Brandywine Creek Farms Battles Hunger and Helps Community
Writer / Matt Keating
Imagine a program to help stop hunger in Indianapolis that also encourages and helps war veterans and at-risk kids.
Jonathan and Amanda Lawler have. The couple operate a special place called Brandywine Creek Farms in Greenfield. Their goal is to put an end to hunger in central Indiana, while also helping different groups of people in need of additional assistance.
Brandywine Creek Farms, located just 14 miles east of Indianapolis’ city limits, is a sustainable produce farm changing to nonprofit status to address food insecurity, while empowering at-risk youth and military veterans with hands on agriculture and horticulture training.
“What we do is very therapeutic for a lot of people,” Jonathan Lawler said over coffee at Mama Bear’s in Geist. “It gives them a feeling of being productive without any pressure, and they enjoy being outside.”
Brandywine Creek Farms previously operated as a for-profit business for several years and raised nearly 700,000 pounds of produce and pork.
Jonathan, executive director of Brandywine Creek Farms, said the first year goal of 500,000 pounds is a very realistic possibility based on the farm’s capacity and the addition of an army of volunteers committed to helping throughout the season.
“What we do is very therapeutic for a lot of people,” Jonathan said. “It gives them a feeling of being productive without any pressure, and they enjoy being outside.”
His wife Amanda agrees. “The at-risk kids we work with are happy to be put in nature. It grounds them to see how great growing something is,” she said.
The at-risk kids not only learn where their food comes from and how it is grown, but the value of helping others in need.
“Kids from urban areas who have really liked the program have told us they decided to go to Purdue University to study agriculture,” Amanda said.
Jonathan noted that the kids are really looking for a second chance. “When you are working side by side with someone and serving as a mentor, you can get them to open up about their problems. They know they have a friend who will listen to them and empathize.”
He added that working with livestock on the farm also provides educational opportunities as the kids and volunteers get to see the animals as part of the farm operation. The questions asked lead to some great conversations, and the kids end up learning a little about animal husbandry.
Brandywine Creek Farms has also partnered with Gleaners Food Bank, Kenneth Butler Soup Kitchen and many other food banks in the Indianapolis area as distribution partners.
Amanda said Brandywine Creek Farms also plans to offer four intern positions to U.S. military veterans who are interested in pursuing a specialty crop agriculture operation of their own.
The food donation initiative of Brandywine Creek Farms is called Project 23:22 in reference to Leviticus 23:22. This passage reads: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.”
“I love that passage because the farm is Biodynamic, meaning that large stands of trees and ground cover are kept to enrich the soil and environment,” Jonathan said.
Organic farming methods are utilized, and everything is kept as natural as possible, while still maintaining the same production standards as a conventional farm. Wildlife such as deer, hawks, foxes and great horned owls can all be seen at Brandywine Creek Farms. Jonathan also owns a transportation consulting firm and believed he could address food insecurity after his son talked about children at school who take food home from the school pantry.
“Hunger is not isolated,” Jonathan stated. “It can be an issue where you do not expect it.”
I thought about the large impact I could make if my farm’s production was directed at food banks and soup kitchens instead of retail and wholesale outlets. The great thing about Brandywine is that it gives people a food education, it’s an outreach program and it helps people with a limited income grow their own food.”
“To reach our goal of a half million pounds of local produce and meat donated to food banks, Brandywine Creek Farms will put 30 acres into production.”
One of the main goals is to increase acreage every season. The farm will be open to the public June 1-October 1. “We are still looking for more funding to get completely off the ground. We are still $62,000 short. We won’t be self-sufficient for six to seven more years.”
Lawler is excited to be teaming up with organizations such as Gleaners to increase the fight against hunger. “We are looking forward to working with so many different groups of people and inspiring them to make sure people don’t go hungry. We welcome all the help we can get.” Brandywine Creek Farms is located at 5332 North 400 East, Greenfield. Donations are currently being taken by mail or online at BrandywineCreekFarms.org.
Contact Jonathan Lawler and Brandywine Creek Farms at firstname.lastname@example.org, 317-246-8640 or on their Facebook page (Brandywine Creek Farms).