Indiana Uplands Winter Food Conference 2021

The 2021 Indiana Uplands Winter Food Conference was virtual this year!

Spread out over the course of three weeks, we hosted daily lunch hour sessions from 12:00 -1:00 pm EST covering topics from school and community gardens to food as medicine, connecting the value chain and, last but not least, a chocolate tasting and deconstruction of the chocolate value chain. Explore links and recordings from the conference in this playlist curated by the Center for Rural Engagement here.

Conference Schedule

Explore the dropdown menu below or click here to download the full conference program booklet. 

Monday, January 25, 12-1:30 pm: Opening Session - Planning for Emergence: Creative Adaptations for the Pandemic

Rosie Sill, Earth Song Farm; Joni Muchler and Keith Nance, West Washington County School Corporation; Lauren McCalister, The Plant Truck Project; Rachel Beyer, City of Bloomington

Hear from several food system leaders in the region about how they pivoted to address the challenges presented by Covid-19, what they learned through the process, and what new strategies they may be keeping for the long run. Suggested pre-reading: "Planning for Emergence" by Ken Meter

Tuesday, January 26, 12-1 pm: Educational Gardens: Engaging Kids, Parents, and the Community at Large

M. Claus, Hilltop Gardens; Jamie Hooten, Lincoln Elementary

M. Claus from Hilltop Gardens will offer an introduction to the Junior Master Gardener (JMG) program and overview of the JMG curricula, with special emphasis on the Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go! curriculum. The Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go! curriculum was developed for and shaped by a five-year school garden, nutrition, and physical activity intervention study with students in 28 Title 1 elementary schools. Jamie Hooten will follow with a presentation on the Lincoln Green Thumbs Garden Project and the incredible engagement it has received from students, parents, and the community.

Wednesday, January 27, 12-1 pm: Planning, Funding, and Executing a Successful Community Garden Project

Bridget Anderson, Patronicity; Barry Jeskewich

Barry Jeskewich and Bridget Anderson talk about the different steps involved in dreaming, planning, funding, executing, and maintaining the Bedford Community Garden Project and how you might be able to realize similar dreams for your community.    

Thursday, January 28, 12-1 pm: How a Non-Profit Organization Can Help Grow Community Through a Network of Gardens

Sara Stewart, Unity Gardens

Sara Stewart walks us through Unity Gardens' journey of the past 11 years. Learn how this uniquely dignified free food model has sprouted broad food security and welcoming green space throughout the community. ​ With over 55 community gardens under their umbrella, Unity Gardens is an example of how non-profits can help support a network of programs that puts the unity in community.  

Friday, January 29, 12-1 pm: Lunchtime Networking Open Chat

Discussion: Implementing community and school garden programs in your community, led by Jacob Simpson

Tuesday, February 2, 12-1 pm: Food as Medicine - Exploring Key Partnerships for Long-term Programs

Allison Finzel, Purdue Extension; Mark McInerney, Rush University      

Join Allison Finzel, Purdue Extension and Mark McInerney, Rush University, to learn more about the produce prescription program in Terre Haute and how a church garden, dietician students, extension, research faculty, and health care providers have assembled and worked to build a long-term program for "food as medicine" in their community. Alli and Mark will discuss their key partnerships in addition to curriculum, challenges, successes and future planned programming for an 8-county region.    

Wednesday, February 3, 12-1 pm: Local Food Box and Nutrition Prescription Programs: Collaborating for Success in Orange County

Dr. Julia Valliant, Indiana University; Brandon Query Bey, Lost River Market and Deli 

Join Julia DeBruicker Valliant and Brandon Query Bey as they present about efforts in Orange County Indiana for "food as medicine". Multiple partners, including the Southern Indiana Community Health Clinic, Lost River Market and Deli, and Indiana University Sustainable Food Systems joined efforts to conduct applied research to better understand if healthy food and a structured box program paired with cooking education can positively contribute to patients who have diabetes. Julia will describe the research and biometrics and consumer behavior data collection and preliminary results, and Brandon will present about the multiple box programs from Lost River and the Cooking Matters integration of programming.    

Thursday, February 4, 12-1 pm: Cooking Matters Toolkit: How to Bring Cooking Education Programs to Your Community

Megan Songer and Claire Crosby, Indy Hunger Network

Watch a Cooking Matters demo video before the session to get a taste for the healthy, delicious, and affordable meals children, teens, and families learn through the Cooking Matters program. Then enjoy your lunch during the session while Megan Songer and Claire Crosby of Indy Hunger Network walk you through their Cooking Matters Toolkit designed to help you understand whether Cooking Matters might be a good program for your organization or community.         

Friday, February 5, 12-1 pm: Lunchtime Networking Open Chat

Discussion: Implementing food as medicine and cooking programming in your community, led by Claire Frohman

Local and regional food systems are built on networks of people and lines of trust and communication. Value chains are the connections that include ‘transactional partners’ (those who are buying and selling food) and ‘supporting actors’ (those who support transactions). Learn more about roles, types of value chains and how you may already be participating in one of these arenas.

Tuesday, February 9, 12-1 pm: Introduction to Food Value Chains: Connecting a Region of Suppliers and buyers - 

Sarah Rocker, Penn State University

This session will introduce the framework of value chain coordination as a network oriented strategy for developing local and regional food systems. This session will define the roles of value chain coordination, types of actors who are coordinated and types of individuals and entities who perform the activities of coordination.

Wednesday, February 10, 12-1 pm: Roles and Market Channels of Coordinating Professionals

Sarah Rocker, Penn State University

This session will discuss the dimensions of prioritizing and focusing value chain coordination efforts, which include geography, market channels, product, values and stakeholders. This session includes an interactive exercise for participants to map their own work and strategies to identify partners to support their food systems coordinating efforts.

Thursday, February 11, 12-1 pm: Value Chains and Me: An Exploration of Community Roles

Jodee Ellett, Indiana University Sustainable Food Systems Science

Join us for a discussion of the Indiana Value Chain Network and how we are building a new way to support local and regional food system stakeholders in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Our approach to support a diversity of value chains is ready for a vision for expansion. After learning about value chains in the prior sessions, come and join the discussion to brainstorm how you might join, participate and enhance the work for Indiana.

Friday, February 12, 12-1:30 pm: Chocolate [deconstructed]

Anya Royce, Indiana University; Jorge Rios Allier

In this final session of the conference, we will deconstruct the chocolate value chain, learn more about how chocolate is made and, with chocolate in hand, we will be led through a chocolate tasting by IU Professor Anya Royce! ( Attendees who register for this session by Monday, January 18th will receive their own chocolate tasting bars in the mail so that we may all enjoy the same tastes and experience together! While registrations after the 18th will not receive chocolate in the mail, the featured chocolates are available at most grocery stores. Please refer to our program booklet for details.)

Before the session begins, we invite you to watch, at your convenience, this pre-recorded video from IU graduate student, Jorge Rios Allier, showing us how to make chocolate from cocoa beans.

Then, join us for the session to learn more about chocolate's value chain and history from Professor Anya Royce, who will enlighten us about how chocolate gets from beans to your home, and will lead us through a chocolate tasting together! We will wrap up with a poem about chocolate and will share a robust list of chocolate-themed movies, documentaries, and literature for you to enjoy over Valentine's Day Weekend! 


Agenda at a Glance

All sessions from 12:00-1:00 pm EST unless otherwise noted

Click here to download PDF.

Conference Speakers

Rosie Sill, co-owner of Earth Song Farm in Greene County, is a year-round grower. Earth Song Farm's chemical free produce is available through a summer and fall CSA and can be found at farmers' markets through all four seasons.


Joni Muchler is a second year Nutrition Director at West Washington School Corporation. She has a Masters in Health Administrations with an undergraduate in Nutrition, and spent 5 years as a Health and Human Sciences Educator with Purdue Extension where she developed a passion for enhancing nutrition in the lives of others.

Keith Nance is the Superintendent of West Washington School Corporation in Washington County.

Lauren McCalister is a farmer-owner of Three Flock Farm in Ellettsville, IN, a community activist, and founder of the Plant Truck Project, a BIPOC-led initiative making plants, seeds, medicine and healthy food accessible for those historically denied land and food sovereignty due to discrimination based on race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity and citizenship status.

Rachel Beyer is the Local Food Coordinator for the City of Bloomington, working on a USDA grant project to connect Indiana farmers with institutional buyers.  Her background is in organic vegetable production and she has been a manager and educator on small farms around the Midwest for ten years, including most notably the Michigan State Student Organic Farm and the Purdue Student Farm. She and her husband operate a market garden, called Mavourneen Farm, on family land in rural Monroe County.

M. Claus is a Purdue Master Gardener, Junior Master Gardener Program Leader, and certified Grow Organic Educator. She serves on the Executive Board of the Monroe County Master Gardener Association, Inc. and on the Board of Directors of the George E. Archer Foundation. Her focus is on small farms, home vegetable gardening, and youth gardening programs. Claus is the Garden Outreach Instructor at Hilltop Garden and Nature Center at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.

Jamie Sterling Hooten is a third-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Bedford, Indiana. She has woven gardening into her science curriculum for years and, in 2016, she began a school-wide after school garden club for all students.  She has been a Land of Limestone Master Gardener since 2017.

Bridget Anderson is the Director at Patronicity, a crowdfunding platform designed to support creative placemaking projects around the country. It's powerful work that empowers hyperlocal community development and investment. She also hosts the Building Vibrant Communities Podcast and is the Lead Consultant and Community Advocate for Bench Consulting, and has over six years working with statewide and national non-profits including civil justice and educational organizations as well as six years serving elected officials and political campaigns. Anderson graduated from Indiana University with a degree in political science and is inspired by civic engagement as a means to improve lives.



While serving as Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Bedford, Barry Jeskewich established a 5-acre park centered around a public garden; complete with 74 plots, 12 raised beds, a 2k sqft greenhouse, and extensive value-added sources to support the publics’ food system. Previously, Barry managed the first certified organic working orchard in the state of Utah, and served as president of the Springdale Farmers Market at the same location.

Camryn Greer serves as the Community Programs Director at Patronicity, spending her days supporting creative placemaking projects around the country. She recently graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with a double Masters in nonprofit management and arts administration where she spent her time studying the ways that arts, culture, and quality of place can feed into almost every aspect of human life. Her current work with Patronicity is primarily focused on helping communities across the state of Connecticut plan, implement, and fund more sustainable practices and infrastructure. When not working, she spends most of her time hiking, crafting, and pining for the Appalachian mountains.

Sara Stewart serves as the Executive Director at Unity Gardens, actively working in administrative, labor, and development activities. Stewart has 16 plus years in business administration in the community health setting, specializing in third party health care reimbursement and Medicaid.  Her recent role as a Professor of Community Health Nursing in conjunction with her research focus on the culture of poverty adds to her ability to connect with and serve all of the communities with which she works.

Allison Finzel is a Community Wellness Coordinator with Purdue Extension Nutrition Education Program (NEP) serving Vigo and Vermillion counties. NEP is funded by two federal funding streams: SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education Division) and EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program). Community Wellness Coordinators work to improve nutrition and health of audiences in limited-resource communities statewide by concentrating on NEP’s five focus areas: diet quality, physical activity, food security, food safety and food resource management. Together with her community partners, Finzel works to make policy, systems, and environmental changes, with the goal to make the healthy choice the easy choice. 

Mark McInerney is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Nutrition at Rush University in Chicago, IL. His teaching and research are focused in the area of community nutrition, in particular identifying ways to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among marginalized communities for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.

Julia Valiant is a public health researcher trained in the social determinants of health. Agriculture and food focus her work, as forces guiding a people's ability to be well in a place. This includes farm policy. Some particular interests include how the history of public health intersects with that of agriculture, and especially animal agriculture; participatory research methods; and multimedia translation.  

Brandon Query Bey is the Healthy Initiatives Coordinator at Lost River Market and Deli in Paoli, IN. He has been working at Lost River Market for almost 4 years. Before working at the market, he and his wife and were brought to Orange County through an apprenticeship at Living Roots Farm and Sustainability Center and then went on to manage their own mini farm where they sold produce at a local farmers' market. 

Megan Songer-Gendig is the Cooking Matters Program Manager for Indy Hunger Network. She graduated from IUPUI in 2016 with her B.S. in Public Health with an emphasis on Community Health. In her last year of college, she was a wellness intern at a camp for children from low-income families, where she realized how much Marion County struggles with food insecurity. Her favorite memory was having the children try smoothies; many of the children had never tried the fresh fruits and asked for more. That experience led her to join the Indy Hunger Network in April 2017 as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Cooking Matters program, and she now oversees that program as a full-time staff member. Megan enjoys teaching others the importance of cooking a healthy, nutritious meal on a budget. 

Claire Crosby is the Nutrition Promotion Coordinator VISTA for the Indy Hunger Network. Claire was born and raised in south Louisiana and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky in human nutrition. After studying abroad in Ghana, West Africa, Claire became interested in the connection between nutrition and other social and economic conditions as drivers to health. She took her newfound perspective of nutrition and health and decided to work directly with University of Kentucky students to improve food access on campus. Claire volunteered her time with Campus Kitchen to process and cook nutritious meals for students, and implemented a meal swipe bank for students to receive meals when struggling to meet basic needs. After her year with Indy Hunger Network, Claire hopes to start an MD program to blend the roles of providing excellent care and improving aspects of communities that affect health. 

Sarah Rocker is an independent researcher and rural sociologist at Penn State University engaging with public and private agencies, businesses and organizations in research and evaluation of agriculture, food systems and value chain coordination. 

Anya Peterson Royce is a Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University with a focus on local and global identities; anthropology of dance, performance, popular theater; ethnic identity, aesthetics and creative processes; indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica; death belief and ritual; anthropological writing; landscapes and identities.


Jorge Luis Allier is pursuing his Ph.D. in the Archeology and Social Context program in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University. He completed his doctoral research project on cultural heritage management in Oaxaca, Mexico, and he has studied the culture, history, processing and production of chocolate.


Jodee Ellett leads the Community Engagement element of our project in Indiana working to enhance partnerships with communities as they address food system issues. Her asset-based community development approach involves communities in the exploration of ideas and opportunities in the food system and provides ongoing support in sustainable food systems science. Jodee steers the Indiana Food Council Network, supporting our grassroots community food system councils and is working with farmers and buyers to build an Indiana Value Chain Network. Jodee earned a BA in Botany from the University of Montana and an MS in Plant Biology from the University of California, Davis. 


Jacob Simpson supports the work of Indiana University's Center for Rural Engagement by building relationships with community members who collaborate with IU faculty, students, and staff to foster a more resilient Indiana. Living in Iowa along the Mississippi River for most of his life, Jacob is excited to now call the Hoosier land home. Prior to joining IU, he collaborated with the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability and various university and community stakeholders to develop a plan for a garden and outdoor classroom on the main campus.


Claire Frohman ( serves as Regional Food Systems Assistant for the collaborative effort between Sustainable Food Systems Science and The Center for Rural Engagement to help strengthen the regional food system. Claire received her undergraduate degree from Vassar College in Sociology and Italian, and spent the years that followed exploring many avenues of food systems work, from sustainable farming to food service, permaculture design, food justice work, and youth gardening and cooking education. She now uses her diverse background to help navigate the multifaceted work of food systems development on campus and beyond.