When it comes to growing a business, gardening might be one of the most difficult. From the challenges of planting seasons to keeping up with trends, one local farmer has high hopes for the new year.
Garcia’s Gardens, at 11717 42nd St. in Lawrence, is an urban farm that grows organic produce. The “small but mighty” farm sells its goods to residents, restaurants and grocery stores. Owned and operated out his backyard by Daniel Garcia, a second-generation harvester and farmer, the gardens began as a way to help fight food insecurity in the Lawrence area.
“We opened in 2015,” Garcia said. “But we were researching how to open a farm and taking farm tours for some time before that. I looked at different farms around Indianapolis and decided to go for it.”
Garcia decided that starting an organic farm in Lawrence was a must, given that the area struggles with food insecurity.
“Where we are is the largest food desert in the area,” Garcia said. “Twenty percent of the kids in Indianapolis and Lawrence Township struggle with food insecurity.”
Garcia’s roots began in Hagerstown, a small town with a population of under 2,000 about an hour east of Lawrence. As a child, Garcia would ride his bike to help local farmers pick corn and beans — his first experience with farming.
“My father was a migrant worker who was granted amnesty under the Carter administration,” Garcia said. “He flew to Indiana with some friends and met my mom, who was a taxi driver in Lafayette at the time. The rest was history.”
Garcia said his father always had an “entrepreneurial mindset,” and at the center of their lives was food.
“I realized that with Garcia’s Gardens, I was reconnected with what my dad was doing,” Garcia said. “I thought, ‘This is what my family did,’ and it just felt right.”
The connection to following in his father’s footsteps reignited Garcia’s passion for Garcia’s Gardens. Since then, the urban farmer has worked tirelessly to make his farm a success.
Garcia’s Gardens first made appearances at local farmers markets after Garcia was laid off from his previous job. He said getting his footing was the hardest part.
“It was unbelievably so much work,” Garcia said. “It was like pushing a rock up a hill, going to sleep and then realizing the rock had rolled down the hill overnight. Then we had to push it back up the hill again. I don’t know why it’s still so hard. Maybe just because farming is a business with weather. You only have so many opportunities to grow things. Once the season is up, you can’t plant tomatoes, peppers, etc.
“Farming is seasonally challenged, but I love what I do, and I love being outside.”
Garcia said farmers markets are a great way to network and get involved with the community.
“People come to tell us about their life,” Garcia said. “(Farmers markets) are a really interesting experience. We can see community kids grow up since this will be our ninth season in the markets. t’s just a great way to connect. I don’t care if they don’t buy something, I just want to get to know people.”
Garcia runs the gardens with the help of his wife, Sarah.
“She definitely keeps me grounded,” Garcia said. “Whenever I bring up a loony idea for the farm, she reels me back in and makes me think about the limitations associated with the ideas.”
The couple’s children, Lula, 9, Flo, 7, and Sam, 4, occasionally lend in the garden. Their well-being, Garcia said, was another motivating factor.
“The kids are really influenced by being outside. Anymore, I feel like people just aren’t outside like they used to be,” he said. “Having kids outside is a habit that forms early, the same with eating well. Kids make memories surrounding fresh produce, good and bad. If we can introduce healthy produce to develop those experiences early on, then people might be influenced to plant their own garden to live off the land. Or just influenced to eat well.”
Garcia said his “rule of thumb” is that farm work is never an assignment for his children.
“I never make them work on the farm,” Garcia said. “If they want to, that’s great. They can do whatever they want. But the idea of a ‘legacy’ isn’t for us. I want them to grow up and do what they want.”
Garcia’s Gardens works with local businesses to provide access to its organic goods. The farm partners with Porter Books & Bread at 5719 Lawton Loop E. Drive. Garcia said several benefits come from the partnership.
“Stuff lasts longer when you buy locally due to less travel time,” Garcia said. “We work with Porter Books & Bread by telling them what extra produce we have and (Porter Books & Bread) makes it a special on their menu.”
During the winter months, Garcia said the farm produces about eight gallons of organic maple syrup each year. He also cleans, organizes and prepares for the growing season ahead while the weather is cold.
“I’m currently working to put together microgreen kits so that people can grow their own microgreens at home in a windowsill,” Garcia said. “We also plant in the high tunnels and stock our cooler full of root vegetables.”
Looking ahead, Garcia wants to see more growth for the business and educational opportunities.
“We’re starting to grow mushrooms and may switch from nursery starters with flowers,” Garcia said. “We’re also hopeful that supplies for restaurants and grocery stores will pick up. I also want to collaborate with even more local businesses and offer tours and education to those interested.”
For more, visit garciasgardens.com.
Food insecurity in Indiana
A study by Feeding America found that 15 percent of Indiana’s population struggles with food insecurity. According to Daniel Garcia, who owns Garcia’s Gardens in Lawrence, 20 percent of kids in Lawrence Township are affected by food insecurity. Below are specifics for Marion County:
- 13 percent of the population and 23 percent of children in Marion County were food insecure in 2020 (Source: Feeding America)
- 25 percent of Marion County residents use some sort of food assistance, such as food pantries.
- 1 percent of Marion County residents have an unmet need for food. Families with children comprise half of those with unmet needs.
Sources: Feeding America and Indy Hunger Network,