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Vendor Profile: Native Roots Farm

I hope that my customers know that they really make my day. I do my best to get through the off-season but my favorite part about this work is seeing my customers at the market.

Damien Appel and his son, Anders.

Damien Appel founded the Coffee Creek Farmers Market seven years ago. As a Chesterton native, he wanted another way for farmers like himself to access the customer base in the Chesterton and Porter County area. At that time there wasn’t a local market that provided a level playing field for local farmers, meaning no re-sale is allowed. At the Coffee Creek Farmers Market, all of the vendors grow or make what they are selling – you will not find vendors that are simply reselling produce from someone else’s farm, at a marked-up price.

Damien Appel thinks of himself primarily as a lettuce farmer. That is how he signs off his weekly newsletters from Native Roots Farm. When you visit his 1-acre intensive farm near Wanatah, Indiana, you can see why. Lettuce fills his hoophouses, and is also lined up in neat rows outside. But there is much more growing at Native Roots, including many other kinds of salad greens, radishes, turnips, carrots, garlic, spinach, herbs, cucumbers, peas, beans, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and more.

Clockwise from top left: Butter lettuces; garlic, greens; variety of crops growing outside; beets; variety of crops in the hoophouse.

Damien takes full advantage of the space that he has by interplanting crops, and quickly transitioning beds from one seasonal crop to another as harvests end and other growing seasons begin. He is available to speak to groups about farming, gardening, local food, and other topics. You can find an example of that in this video about vegetable farming from Purdue Extension.

You can read more about Native Roots Farm, join the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, or pre-order for market pickup on the website:

It's easy to pre-order farm produce using the Native Roots Farm online Store. Simply buy your produce online, and pick it up, packaged for you, at any of the various farmers markets. Get started here:

You can also follow Native Roots Farm on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with the harvest details and where to find this local and seasonal produce at area markets, including our Coffee Creek Farmers Market on Wednesdays, 3-7 PM.

Here is what Damien had to say about farming and selling produce at the Coffee Creek Farmers Market:

What do you love about the Coffee Creek Farmers Market?

It’s a market environment where we can actively support a local food economy. I myself didn’t really associate with small and local businesses when I was growing up, but our market allows our local customers to do this. It’s so easy to go to a big box or chain store, but the Coffee Creek Farmers Market provides an avenue for finding and supporting local farmers and food makers and strengthening our local economy.

What are the joys and challenges of your work?

The weather has to be the biggest challenge. We have to plant crops that will endure any and every kind of weather that we get. So that limits what we can produce. One big challenge is that you don’t know that you made a mistake until it’s already too late, like a plant bolting (flowering) before you’ve done the harvest.

The joy is that I’m growing my own food, and providing other with season and healthy food. I know that I have a positive impact on my own community through the work that I’m doing.

What do you want your customers to know?

I hope that they know that they really make my day. I thoroughly enjoy seeing my market customers every week. I do my best to get through the off-season but my favorite part about this work is seeing my customers at the market.

Why is the local food system important?

It is important for every human being to know where our food comes from. It should be a part of our human relationships, as well as learning to be respectful of where our food comes from. Food isn’t trash, and I believe that we shouldn’t waste food.

We don’t need access to every food, every day, all year long. Eating locally means that we may not have fresh fruit every single day of the year in this climate. Trying to do that is not sustainable. I like the Wendell Berry quote that says that the biggest act of revolt is to stay home and eat at our own dinner tables. We can do that by growing what we eat, or accessing our food from local producers.

Even restaurants can do that. I love to hear about restaurants that just cook up whatever the local farmers are providing that season. That’s the way it should work – not the other way around where farmers are scrambling to grow or export things that people demand.

Butter lettuce, available soon at the Coffee Creek Farmers Market.

Find Native Roots Farm this week and every week at our Wednesday market at the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve Pavilion parking lot, April 20-November 2, 2022, from 3-7 PM. Check us out on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for our mailing list to get notified of all of the vendors' featured products each week.

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