Renzell Hindmon of Merrillville checks out the produce in the box she purchased from Gary urban farm, Faith Farms. (Carrie Napoleon / Post-Tribune)
Renzell Hindmon of Merrillville checks out the produce in the box she purchased from Gary urban farm, Faith Farms. (Carrie Napoleon / Post-Tribune)
Renzell Hindmon of Merrillville stopped by Faith Farms CDC at 656 Carolina St., in Gary Thursday to pick up her first box of organic vegetables from the urban farm’s community supported agriculture program.

She admired the bright red tomatoes that were part of the box of vegetables that also included fresh garlic, three types of greens, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, zucchini and more.

“I love fresh tomatoes,” Hindmon said as she looked through the box.

Hindmon was one of 70 people who signed up for the farm’s CSA program. Once a month participants receive one of two options, a small or large box of produce, grown by Gary’s only urban farm. Boxes are $20 for small and $40 for large. Organic eggs from the farm’s chickens can be added for $5. Fresh honey, harvested from beehives kept at the site, also is available.

Hindmon said she decided to participate in the CSA program after seeing Facebook posts about the fresh produce being grown by farm administrator Freida Graves and a group of volunteers who manage the greenhouses and outdoor growing areas along with the chickens, ducks, goats and the beehives. She visited the farm earlier this year to see things for herself and decided to try it out.

“I’m looking forward to it,” she said.

Thursday was opening and the line of vehicles picking up produce boxes was constant from 10 a.m. until about 12:30 p.m.

“It was so busy, we are out of collard greens, mustard greens and turnip greens,” Graves said. Not to worry, she added, it will take about two weeks for the greens to regrow and be ready to harvest once again.

Volunteers Denise Hogan-Kinnon of Gary and Robert Wahl, also of Gary, were helping pack boxes and fill vehicles. Social distancing practices are in place and right now, the farm is drive up. A table will be set up outdoors for daily sales and the produce will be brought to the buyer’s vehicle.

Gary residents Darlynthia Smith and her mother Dolline Smith were among the walk-up customers who visited the farm opening day. While they did not pre-order a food box, they purchased honey, greens and tomatoes and are planning a return visit.

“I think this is a great thing for a community garden to provide local fresh food,” Darlynthia Smith said.

Gary has long been considered a food desert with limited access to things like fresh organic produce within its borders. The farming project is working to change that.

This is the fifth year FAITH Farms has been open and the first year it is offering the CSA program, said Rev. Curtis Whitaker, pastor of Progressive Church, which operates Faith Farms. As the farm grows, he said he is hopeful to offer the boxes biweekly and grow the number of people who participate.

Whitaker said he is working with the developers of the Broadway Lofts multi-use development to run the greenhouse planned for the site. Developers are expected to invest $250,000 to $300,000 in the greenhouse. Whitaker said it would give the farm the opportunity to further expand its reach to even more Gary residents and expand partnerships with organizations like Methodist Hospitals and Spectacle Entertainment to provide produce and create jobs.

“We can take that and teach people who to grow produce in that environment. We can each life skills and give people skills,” he said.

Faith Farms is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.
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