Farm to table: Fishers AgriPark to open this summer

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The Fishers AgriPark at the southeast quadrant of 113th Street and Florida Road is set to open this summer, although with some changes from the original plan.

Parks and Recreation Dept. Director Sarah Sandquist said the city is targeting a July opening.

Moreover, the City of Fishers will operate the park instead of partnering with Brandywine Creek Farms.

A map of the Fishers AgriPark. (Submitted photo)

“We are excited we are going to open this summer. We are looking at the end of July when we will invite people to come to the farm,” Sandquist said. “We have moved our operations in-house and hired a couple of full-time (employees) who are managing the on-site operations.”

The new employees include coordinator Jackie Leeuw and farm manager Trevor Wildey.

Originally, the City of Fishers was contracted with Brandywine Creek Farms for a partnership on the park. The programming was supposed to be operated by the Parks and Recreation Dept. and the growing portion would be done by Brandywine Creek Farms. Now, the Parks and Recreation Dept. will oversee all operations.

“Now, the farm will be fully operated by the City of Fishers, so we will take care of all planting, all harvesting, the educational piece and programming out there,” Sandquist said. “We just had some a difference of opinion on the direction of where we saw the farm going and had some challenges with getting things up and going. The more we looked at it, we decided to take on the whole thing with some staff, and we are excited to have a ton of volunteers come on-site and help.

“There’s a lot of interest from the community to help with planting and picking and just be in the space because it’s a really great space with lots of opportunities to be in nature and find out where your food is grown.”

The 33-acre park will include a community barn pavilion, produce gardens, a tree nursery, a pumpkin patch, a sunflower field, a corn field with a seasonal corn maze, cut flower gardens, animal encounters, a farm-themed playscape and an event/flex lawn. 

“We are planting a tree nursery and dedicating up to 5 acres of the 33-acre property to grow trees,” Sandquist said. “We will use the trees to replace trees that have passed in our parks and also set up a neighborhood-type matching grant program where neighbors can get trees from this tree farm and also for use in our right of ways. That’s something new and different.

“It’s a sustainable practice to grow our own trees for our parks and spaces.”

Sandquist said the park will lean heavily on volunteers, especially the Fishers Freebirds group of residents ages 50 and older.

“There’s a lot of interest from them to get out and get their hands dirty and help out,” Sandquist said. “We plan to have a pretty sophisticated volunteer system where we will operate training on a regular basis and they can come in and get trained, and then after that, they can arrive at the park, look at our job board, see what’s available to do and get right going, whether it’s weeding or picking or helping to feed the animals that day.”

Hours of operation haven’t been determined, but Sandquist said residents will be able to show up during open hours and pick their own produce for free.

“Down the road, we do plan to have a farmstand at the park and sell some of the produce,” Sandquist said. “At least for this season, it will be come pick your own, and maybe that model, moving down the line, is still come in and pick your own or come and select from the farmstand so you know exactly what you want.

“I think there will be a cost to things down the road, but the park itself is free and open to the public, and we invite everyone to come join us later this summer.”

For more, visit playfishers.com.

AgriPark manager Trevor Wildey prepares to plant trees in a nursery. (Photo by Anna Skinner)

Adding an educational component

The Fishers Parks and Recreation Dept. will work in conjunction with Hamilton Southeastern Schools to offer educational programming through the new Fishers AgriPark.

Parks and Recreation Dept. Director Sarah Sandquist said the city wants to conduct a program similar to the Nature First program.

“We want an immersive program where there’s time in the classroom and also on-site,” Sanduist said. “We think the best model for this site will be looped through seventh and eighth grade, so student would come in the spring and plant and then have the option for the family to come during the summer, and then in the fall of eighth grade, students can come back for the harvest portion, so they’d get that whole growing cycle.”

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