Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a ground breaking ceremony for Lifeline Farms in Connersville. Joined by leaders in our community, the ceremony marked the beginning of construction for the large scale organic vegetable business, which could support up to 20 jobs in our area.
The company will grow organic vegetables, certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in farming facilities, known as hoop houses. Those facilities will be built on 16 acres of cropland located along the North Indiana 1 roadway in the Airport Industrial Park. The first product grown will be lettuce, but in the future, each hoop house could have up to eight different crops in a year. Eventually, the facilities could be used for aquaculture, cultivating salmon, in which their waste could be used as plant fertilizer.
As a rural community, agriculture is essential to our local and state economies. This is why the General Assembly continued to expand opportunities for Hoosier farmers this past session. One of the opportunities we created was the Indiana Grown Initiative. By unanimously passing House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1039, the program is intended to market and promote Indiana produced agricultural products.
The Indiana Grown Initiative will be developed, administered, marketed and promoted by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA). HEA 1039 also creates the Indiana Grown Commission which will provide technical assistance and industry knowledge to support the ISDA when implementing the program. The commission will help connect grocers, wholesalers, and processors with Indiana-based producers of meat, fruits, vegetables and more. Other states have successfully created similar programs, which has led to millions of dollars in new economic value.
It is important to generate a Hoosier-centric brand that will promote Indiana agriculture produced goods both within our state and throughout the country. Indiana is a strong agricultural state but still imports nearly 90 percent of its food. By promoting Indiana agriculture, Hoosiers purchasing local produce can support area businesses, boosting our state’s economy.