Rural landscapes with row crops and pastures peppered with faded red barns are the stereotypical scenes of Indiana agriculture. But a new type of farming is taking root in a far different setting — crops growing amid bustling streets, residential neighborhoods, and commercial districts.
Danielle Guerin, an Indianapolis native who took a roundabout route to growing food in the city, is one of the new breed of farmers. She's well on her way to helping her community — and, hopefully, inspiring a new generation of urban farmers.
Farming wasn't part of the plan when Guerin was growing up in Martindale-Brightwood. Instead, she studied business with a focus on entrepreneurship while completing her undergraduate degree at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. When she came back home after graduating in 2017, however, Guerin began to struggle with depression and anxiety. She developed an eating disorder.
"I was feeling lost in my life at that point," she said. Her friends noticed. Some of them encouraged Guerin to join them, volunteering at a community garden. Her love of the work blossomed, and she found a new path that she followed with an intense focus. Guerin enrolled in a graduate program at Indiana University in Bloomington to study food sustainability and sustainable development under the school's public and environmental affairs program.
The program opened a new world to Guerin. She volunteered with the Peace Corps in West Africa, where she focused on food insecurity. It was half a world away from home that it dawned on Guerin: She, too, had lived in a food desert, where access to fresh and nutritious foods is scarce, especially for people without access to private vehicles. She just hadn't understood it at the time.
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