LEBANON — Joel and Holly Woody didn’t grow up on farms. They have degrees in teaching (Joel teaches at Lebanon High School) and business management and accounting, but didn’t have a lot of experience growing plants and vegetables. They did have three young boys and a heart for the community.

Three years ago, the Woodys purchased 11 acres of land on the south side of Lebanon and started out small with growing some high-yield vegetables and attending local farmers’ markets throughout the summer.

Holly began educating herself through the Purdue Extension, learning about best organic farming practices and more.

What started as a fun family idea grew into a true passion for farming and a desire to offer organic, healthy fruits and vegetables to the community at an affordable price.

“Our heart and soul is really just to reach out to the families in our community,” Holly said. “Price matters to a lot of families and we wanted to be able to offer SNAP and WIC and be mobile, so you won’t see us at farmers’ markets this year because we have the mobile veggie wagon now. Cost, transportation and location shouldn’t be barriers to healthy food.”

They will bring the veggie wagon to certain spots across Lebanon on a regular basis: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at Donaldson’s Finer Chocolates, 5 to 8 p.m. Fridays at That Sports Bar, and 5 to 8 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at Chicken Nugget and Gang animal rescue and sancutary.

Outside of those scheduled events, the Woody family has designed some special ways to reach out to the community and bring people directly to their farm.

“We have a community support agriculture program,” Holly said. “It’s a way the community can support the farm and then we can support the community. The customer pays ahead for the season and receives a weekly vegetable bag full of different veggies. They can pick up at the farm or there are several pick up locations around town for convenience.”

Not only does the program help support the Woody family and what they are accomplishing, it also gives families fresh veggies they may not have tried before, or options for healthy meals.

“We plant about 40 different varieties of vegetables and in the weekly bag you’ll have everything from heirloom tomatoes, peppers, onions, squash, sweet corn and more,” she said.

The farm is run organically with no pesticides and natural spaces for their animals. With more than 30 chickens and a few goats, they are able to offer fresh eggs. Holly uses the goat milk for goat milk soap and grows her own luffas for a natural, skin moisturizing alternative.

The farm includes several fruit trees for which Holly makes jams, jellies, apple butter and utilizes the leftover vegetables to make salsa — all available on the veggie wagon.

With more people looking for better choices to eat, getting healthy and focusing on time at home with the family, Wisewood Farm and all its offerings couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I saw it happen last year; I think people were more interested in local goods,” Holly said. “The healthy aspect was important to me. Not only are we supporting each other and getting healthy food to the community, but we want to pass that on to our kids. I want my kids to be able to go out to the garden and eat a grape tomato and not worry about what pesticides might be on it.”

The three boys also get in on the gardening and wagon operation, something Joel and Holly had planned from the beginning.

“Each child picks one thing to plant that year and we’ll work on that together. For instance, this year, Levi has watermelons. He checks on them, waters and weeds and we call them Levi’s Watermelons,” Holly said. “They are 9, 7 and 2 and their involvement really depends on age. But we want them to be invested. That’s why I put them in charge of one vegetable.

“One of the reasons we wanted to move to a farm is because we wanted to have an active lifestyle, space for the boys to run and explore and learn how to work hard. There’s purity in knowing ‘I grew it and now I’m selling it.’ Things aren’t just delivered to them and they don’t know where it comes from. They’re able to see a bigger world picture.”

The family has worked to bring others in to enjoy the farm as well.

For the past couple of years, they’ve had a large fall festival, complete with U Pick Pumpkins (free, but with a donation box for those who wish to donate something), hay wagon rides, animal visits, sugar cookie decorating, and local product vendors ranging from apple butter and apple cider to popcorn, honey, maple syrup and other merchandise.

They’ve also offered a U Pick Flower Patch area of the farm so families can enjoy fresh bouquets of wildflowers. New this year, Wisewood Farms will offer tea parties among the flower patch.

A local, trained chef will prepare finger sandwiches, fresh scones and desserts for guests. Cold and hot tea will be available and each guest can pick a bouquet of flowers at the end of their private event.

They have also opened their doors to homeschooled students and small groups, offering short lessons paired with volunteer services, harvesting or weeding the crops.

“That’s always a really unique experience,” Holly said. “Some of them don’t know where their food is coming from and they’re all from diverse backgrounds. I had one teenager say he’d never picked a green bean before. He was super excited about that.”

With a heart for the community, the Woodys invite families out to visit, learn more about the farm operation, see the animals and pick a few of their own vegetables.

For more information, visit the website at https://www.wisewoodfarm.com.

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