LIFE Certified Organic Farm (LIFE stands for Local Indiana Food Enterprises) is a family owned operation that farms about 14 acres in Morgan and Monroe County.
In addition to growing a variety of produce that they sell from April through November at local farmers markets and directly to restaurants, LIFE runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) program and performs a variety of community outreach activities.
Bobbi Boos is a crew leader and CSA coordinator for Life Certified Organic Farms. I caught up with her at the Bloomington, Indiana Farmers Market.
"Today we have a variety of heirloom tomatoes – it's our first week for those. Some eggplant, cucumbers, potatoes, zucchini, and we have a number of CSA shares."
LIFE distributes their CSA shares to both Indianapolis and Bloomington, and one of their pickup sites is at the Bloomington Farmers Market.
"People who are really dedicated to supporting small, local farms sometimes join CSA's," Boos explains. "They pay us in the spring when we need money for seeds and fertilizer and labor before we get to start harvesting and selling our food. We provide a weekly delivery of food, so that's their share."
This week, LIFE's CSA box – depending whether you have a full or a half share – has tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, potatoes, zucchinis, and green beans.
Boos says the CSA boxes get a priority for the produce they sell. "We're not selling green beans because [the CSA boxes] got all the green beans. We also have watermelons in some of the shares, green peppers, garlic, basil… So, not everybody gets everything. We switch it up because we don't have enough for all of our members – watermelons go here one week, they go here the next week."
LIFE is certified organic because Boos says, they don't always get to meet their customers and they want to assure them that they use organic processes.
"Here at market, we can talk to our customers and tell them about our growing practices. We're not using any synthetic fertilizers or herbicides or pesticides. We also do a lot of work – and so do many organic farms – to improve our soils and our perimeters. We encourage beneficial insects.There are organic pesticides, but that kills all the bugs, so we work really hard to grow flowers and plants that bring in beneficial insects and get the right balance in our farm and in our fields. The more nutrition we put in our soil, the more we get in our food."
LIFE is selling heirloom tomatoes at the market today. Boos says that there used to be many more varieties of tomatoes, but now there are just a few left that have been bred to be uniform size and shape to make them easier to transport.
"It used to be that there were hundreds of kinds of tomatoes, and some of those have been preserved," Boos explains. "So you see some regular red ones out there, but also flat, purple and wrinkly ones, and giant tomatoes and little ones. They have lots of different flavors. Some of them are really tangy, some of them are super sweet, some of them are thick and good for making sauces, and some of them are a little juicier."
LIFE grows tomatoes in their greenhouse starting in the spring and then moves on to outdoor growing for the summer harvest. The tomato harvest lasts for about 6 weeks, but LIFE doesn't extend the growing season into the fall.
"If we staggered our plantings," Boos says, "we could spread that season out until it frosts. But, we'll put in our tomatoes, and then we'll put something else in that field for late fall."
Learn More: LIFE Certified Organic Farm (website)