - an online guide for agritourism attractions in Indiana

Vermont Agritourism Resources Website - a hub for a number of resources on developing agritourism assets including: 


This session explored the concepts of shared-use processing facilities including shared-use kitchens, community kitchens, shared meat processing facilities, and establishing a butcher shop for farmers. Several speakers shared about their experiences managing facilities and the types of technical assistance, business assistance, and economic contribution these maker spaces for food can generate for a rural region.

Adam Kody, ACEnet; Nate Brownlee, Nightfall Farm; Jay Burton, One World KitchenShare


Resources handed out to attendees or referenced by presenter:  

Powerpoint Presentation

Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs - Guidance for Communities and Facility Operators  

Shared Kitchen Toolkit - A Guide to Planning, Launching, and Managing a Shared-Use Commercial Kitchen

Indiana Grown for Schools, led by the Indiana State Departments of Health and Agriculture, is an initiative to help schools procure more locally grown and raised food for school food services. In this session attendees received a buyers’ guide for local food, learned more about the ways school food service directors can purchase locally grown food, and how administrators, students, parents and teachers can lead and participate in creating healthy, local food environments at our schools.

Presenters: Naima Gardner, Indiana State Department of Health; Heather Tallman, Indiana State Department of Agriculture


The last two hours of the conference hosted a cooking demonstration by Megan Songer of Indy Hunger Network, who is a full-time instructor for the national Cooking Matters program, and also allowed time for networking, with space provided for attendees to sit down with presenters for one-on-one or small group curbside consulting.

The day was full of connections and conversations that crossed county boundaries and wove together different focus areas in food systems work - a great way to kick off another year of working together to strengthen our regional food system.

For speaker bios, and the full program of the day, click here.

For the Indiana Uplands: Local Food, Local Good report released at the conference, click here.

If you would like to get involved in future events, join us for the first meeting of the Indiana Uplands Food Network in Paoli, IN on March 19th, 2020 from 1-4 pm at the First Presbyterian Church.