We like lists because they help us bring ideas together, help us reflect, and set goals. Our co-founder Chris recently put together his “Top Ten” of the past year – things to be proud of, special progress, and people and partnerships cherished. What’s on Chris’ list this year? Many wonderful things:
1) LAND – “That’s huge, land has got to be first!” Yes, indeed. We are thrilled to have land on which to grow and expand our work. While we continue growing at the Hannah and Friends greenhouse, we are happy to have found 5+ acres in Mishawaka, Indiana on which to expand our farming operations. Our land search took more than a year, and countless champions provided connections and lent a hand in the process. We’re grateful to grow and expand and have the space to do it – there’s so much potential!
2) GREENHOUSES – Next up on Chris’ list were the greenhouses. We’re building two structures, an aquaponics greenhouse and a “high tunnel” that provides year-round growing. Each is 2000 square feet. We’ve been at the process of construction since the fall, trenching, putting in infrastructure like water and electrical lines, and removing brush and debris from our site. “To see our greenhouses going up, it’s really means a lot.” We’re really excited by that progress!
3) OUR INTERNS – Jackie Mack from Notre Dame and Christin Kloski from Saint Mary’s College had internships in our training development program this year, and their friendly, competent personalities provided much energy, support and encouragement to our trainees. This fall, practicum student Janaeé Wallace from Notre Dame joined us to provide expertise in fish biology, and 1st year MBA student Helios MacNaught came onboard as a business development consultant. In our book, they all rock!
4) PARTNERSHIPS – We are extremely fortunate to have had the support of outstanding partners whose resources have allowed our work to flourish and have impact in the past year. The Kelly Cares Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation, the Indiana ARC, the Klau Family Foundation, Johnny’s Selected Seed Company, and the Pokagon Fund have been generous and enthusiastic partners throughout the year. Our work reflects their commitment to making a difference and improving the lives of the entire community.
5) TRAINING – “We were able to expand what we know and what we do because of the training program from this year,” said Chris. Thanks to Kelly Cares, we piloted a training program to teach autistic adults farming and on-the-job skills to pave the way for the world of work. Lots of learning, leadership, new skills, and new responsibilities are the outcomes we see. Teaching and training are at the heart of what we do!
7) VOLUNTEERS - Volunteers make so much happen! Melissa Tomas, who joins us on Thursdays, runs a gardening club for several Hannah and Friends participants that is a pure joy. We also have had terrific crews come out to work with us on the construction of our new greenhouses and that help has been amazing. A real cross-section has joined us: The Young Professionals Network of South Bend, the ND Knights of Columbus, the Elkhart Memorial High School Key Club and National Honor Society, the Penn High School Hockey Team, the Saint Mary's College Office of Civic and Social Engagement, Whole Foods, the Notre Dame MBA Program, St. Joseph’s High School, GreeND, the Notre Dame Alumnae Family Camp. The list goes on and on! What amazing work they’ve done for us, helped us push ahead to keep our greenhouse construction on track. Yes, they rock too!
8) TOURS – Our trainees offered about 30 tours this past year to groups of foreign students, area college classes, young entrepreneur groups. “It’s been exciting to speak to everyone about aquaponics and we’ve all gotten better about sharing and telling about our work,” said Chris. We love using tours as a great leadership development tool for our trainees!
10) FOOD – And the last shall be first. Probably one of the biggest reasons our trainees like to farm is because they love to eat. “Cooking brownies, tea, and salsa after growing the ingredients is one of the best things in the world.” We agree. Farm to fork dining is a real treat!
Thank you for encouraging and supporting our work in 2015! Here’s to a great 2016!