ANDERSON — Step inside. The air is warm and humid. A puff of mist gently wafts over you. Green, growing things stretch out before you in long rows. Winter may be encroaching on Indiana’s fields, but Aspire’s Harvestland Farm remains in the growing groove right here in Madison County.
“All of our hoop houses are pretty much filled to the max,” said farm manager David Robb. Harvestland has almost 20,000 square feet in a half dozen hoop houses, all but one of which are heated. They are kept at 40 degrees throughout the winter. “There’s a wide variety of crops that do well.”
Everything from lettuce, dandelions, radishes, arugula, spinach, kale, radishes, celery, a raft of herbs and plenty more green things are busily pushing their way skyward, planted in the ground under the plastic-tarped structures.
“Our best money comes from selling off-season,” said Robb, noting the desirability of fresh local produce in the middle of winter. On top of that, Harvestland’s product is grown naturally and chemical-free. The produce goes to markets, restaurants, farmers markets and co-ops in Indiana. It’s also available for purchase at the Farm Stand on site at Harvestland.
The farm also has eight drop sites for Community Supported Agriculture members, who number over a hundred.
Harvestland isn’t just about growing produce, however. The other big part of its mission is employment and training for persons with disabilities. Aspire’s Barbara Scott launched the program six years ago in the city of Anderson.
“She had a real passion for growing good food and providing employment for people with disabilities,” said Robb. He has overseen farm operations at the current location on Indiana 32 west of Anderson for about five years.
“We’re a training ground,” said Robb. “There’s a lot of support here. They work in crews. They can have their questions answered.” He also pointed out, “If they’re employed here, they know how to work. This is hard work.”