The Indianapolis City Market was brimming with activity the first Saturday morning in March. Everywhere you turned, people were engaged in conversations, including Laura Henderson, who was selecting carrots from Joe Gady’s Farming For Life table as she prepared to leave for a yoga workshop.
Used to be that this much activity around the City Market was confined to Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — on weekends the place was deserted. That is until last November, when Henderson, founder and director of the Indy Winter Farmers Market, relocated it to the City Market, its fourth home in as many years.
“I spent a lot of time in conversations with the city as they worked with us to make that happen for this season,” Henderson said.
The effects of sugar and caffeine
Henderson came to Indiana from Louisville, earning her bachelor’s degree in public relations and journalism from Butler University in 2000. While at Butler, Henderson signed up for a study-abroad program in Tasmania through the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler (IFSA-Butler).
“I was looking at research behind improved childhood development and nutrition and real food,” Henderson said. She admitted she had not given the issue much thought before.
“That’s just part of the conversation — what are the effects of sugar and caffeine and of eliminating those options in schools,” Henderson said. “That was one of first things that started to pique my interest in agriculture and local food.”
Upon returning to Indiana, she accepted a position at IFSA-Butler. She married her husband, Tyler, in 2002. Together they served as house parents at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, started a garden and worm-composting program with the students, paid off their student loans, and dreamed of their next overseas adventure.
Be present to grieving
In 2004, two months before they were to leave for Norway for her husband’s two-year graduate program, Henderson, then 26, learned that her 18-year-old brother, Samuel Johnson Adams, had been killed in an automobile accident.
“He’s been an inspiration to the path that I’m on. You don’t know how much time you have,” Henderson said. “You don’t have a choice. It takes your whole reality and erupts it into a million pieces and then you have to figure out how to piece it back together.”
Part of her healing process included learning and teaching yoga at a studio in Norway and reading Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan. After two years Laura and Tyler returned home to their community of friends.
A new way of living
Henderson said she didn’t want to be here initially, but a yoga teacher told her she shouldn’t live life as a victim, sitting around complaining. It’s just that she and her husband had experienced a different way of living while in Europe, spending more time cooking and making smaller, more frequent trips to markets for fresh food.
“I told Tyler, ‘We’ve either got to move or we’ve got to start doing things,’ ” said Henderson, who travels around mostly on her mother-in-law’s old blue Schwinn bicycle.
They transformed their small Cottage Home yard into raised beds, and started a neighbor-to-neighbor market to exchange produce and baked goods. In 2009, the Mother Nature Network included the Hendersons among the 40 farmers under 40. They made and sold 400 rain barrels.
Along with the Indy Winter Farmers Market, Henderson is executive director of Growing Places Indy at White River State Park, a yoga teacher at Invoke, and a consultant with Wishard Hospital on the new roof-top Sky Farm, a first of its kind anywhere.
The deeper Henderson’s involvements in these efforts, the deeper the questions become for her.
“Why are we importing 90 percent of our food when we’re the ninth largest agricultural state in the country,” Henderson said. “Why are we not growing food? We need to keep having the conversation and be honest about what’s happening.
“If we don’t start talking about it, nothing will change. Anytime there’s a conversation, about food and the relationship to health, the individual, the community, the environment, the economy … when we talk about it, we’ll start to think about it, and do things about it. I’m not out to change the world, I just want to encourage the conversation.”