Couple finds their calling with organic produce
By Mark Ambrogi
The lure of farming came naturally to Kevin and Laura Channell.
“It skipped generations, but both of my grandparents were farmers, and Laura’s grandparents ran an orchard in southern Indiana,” Kevin said. “We grew up on the stories.”
The Channells are the owners of Zionsville’s Salem Farms on Hunt Club, which offers Community Agriculture memberships. The CSA concept was implemented on farms in the 1980s when small communities began to invest in their local farms for shares of the annual harvest before the growing season started.
“There are good opportunities in organic,” Kevin said. “We want to feed our family well and create community by having an open farm.”
Kevin and Laura are Center Grove High School graduates who fell in love while attending Indiana University. When the married couple decided to pursue a career together, farming seemed to be the right fit. So they decided to leave their home in Zionsville to start a commercial organic vegetable farm in Vermont in 2004.
They decided to sell their business and move back to Indiana after the birth of their twin sons in June 2013 to be closer to family. Kevin’s parents live in Johnson County while Lauren’s mother lives in Fishers and her father lives in Carmel.
Kevin said the farm was started about a year ago with 18 total acres, 10 tillable acres. The first thing they planted was garlic and strawberries.
“We put an acre-and-half in orchard and we’re growing small fruit and organic vegetables,” he said. “We sell a share of the harvest each season. So each week [members]pick up what’s available in season during that week. They pick up their summer shares from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and the fall share runs from Labor Day to Christmas.”
Salem Farms sold around 60 CSAs for this summer. The deadline for the fall CSAs is Aug. 31.
Most of the produce available this summer are vegetables. Kevin said the fruit takes a little longer to grow. CSA members receive a list of what is available in produce each week and they get to pick what they want.
“We also have a mix and match if there is something they don’t like or if they want more of something else,” he said. “They can swap with other members or swap recipes.”
Salem Farms has begun selling the land’s first crops on site as they become available.
“We’re planning our annuals for the season right now,” Kevin said. “We’ve gotten in another acre of strawberries for next year and quarter acre of raspberries and quarter acre of asparagus.”
The Channells are living in Lebanon while the family home on the farm site is being constructed. Kevin hopes it will be completed by early fall.
Laura’s role is on the administrative side of the farm. She said much of her focus on is their sons, Elias and Eliot.
“I did a lot of production and marketing on that operation,” Laura said of the Vermont farm. “This operation I’m a little less involved. I’m working more in the office and with marketing and sales.”
Prior to leaving for Vermont, Kevin was doing pastoral work for College Park Church, Indianapolis, and Laura was working for a builder and interior designer.
Meet Kevin Channell
Personal: Kevin, 39, graduated from Center Grove in 1994 and Indiana University in 1999, majoring in religious studies and humanities. His wife Laura, 37, graduated from Center Grove in 1996 and from IU in 2000. They married in 2000.
Favorite thing to grow: “I really love growing potatoes. You never know what you are going to get until you dig them. It’s like a little treasure every time. We love carrots, too. There’s nothing like a fresh carrot.”
Favorite place to take the kids: “Laura likes to walk the trails. We love Lions Park.”
Favorite Zionsville restaurant: Salty Cowboy
Best part of coming home: “Family and old friends.”
Salem Farms CSA memberships
Summer share: $500. Half summer share: $275.
Fall Share: $500. Half fall share: $275.
Full Season Share: $950.
For more information, visit salemfarmsonhuntclub.com