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Friday, Feb. 23
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion food

OPINION: The joy and practicality of free produce

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Having a minor in sustainability studies has its perks. The never-ending discussions about John Muir and “What IS the environment, though? What is nature? What is anything?” get a little old, but the actual environmental knowledge?  

Yeah, it’s helpful.  

I know a good, sustainable idea when I see one, you know? And I’m not going to say growing up in Fishers, Indiana has been pure sunshine — we’ve had a lot of dark days, and still do, which could be a whole different article (or series of articles) — but I still have faith in it. I still love it. And I still wouldn’t have wanted to be raised anywhere else, if I’m being honest. This place has given me a lot — including the 33-acre masterpiece called the AgriPark. 

The AgriPark — which is considered an “urban farm” managed by my hometown’s parks department — houses livestock, a trail, a playground and fields of produce. It sits near Geist Reservoir, which is, again, a whole different article. Let’s just say the AgriPark being near Geist is...funny. It’s funny. If you haven’t kayaked by an ugly multi-million-dollar home on a murky reservoir, don’t do it. It’s genuinely not something you need to tick off your bucket list.  

[Related: Kelley School of Business creates Institute for Environmental and Social Sustainability]

Anyway, it’s the AgriPark's produce that I’m particularly interested in here in terms of sustainability. The park offers a U-pick program during the season — which runs from May to October — allowing Fishers residents to take home free produce from the fields when said produce becomes readily available. 

It’s a simple, straightforward method that can help communities stay well-fed and teach the importance of eating healthy. For instance, just this past Wednesday, I participated in the U-pick — I got to take home some of my favorite greens, including kale, spinach, mustard greens and lettuce. It was so, so easy: I pulled up in the Albin family’s 2003 red Honda Odyssey, parked the car and walked up to a tent where two friendly AgriPark workers gave me a box. They informed me that the rows of produce with orange cones by them were ripe for the pickin’, so I ventured off into the fields, set on returning with an overflowing basket of goodies. 

I did forgo the kohlrabi and arugula that was available this time, but I know there’ll be future visits when I can pick some up — because it’ll be around. So far, from what I can tell, the program has been successful. The park was littered with parents and their kids wandering around, picking produce, enjoying the sunny, slightly windy day. I loved seeing parents helping their kids interact with the natural world, deliberately taking time to peel them away from the ever-evolving world of phones, tablets and computers. 

After carefully picking out my goodies, I waltzed on back to the tent, where the workers poured the greens I selected into a bag for me to take home. They also offered me free copies of the “Fishers Community Cookbook” — which I instantly started flipping through — and a recipe for kale slaw, which I know I’ll be making sometime soon.  

[Related: Bloomington city council passes resolution to create regional climate coalition]

It’s hard to just say, “Every community needs to do something like this.” I want to say that. Of course I want to say that. I didn’t minor in sustainability studies because I don’t care about the planet; it’s obviously the opposite. But I’m cognizant of the fact that some places don’t have the funding, some places don’t have the space and some places don’t have the right leaders to allow for something like this to even be an idea. But I’ll always push for that, anyway.  

I’ll always push for us to move in the right direction. 

Because I’m not really sure how free produce can be a bad thing. Like — for anyone. If you think it is, you probably make at least six figures and have comfortably made six figures for quite some time. Just saying. 

Ellie Albin (she/her) is a senior studying journalism with a minor in sustainability studies and certificate in rock ‘n’ roll history. She’s on Team Conrad. 

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