Farming to feed: Noblesville First UMC’s Teter Organic Farm Ministry aims to give back

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By Sadie Hunter

 

A vision from Noblesville First United Methodist Church Pastor Aaron Hobbs has quickly rooted itself within the church and the Noblesville community. The vision? Teter Organic Farm Ministry.

Hobbs, who is beginning his sixth year as a pastor at the church, says the idea of growing produce and giving back locally wasn’t his.

“I’m in a program through the Lily Endowment that’s called the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program. We went to Vancouver, and while we were out there, I saw a farm, called Aroche Canada, in a suburb of Vancouver, very similar to what is now (Teter Organic Farm),” Hobbs said. “It provided food for the residents, and they had community meals on the farm where they invited neighbors to come.”

In 1981, the 120-acre farm at 10980 E. 221st St., Noblesville, was donated to the church by its owner, Ruth Teter, in her will.

“The only stipulation on the gift was that it be used for some kind of recreation. So, that kind of left it wide open. So, as I was sitting there looking at this thing, I was like, ‘Ding! Ding! Ding!’ The light bulb went off, because honestly, we didn’t really have a plan for this,” Hobbs said. “You know, we have some church picnics, and we have a worship center in the back where we have services on Sundays in the summer, but for the most part, it really wasn’t being utilized to its full potential.”

So far, Noblesville First UMC has built a cabin, a lodge, a pole barn, a house for the caretaker of the land, a playground and a shelter on the land. But this year, with the help of community and church volunteers and Indy Urban Acres, the ministry has planted more than an acre of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that will be donated to the Come to Me Food Pantry in Fishers, including tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber, kale, watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant and more.

“(Indy Urban Acres) helped us get our crop plan in order, and on (May 21), we had a big planting day, and we had about 45 people that ranged in ages from 3 to 73 that came out, so it was really a great experience,” Hobbs said. “One thing we’ve already found is when people are out here working together, side-by-side, they have camaraderie, conversation, they build community, they learn from each other.”

LOOKING AHEAD

In the 34 acres just west of this year’s planting area, Hobbs said more organic farming will take place in the future, but currently, the soil isn’t in prime condition.

“The only problem with conventional farming is that they only put inputs in to grow corn and soybeans. So, there’s a not a whole lot of nutrients in the soil. We have to kind of replenish that for a couple years,” Hobbs said. “We had soil tests done by Cornell University … and they suggested some cover cropping and things to build it back up.”

For the past 30 years, the 34 acres has been conventionally farmed, by a local farmer, with corn and soybeans.

“This year, we asked him to have that property back, and now … he’s doing some custom work for us with our cover crop, buckwheat. We’re just going to plow it under to build soil.”

In addition to overall expansion, Hobbs said the ministry will grow flowers as a cash crop next year.

“Next year, we’re also going to have a CSA (community-supported agriculture), where people can buy shares,” Hobbs said. “Kind of the idea behind pricing will be if you buy a share, that will also then provide a share for someone in need.

“There are a lot of things down the road in the coming years that can kind of develop from this, but we wanted to start on this scale and get people together and let them have a good experience and learn a little bit about organic production,” he added.

WANT TO HELP OUT?

“Monday mornings and Tuesday evenings we have open volunteer hours, and people can come and go as they want,” Hobbs said. “Usually, we have about a dozen people that come on each of those days. They do whatever needs to be done at that time.”

Open volunteer hours are from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.

“We have about 75 volunteers total that have helped out here several hours this summer,” Hobbs said. “So, it’s been a good mix of folks. We have probably a good 20 volunteers who are very regular, that are every-week volunteers. We have several families that come out and do it together.”

Any age is welcome. To learn more about volunteering at Teter Organic Farm, email ahobbs@noblesvillefirst.com.


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