Dinner is served. And it’s fresh off the neighboring farm.
Want to really get to know a city? Eat like the locals. Most seasoned travelers will point out that a region’s cuisine can speak volumes about its history, traditions and culture. Now more than ever, people are taking a keen interest in what’s on their plate and how it made its way there.
In East Central Indiana, that’s a no-brainer. The region is known for a strong tradition of farming that lends itself to agritourism, an activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch and gives them the opportunity to see and purchase products that aren’t usually available at their neighborhood supermarket. “Culinary agritourism is the pursuit of unique, localized eating and drinking experiences,â€ says Kimmi Devaney, manager of agricultural marketing and industry development for the Indiana Department of Agriculture. “Combined with travel, it offers visitors and residents alike an authentic taste of a specific place or broader geographic area.”
While it’s viewed as a developing trend in many parts of the country, culinary agritourism is a way of life in East Central Indiana – one that perfectly aligns with the state’s rich agricultural heritage and provides plenty of delicious opportunities to sample the area’s distinctive flavors.
“Hoosiers have been eating farm-to-table for generations. It’s part of who we are,â€ says Mark Newman, executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development. “We have a number of those local tastes that enable Indiana to stand out as a food-lover’s destination.â€
Ready to pull up a seat at the table like a tried-and-true Hoosier? Here are a few East Indiana culinary experiences you’ll want to add to your plate.
Make your way to Fayette County’s Whitewater River Valley, where you’ll find Jacobs & Brichford eight varieties of award-winning artisan cheeses. Purveyor Matthew Brichford and his wife, Leslie Jacobs, have lived on the family farm since 1981 and use sustainable practices in the production of their high-quality cheese, which includes a semi-soft Ameribella and a semi-firm Briana with bits of pungent black truffle. Jacobs & Brichford’s raw cheese is crafted using 100 percent grass-fed dairy, straight from cows that roam the farm’s picturesque pastures every day. Visitors are welcome to tour the cheese plant, but need to make an appointment first.
About an hour southeast of Indianapolis, the Heart of Rushville Farmers’ market offers a variety of fresh produce, baked goods, soap, jewelry and other handcrafted items to locals and visitors alike. “Above that,â€ says market master Joyce Miller, “it connects community members with local growers and artisans.â€ Organizers coordinate outreach efforts like the Little Sprout Academy, which teaches kids about farming, gardening, conservation and nutrition. Interested in learning how to can and preserve the ripe and lip-smacking bounty of the season? Adult programs on food storage, preparation, cooking – and yes, canning – are also in the works. The best part of the Saturday morning markets, according to Miller? “Slowing down and just talking with each other. It’s what our busy lives are missing these days.”
Garages tend to be incubators from some pretty life-changing products (Apple, anyone?). So it only makes sense that one of Muncie’s finest brews was born from two friends experimenting with homebrewing in their own garage. Jason Phillips and Bill Kerr, who began their fermenting journey in 2008, co-founded Guardian Brewing in 2015. The brewery offers a revolving roster of regular, seasonal and special-release craft beers–including a coffee stout called “Frank the Tankâ€– from a 20-tap system in its new home at MadJax Muncie, a former industrial laundry factory turned 7,250-square-foot makerspace for writers, artists and typesetters. The extra room allows Guardian to host home brew days and competitions and provide patrons with a hands-on brewing experience.
Since opening the doors of her lively restaurant in Converse in 2012, chef-owner Lindsay Dingman Baker’s mission to source and serve local products has never wavered. From smoked meats (like brisket, pork and baby back ribs) to moonshine pickles and sumptuously sweet bourbon bread pudding, she teams up with farmers and Indiana vendors for a farm-to-fork dining experience that’s every bit as appetizing as it is advantageous.
“Sourcing food locally helps stimulate local economies, promotes a more intimate relationship between the consumer and farmer/producer, and helps build upon our ever-growing agritourism,â€ Baker says. “Everyone benefits.”
Click here for a comprehensive list of destinations serving up the flavor of East Central Indiana.