What does a healer look like? Is it a professional in a white coat? A nurturing elder passing down folk remedies? Can it be a farmer?
How do they heal? Do they consider the body alone or the systems in which the body lives – environmental, economical, nutritional?
We met with Roger and Mary Winstead, whose daily work broadens common perceptions of both healing and farming.
Roger and Mary each have backgrounds in agriculture. Growing up in Warrick County, Roger grew up on a family farm and was active in 4-H. As an adult, he became a landscape architect. Mary grew up around the corner from Roger on her parents’ plot of land, from which they grew and sold strawberries.
In 2015, the Winsteads were ready for a change and moved back to the remaining two acres of Roger’s childhood homestead to be closer to family. “We left careers and are seeing a dream come true, coming back to southern Indiana,” says Mary.
That dream involved a connection to local food – borrowing, aggregating, and growing what they needed to thrive. Forming a CSA – in which customers invest in a share of the season’s harvest, agreeing to accept the risks and benefits along with the farmers – allowed the Winsteads to support this lifestyle for themselves and their members. Their website now offers CSA shares, delivery options, and mushroom subscriptions, with even more exciting growth to come this year.
Always present has been a commitment to make farming organic and sustainable year-round. Caterpillar tunnels help control climate and moisture, allowing for a longer and more consistent growing season, but the Winsteads also rely heavily on the land’s natural gifts. “We do everything as regenerative as we can,” says Roger, “We’re stewards to soil health.” To attract pollinators, the Winsteads grow edible flowers, which also benefit crop rotation cycles.
Another asset to Beautiful Edibles is their mushrooms. Started as a hobby, the Winsteads quickly became passionate about the benefits to the soil, the high nutrient content, the wide variety, and the ability to grow year-round. The Winsteads now grow their mushrooms on an “urban farm” – a 1930s-era parking garage that also houses the growing system for APE Aquaponics, another local grower producing lettuces.
Back outside on the farm, a neighbor offered another mutually beneficial opportunity in the form of a former livestock pasture. The Winsteads planted squash there and yielded 400 pounds! The results were both delicious and improved the soil quality for grazing livestock.
When asked why the average consumer should care about the sourcing of their food, the Winsteads have many thoughtful reasons. For starters, food sourced closer to home is less likely to be affected by the supply chain issues that have become more common in recent years. The less food has to travel, it retains more nutrient density while maintaining a far lower carbon footprint. There’s a level of trust in being able to know one’s farmer and see where the food is grown. Rather than paying a large corporation, profits benefit family farmers, giving a leg up to those who have lacked the advantages of massive acreage or subsidized commodity crops. “You’re creating jobs. You’re creating an economy,” says Mary.
Many people are surprised at how productive smaller farms can be when properly managed.. “You can provide for your community on a one acre plot.” Another misconception is that local food can only be found during market season. Roger points out that even Chicago, for example, has indoor markets that operate throughout the winter. While selection varies from month to month, many favorites are still available year-round.
Restaurants have already become hooked on the benefits of Beautiful Edibles’ offerings. Because the Winsteads don’t pick their crops until they have a buyer, their items are extremely fresh and store well. “We hate food waste!” says Mary. Buyers have reported greens that stay fresh for weeks in the refrigerator – a stark contrast to how quickly bagged greens from the grocery store often turn. That freshness ensures more nutrients stay in the food, as well.
How can you enjoy Beautiful Edibles’ products in your own kitchen? Their website, www.beautifulediblesgrow.com/ offers a variety of products and ways to order – from pick-ups or deliveries to subscriptions. An even more exciting option is set to launch in April 2022 with a local food hub – Local Source! This farmers cooperative will allow consumers to shop from many local farms on a single website. Similar to Market Wagon, a national online outlet for local items which discontinued service to Evansville last December, Local Source promises to be even more advantageous for farmers and shoppers alike by keeping the profits circulating in the local economy. More effort will be invested in helping farmers be successful in producing and marketing quality products. A collaborative effort between several southwest Indiana Farmers and Urban Seeds secured grant money for a physical location for food hub items to be picked up; and the hiring of a value chain coordinator is in the works, to connect farmers and consumers with one another and with a network of food hubs throughout the state. While farmers may have different approaches or products, all are supported. Says Mary, “We lift up all of us together.”
The Winsteads say many of their customers have sought them out after getting “a second chance at life.” Roger points out that our area has a high incidence of autoimmune disease and cancers, widely attributed to a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors. Some of their own friends, family members, and customers have experienced common health issues like diabetes, but since eating a diet rich in homegrown plants and mushrooms, they have seen a reduction in symptoms and improvements in health regardless of age. While nutrient density works to heal bodies from within, the Winsteads’ commitment to organic, sustainable growing methods heals the air, soil, and water that surrounds us. What began as a dream for Roger and Mary offers hope to our community as a whole. “We feel very strongly that we’re healing this community and ourselves.”
For more information and ordering options, visit www.beautifulediblesgrow.com
The Local Source officially opens for orders April 13th with the first delivery on the 21st. The Grand opening will be in May 2022 with more vendors and items available. You can quickly and easily purchase product by accessing www.localsourceswi.com and becoming a customer. The weekly order cycle ends on Tuesday at 11:55pm and you can pick up your order on Thursday between 12:00 – 6:00 at 111 S.E. Third Street in downtown Evansville.
Photography credit: Kate Jacobson