Thursday, June 11, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Trosts

 By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Claire Trost never dreamed she would be part of the agriculture industry.  She was born in downtown Chicago and spent much of her childhood in Dublin, Ohio just northwest of Columbus.  “As far back as we can tell, my family has no connection to agriculture and not one of my friend’s families was involved in the industry.  My high school did not offer 4-H or FFA, and I didn’t know one person who drove a truck.  I honestly had no clue where food came from, and I still have not been to a State Fair.  That’s changing this year though!  I didn’t get introduced to the agriculture industry until attending college at Purdue.”

Fast forward a few years and Claire is now married to her college sweetheart, Adam; they live in Russiaville, which is Adam’s hometown.  “We married four years ago, and since then we have focused our energy on our careers, building our new home on 40 acres of land that is currently rented to a local farmer, traveling, and learning as much as we can about producing food.” 

Even though no one in Adam’s family farms, Adam grew up very close to agriculture.  His extended family farms in Illinois, and his dad has owned his own grain handling equipment construction business.  “As a kid, Adam dreamed of being a farmer.  He now hobby-farms about 20 acres.”  Adam is transitioning into ownership of his family’s grain handling company, Indiana Farm Systems.  He majored in Building and Construction at Purdue and, after a year with an engineering firm in Indianapolis, he knew his heart belonged with the family business.

Claire majored in Hospitality Management at Purdue and now does development for a company called “Campus Cooks.”  “We partner and manage professional chefs in sororities and fraternities across the nation.  I work closely with students and alumni and love being surrounded by incredibly creative culinary talent every day.  It’s a great job for me because I was Greek as an undergrad and because I absolutely love great food!”

Their backyard garden is full of delicious fruits and vegetables and they are constantly trying to figure out how to grow more, either through succession planting or the addition of new plants.  Some of their favorite things to grow are tomatoes, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, garlic, and lettuces.  They are trying onions, leeks, and potatoes for the first time this summer and looking forward to having grapes and berry bushes in the ground next year.

“The produce we grow is mainly just for us to enjoy seasonally or to preserve.  I have taught myself how to can and we freeze many items like carrot coins, pesto, kale, and green beans to enjoy throughout the year.  We also love to share with family and friends throughout the summer.  Recently, we have been considering producing food on a larger scale to sell either to farmer’s markets or through our own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  We still have a lot to learn, but it is something we are really considering and are pretty excited about.”

Claire and Adam also raise backyard hens.  “Currently we have 25 hens.  They are our first experiment in seeing if there is a market for the food we raise and grow.  The birds should be laying around September.  We have raised hens for about two years but never had this many.  We initially started with hens, because we kept reading that composted chicken droppings are a great, natural fertilizer.  But, we learned that we loved the hens not just for the droppings in the garden’s soil, but also for the beyond-amazing fresh eggs and their funny personalities.  We can’t imagine not having hens.”

Claire has always worked in the food industry, so her jobs have always been connected to agriculture.  Changes in food prices; weather, such as droughts or late frosts; and keeping up with food trends are a big piece of her career.  “Today many consumers desire transparency and want to know the farmer.  Since 2008, I have had a lot of really neat experiences in forging connections with local farmers in my roles.  I got my first taste of the ‘Farm to Table’ movement when interning in Southern California, then, as a local school corporation’s Food and Nutrition Director, then I got involved with Indiana Farm to School as it was getting off the ground.  Now, in my role with Campus Cooks, we have made connections with a handful of local, Indiana farms for veggies and greens in particular.  Sorority women love it!”

When asked if she had any tips for someone who wants to start a garden for the first time, Claire said, “My number one tip is to grow things you like to eat.  You will be more apt to take care of a garden when you are looking forward to eating the fruits of your labor.”

You can follow along with Claire’s backyard gardening journey by visiting her blog where she talks about gardening, local food and growers who direct-market their produce or meat to consumers.  She also shares real, fun stories about life.  “I did not grow up around agriculture, so all the dirt in my life and the fact that I thought a home on a 1-acre lot had a lot of land sometimes makes for funny moments!”

Follow Claire on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook!