COLUMN: Ag economy more diverse

-A A +A


Agriculture has a bright future in Perry County and southern Indiana and it’s not just corn and soybeans that will help drive profits on farms big and small.

An afternoon drive proved that truth for me Thursday, perhaps helped by the early spring all of us have been enjoying for weeks.

Jeff Piper invited me to take photos of the rainbow trout he raised and is beginning to harvest and sell from the aptly named Rainbow Pay Lake near Derby. Piper operates the business through a partnership with the Hoosier National Forest and in addition to the pay lake, raises trout.

Piper donated fish to a fundraising event in Salem held over the weekend for victims of tornadoes that struck parts of Indiana a few weeks back.

Rainbow trout fetch a good price, either in the store on the restaurant, and Piper is hoping to grow demand for the trout.

The cool, deep waters allow the fish to thrive in large cages. They have thrived this year. I haven’t seen trout in a long time but the fish area truly beautiful.

Aquaculture isn’t just about raising trout. Perry Central FFA students used to raise tilapia, a popular fish and I know of one family that used to – I’m not sure if they’re still in business – grow freshwater shrimp they sold directly to the public.

Jeff will sell fish and can be reached at 836-4411 or (317) 946-8365.

From Derby I traveled backroads to Monkey Hollow Winery north of Fulda. Folks there were planting new vines, a sign of the growth the Spencer County winery is enjoying.

Traminette and cabernet franc vines won’t produce their first crops for about three years but will surely find a welcome market. Traminette, which produces white wine, is becoming Indiana’s signature grape and winemaker Danny Hedinger said the demand for the grapes and wine made from them is on an upswing.

Wineries in the area, including Wizerwald and Blue Herron, are doing well and point to the importance of locally grown crops – including grapes – as a way to grow not only the local ag economy but tourism. Wineries bring guests who spend money at many places in the county.

The county’s farmers market is a good example of how locally grown crops help growers and consumers. The county is already home to businesses that sell flowers and other horticultural products and grass-fed beef that has found many fans.

Even a new trailriding business has ties to the land and agriculture.

Among the many exciting possibilities of the event and visitors center eyed for Tell City’s downtown is the home it will offer for a farmers market. Now held at or near City Hall, the market would transition next to the new structure in the 300 block of Seventh Street. It would offer not only locally grown vegetables and fruit, but baked goods and meat.

Indiana’s laws of what can be sold by home producers is changing.

For example a bill adopted by the General Assembly and passed into law this spring allows poultry producers to sell meat at farmers markets and roadside stands.

There’s growing demand for farm-raised birds, including those allowed to roam free, not to mention beef and pork from animals not treated with certain antibiotics or growth additives.

I suspect Perry County agriculture will continue to grow, with farmers finding to find success raising grain crops and livestock, but also in specialty items.

That will leave us more options when planning for supper.

It’s good news anyway you slice or dice it.