Cultivating connections: Fields Market Garden aims to naturally build ties with community


By Jane VanOsdol

For the last several years, Fields Market Garden has produced flowers and fresh greens in the heart of Carmel, and this season appears to be another year of growth for the nonprofit.

Even as the garden west of the Monon Greenway on Smoky Row Road in Carmel went dormant for the winter, much work was happening behind the scenes to prepare and expand it for another season. Kate Sexton, urban farmer at Fields Market Garden and community supporter at North End, has been busy studying, planning and sowing for this year’s harvest.

Since May 2022, Sexton has set the course for the cut-flower garden and vegetable farm, which is part of the new North End mixed-use development. The plot is on more than 5 acres with 1.4 acres allotted for the garden and future outbuildings. Much of the remaining land is in a floodplain that is eventually set to become a park.

“We will manage it as a natural area and manage it for invasive species,” Sexton said.

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A fenced-in cut-flower garden at Fields Market Garden with zinnias, ageratum and a cover crop. (Photo by Jane VanOsdol)

Garden goals

Sexton’s goals for the garden include engaging with neighbors, cultivating connections between people and the earth, facilitating community growth and offering meaningful work opportunities to adults with special needs living at North End, which has set aside 40 attainable units in its three apartment buildings for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Last summer, Sexton employed two of the residents part-time in the garden, providing on-the-job training, and she plans to add another employee this year.

“It’s all a bit of trial and figuring it out — what they can handle and what the garden needs, balancing those two things,” Sexton said. “I want to make it as accessible as possible.”

And it’s working.

“Being outside in nature is just peaceful and joyful to me,” said Elizabeth Bower, a farmhand in the garden in 2023. “The people here, especially Kate, are wonderful.”

Continued growth

Fields Market Garden offers flower subscriptions in the summer and sells produce at the farm. Sexton has plans to expand its reach by offering fresh flowers and produce to the local community through Joe’s Butcher Shop on Main Street, businesses at North End and a farm stand along Smoky Row Road.

Beginning in June, produce will be for sale at the garden from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays.   

She also plans to offer community workshops, add a greenhouse to the property, build a wash house facility, add inclusive gathering spaces, revitalize native plants in the garden and set up a crowdfunding matching grant.

All the efforts are to advance her goal of inspiring people to spend time in nature.

“In modern society, we’re often drawn indoors — with technology and the way society is set up,” Sexton said. “I want to inspire that connection with the outdoors. It can be as simple as walking barefoot out your front door in the morning.”

Learn more at

From engineer to farmer

Sexton, who lives in the North End neighborhood and walks to the garden every day, graduated in December 2020 from the University of Dayton with a degree in mechanical engineering and then her plans “took a little turn,” she said.

She spent 10 months in 2021 as an apprentice at A Way of Life Farm in North Carolina, a certified organic, no-till family farm offering produce and pasture-raised pork.

“I lived in a tiny house on their land,” Sexton said. “I loved it. It was so peaceful.”

While it may seem an abrupt career shift, Sexton said there are connections between mechanical engineering and farming.

“Farming is very much problem-solving,” she said. “It allows the creativity and innovation I was looking for in my engineering degree. I do think there are parallels.”

Although Fields Market Garden is not certified organic, Sexton uses the same organic practices she learned during her internship. Biodiversity is also an essential part of her healthy garden plan.

“Growing flowers is so important to vegetables because they attract beneficial insects that keep pests in check,” she said.

Intercropping flowers and vegetables in the same row, building healthy soil by adding microbes, keeping living roots in the soil (no bare soil) and growing cover crops after a harvest are a few more techniques she employs.

Fundraising campaign

Fields Market Garden recently launched a 60-day crowdfunding campaign in an effort to raise $50,000 and become eligible for a matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. The funds would be used to construct a greenhouse at the garden. The fundraising campaign runs through July 16. Learn more and donate at

The garden also has several fundraising and informational events planned this summer. They are:

  • Garden to Salad Workshop, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. June 4. Cost is a $25 donation
  • Summer Solstice Picnic, 6 to 7:30 p.m. June 21
  • DIY Bouquet Bar, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. June 25. Cost is a $30 donation.
  • Taste of North End, 6 to 7 p.m. July 11. Cost is a $75 donation.