Picturesque farmland that merges form and function

"I find so much joy in every aspect of the season.”

Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt

Picturesque farmland that merges form and function

Written by: Mark Loehrke
September 13, 2018


Northwest Indiana has long been associated with the hulking industrial complexes that line our northern lakeshore—those sprawling behemoths that helped build the cars and skyscrapers that came to define modern America. But, as integral a role as those mills and factories have played in the history and development of the local economy—and the countless families that have grown up in it—this is still Indiana. And when it comes to defining the landscape and lifestyle of Indiana, you can’t escape the shadow of farming.

Fortunately, these folks don’t want to. Unlike many of their fellow growers in other parts of the state, they may not be overseeing hundreds of acres or trafficking in traditional cash crops like wheat and soybeans, but their dedication to the hard work and simple pleasures of the farming lifestyle is just as strongly rooted in the same love of the land that has sustained farming families in Indiana—even Northwest Indiana—for countless generations.

Nichols Farm
Lowell
219.775.3985

Like so many other individuals drawn to the lifestyle, Scott and Carrie Nichols did not come to farming merely by chance. Rather, they came back to it—to a tradition with deep roots in both of their personal histories. So while tending the land on a modest three-acre spread in Lowell may not be their sole occupational focus—Scott works in manufacturing and Carrie in real estate—it is a hereditary connection to farming that goes back generations.

“Growing up with families that farmed led us to having gardens and growing on our land,” Scott says. “We started growing and selling pumpkins when our children were younger, and have done it on and off throughout the years.”

With those kids now grown, the couple has turned their attention to flowers.

“We started sunflowers for fun,” Carrie says. “At first, it was nice to have a patch just to wake up and see with my coffee in the morning, but it has just exploded from there with so many friends asking us to take pictures and cut flowers. So we decided to plant a larger variety and a bit more, including zinnias. Spending mornings in the flower field is still such a wonderful escape. I find so much joy in every aspect of the season.”

Just as with their pumpkin harvests, Scott and Carrie maintain a very informal distribution system for their flowers, with a self-serve stand in the driveway and occasional trips to local farmers markets.

Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Carrie and Scott Nichols
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Carrie and Scott Nichols

Nichols Farm
Lowell
219.775.3985

Like so many other individuals drawn to the lifestyle, Scott and Carrie Nichols did not come to farming merely by chance. Rather, they came back to it—to a tradition with deep roots in both of their personal histories. So while tending the land on a modest three-acre spread in Lowell may not be their sole occupational focus—Scott works in manufacturing and Carrie in real estate—it is a hereditary connection to farming that goes back generations.

“Growing up with families that farmed led us to having gardens and growing on our land,” Scott says. “We started growing and selling pumpkins when our children were younger, and have done it on and off throughout the years.”

With those kids now grown, the couple has turned their attention to flowers.

“We started sunflowers for fun,” Carrie says. “At first, it was nice to have a patch just to wake up and see with my coffee in the morning, but it has just exploded from there with so many friends asking us to take pictures and cut flowers. So we decided to plant a larger variety and a bit more, including zinnias. Spending mornings in the flower field is still such a wonderful escape. I find so much joy in every aspect of the season.”

Just as with their pumpkin harvests, Scott and Carrie maintain a very informal distribution system for their flowers, with a self-serve stand in the driveway and occasional trips to local farmers markets.

The focus, after all, isn’t on profits, but rather on the simple pleasures of working the land and seeing the joy that their harvest brings to their friends and neighbors in the community.

“In the end, the hard work pays off, and the love for what we’re doing has much more reward than a product at market,” Carrie says. “It’s the friendships, the smiles and the human factor that make it all worthwhile.”

Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt

Liberty Hop Farm
North Liberty
libertyhopfarm.com

Liberty Hop Farm may only be two years old, but Paul and Sara Williams’ growing operation actually represents the continuation of a family tradition in North Liberty that goes back to the mid-1800s. More recently, under the stewardship of Paul’s father and grandfather, the Williams family grew corn, soybeans, wheat, mint and more on this land for 75 years. Now this same land brings forth the high-quality Chinook, Centennial, Tahoma, Cascade, Triple Pearl and Northern Brewer hops that are fueling the craft beer boon in northern Indiana and across the Midwest.

“When I decided that it was time to try and do some farming again, I started looking at some crops that had potential for good return from a minimal amount of acres,” Paul says of his decision to come back to farming in 2015 after several years working in a variety of non-farming jobs. “After studying and researching how to raise hops for over a year, we decided to start growing on two acres in 2016. An opportunity came up to add some additional plants that fall, so we expanded with an additional three acres, bringing us up to five acres under trellis this season.”

The landscape of the Williams’ farm transforms quickly thanks to the remarkable growth spurts of hops, which can shoot up by more than a foot a day at the height of the summer season, eventually reaching the top of the 18-foot trellises. And as more and more craft brewers get into the game, Liberty finds its fast-growing hops to be more in demand than ever before.

Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Ryan, Sara and Paul Williams
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Ryan, Sara and Paul Williams

Liberty Hop Farm
North Liberty
libertyhopfarm.com

Liberty Hop Farm may only be two years old, but Paul and Sara Williams’ growing operation actually represents the continuation of a family tradition in North Liberty that goes back to the mid-1800s. More recently, under the stewardship of Paul’s father and grandfather, the Williams family grew corn, soybeans, wheat, mint and more on this land for 75 years. Now this same land brings forth the high-quality Chinook, Centennial, Tahoma, Cascade, Triple Pearl and Northern Brewer hops that are fueling the craft beer boon in northern Indiana and across the Midwest.

“When I decided that it was time to try and do some farming again, I started looking at some crops that had potential for good return from a minimal amount of acres,” Paul says of his decision to come back to farming in 2015 after several years working in a variety of non-farming jobs. “After studying and researching how to raise hops for over a year, we decided to start growing on two acres in 2016. An opportunity came up to add some additional plants that fall, so we expanded with an additional three acres, bringing us up to five acres under trellis this season.”

The landscape of the Williams’ farm transforms quickly thanks to the remarkable growth spurts of hops, which can shoot up by more than a foot a day at the height of the summer season, eventually reaching the top of the 18-foot trellises. And as more and more craft brewers get into the game, Liberty finds its fast-growing hops to be more in demand than ever before.

But for Paul and Sara, farming is more of a lifestyle than a living, and something to again be passed down through the generations—with their Purdue-educated children Ryan and Jodi next in line.

“The rural lifestyle is a great place to raise a family and to learn about life,” Paul says. “Nothing beats an early summer morning watching your crops grow, listening to the birds, enjoying the wildflowers and seeing the deer and turkeys wander through the fields. Those are the moments that make farming great.”

Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt

Sunnyside Drive Flowers
Crown Point
sunnysidedriveflowers.com

As farm crops go, one would be hard pressed to find a more picturesque option than flowers. But for Sunnyside Drive Flowers owner Laura Kolanowski, her fields in Crown Point represent more than just nature’s beauty writ large. With a busy household of seven kids—four of whom have varying degrees of special needs or disabilities—those flowers are a colorful, fragrant reminder of the potential for serenity and accomplishment in a life that can otherwise often seem complicated.

“Growing things for me has always been about committing to care,” Kolanowski says. “If I plant, water, tend and feed these flowers, something beautiful happens. After adopting our last kiddo and the birth of our littlest, it seemed life was mostly full of hard and painful realities—forever changing diapers, forever washing and feeding, forever wheelchairs and things we can’t do. Growing flowers was something I could do, something I could plant and see through to the end—and the end was glorious.”

Growing those glorious flowers to sell at the Crown Point Farmers Market and directly to the consumer via four-week bouquet subscriptions gives Kolanowski the chance to be alone with nature, and to take her passion for healthy, organic living beyond just the foods she seeks out.

“I’ve always nourished my body, and I’ve always loved the idea of ‘slow food’ and eating locally, but it just wasn’t enough,” she says.

Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Laura Kolanowski
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Laura Kolanowski

Sunnyside Drive Flowers
Crown Point
sunnysidedriveflowers.com

As farm crops go, one would be hard pressed to find a more picturesque option than flowers. But for Sunnyside Drive Flowers owner Laura Kolanowski, her fields in Crown Point represent more than just nature’s beauty writ large. With a busy household of seven kids—four of whom have varying degrees of special needs or disabilities—those flowers are a colorful, fragrant reminder of the potential for serenity and accomplishment in a life that can otherwise often seem complicated.

“Growing things for me has always been about committing to care,” Kolanowski says. “If I plant, water, tend and feed these flowers, something beautiful happens. After adopting our last kiddo and the birth of our littlest, it seemed life was mostly full of hard and painful realities—forever changing diapers, forever washing and feeding, forever wheelchairs and things we can’t do. Growing flowers was something I could do, something I could plant and see through to the end—and the end was glorious.”

Growing those glorious flowers to sell at the Crown Point Farmers Market and directly to the consumer via four-week bouquet subscriptions gives Kolanowski the chance to be alone with nature, and to take her passion for healthy, organic living beyond just the foods she seeks out.

“I’ve always nourished my body, and I’ve always loved the idea of ‘slow food’ and eating locally, but it just wasn’t enough,” she says.

“I needed something more—something that woke me up and carried me through dark days. Flowers were the icing on the cake. They allowed me to see something created entirely for enjoyment and, in doing so, they nourished my mind.”

In other words, it’s about more than just growing beautiful flowers or simply making a buck. For Kolanowski, farming is life.

“There is nothing I have yet found that has connected me to the world as much as this,” she says. “Farming has given me instruction in both the difficult and the glorious. It’s reminded me that we all need to nurture and to love. We all experience hard and beauty in life, and we need to be a part of the process. We all need both the good and the bad.”

Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt

Lakeside Lavender and Herbs
LaPorte
lakesidelavenderandherbs.com

With only a couple of acres of tended land, Doreen and Mike King’s farm is far from the biggest in the area, but it is certainly one of the more distinctive thanks to its rows of brilliant purple. Doreen actually came across the idea of growing lavender after searching in vain for some of the colorful and aromatic herb for a craft project for her son’s September wedding. Along her quest, she eventually learned enough about how lavender is cultivated and grown that starting their own operation didn’t seem like too much of a reach. When a health scare for Mike necessitated a job change, the idea of the lavender farm as a retirement dream suddenly got pushed up the priority list.

“I had talked to so many nice people across the nation growing lavender on small acreage in their retirement or as supplemental income,” Doreen explains. “I did more research and found that lavender is a viable crop in the Midwest, and the seed was planted, so to speak. We tilled up the backyard and have not considered turning back.”

Like many farming operations in Northwest Indiana, there is a long history of working the land on both sides of the family, although Doreen and Mike themselves didn’t necessarily come to farming via the traditional routes (she was previously in health care and he in law enforcement). But they have truly taken to the farming lifestyle, adding a range of fresh herbs such as rosemary, lemon balm and chamomile to their product mix and cultivating an ongoing dedication to natural production and healthier living.

Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Mike and Doreen King
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Mike and Doreen King

Lakeside Lavender and Herbs
LaPorte
lakesidelavenderandherbs.com

With only a couple of acres of tended land, Doreen and Mike King’s farm is far from the biggest in the area, but it is certainly one of the more distinctive thanks to its rows of brilliant purple. Doreen actually came across the idea of growing lavender after searching in vain for some of the colorful and aromatic herb for a craft project for her son’s September wedding. Along her quest, she eventually learned enough about how lavender is cultivated and grown that starting their own operation didn’t seem like too much of a reach. When a health scare for Mike necessitated a job change, the idea of the lavender farm as a retirement dream suddenly got pushed up the priority list.

“I had talked to so many nice people across the nation growing lavender on small acreage in their retirement or as supplemental income,” Doreen explains. “I did more research and found that lavender is a viable crop in the Midwest, and the seed was planted, so to speak. We tilled up the backyard and have not considered turning back.”

Like many farming operations in Northwest Indiana, there is a long history of working the land on both sides of the family, although Doreen and Mike themselves didn’t necessarily come to farming via the traditional routes (she was previously in health care and he in law enforcement). But they have truly taken to the farming lifestyle, adding a range of fresh herbs such as rosemary, lemon balm and chamomile to their product mix and cultivating an ongoing dedication to natural production and healthier living.

“There is so much we love about farming,” Doreen says. “The smell, the feeling of cooperation and submersion in nature, the ability to bring something beautiful and beneficial to our community. But it’s not for everyone. The days are long and there is activity in every season. The truth is that you don’t farm for the money or the work environment—you farm because you love it.”

Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt
Photo Credit: Teresa Schmidt