A Progressive business leader, organic farmer, and government watchdog.
I grew up in a low income family near Desoto, Indiana. Low income is nice way of saying that we were poor. Dad worked his butt off everyday as an auto mechanic. My mom stayed home and took care of the kids and the house, and taught us the Bible, and cooked from scratch. We were poor, but unlike the old cliche, we knew it, but, we also knew there were others much worse off than us. We always had food, we never went hungry, and we always had clothes on our backs, even if I had to wear the same pair of jeans all week and my shoes had holes in them.
We gardened, mom sewed, cut our hair at home, and we cut firewood nearly every damn weekend. I started working early doing whatever I could to earn money from neighbors. My kids listen to this story and they can’t imagine how I could say that I didn’t have a horrible childhood, but the lessons that I learned from that time made me who I am today.
I spent a lot of time in nature, and fishing with my Grandpa was just about the funnest thing in the world. I became fascinated with wildlife and I had a great appreciation for the environment. When I wasn’t doing chores, I spent countless hours in the outdoors. Today I strongly believe we need to protect what is left for future generations.
School was not really emphasized in my house growing up, but I still managed to get myself into Ball State University. When I finished with college, I already had the bug to be an organic farmer. I had just met my amazing wife, Sara, and we moved out to California to do an internship on an organic farm with nothing more than hopes and dreams, a thousand dollars, and some camping gear. We learned a lot and we moved back home three years later to bring back the knowledge that we had gained and the notion that Indiana should have more organic farms.
It was our goal to show our generation and future ones that you could still move "back to the land" with no family land and no savings, and still be successful. It was of course, nearly impossible.
We were able to buy a very small farm at that time near Albany. We worked like dogs with no investment money, and we farmed full time for seven years. At the end of seven years we had found the right combination of products to keep us afloat, raising organic produce and eggs, but we were just barely getting by. About six years in we began to realize that there was not enough infrastructure left in place to make small scale farming successful here long term. There was plenty of demand, and we could see how it could work if you had more money and more infrastructure, but as it was, we were going to burn out if we didn't change course quickly. We could no longer do everything ourselves.
We always talked about how great it would be if there was just a small store in Muncie where we could drop off our products and know that they were going to be sold, and then we would be able to get back to the hard work of small diversified organic farming.
We were spending three days a week trying to sell our farm products when we needed 7 days a week to do the work on the farm. Then the opportunity came up to get into a small store space in downtown Muncie and we went for it. In the mean time Sara and I had supplemented our farming habit with jobs in the evening in the restaurant industry, and we did whatever it took to keep our heads above water. We were able to open the Farm Stand with a $10,000 loan from a friend in 2007. That included business licenses, inventory, rent, utilities, everything.
My whole life has been about doing a lot with a little and that has served me well and I know those skills can serve our part of the state very well. Eleven years later and we are still going strong and still growing at The Downtown Farm Stand, thanks in large part, to our loyal supporters that won't let us fail. But there is a lot we still need to do, and the rural culture and landscape needs restored. Hard core drugs and poverty are rampant, and most of us are in the class of working poor, and that can't continue. I want to work together with you to get things done and to make things better. Government is overreaching into our lives, and far too often telling us what we can't do instead of what we can. We know what ideas we need to move ahead to make improvements, now let's fight back together, put government in the hands of everyday people, and see if we can once again, accomplish a lot with a little.