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Dig IN to Quality 

Dig IN, the Indiana Farm to Fork Celebration, is an event held at White River State Park that brings together farmers, chefs, breweries and wineries from around the state to showcase their products to consumers interested in celebrating local food.

Food events around town often attract all types of people for all types of reasons, but Dig IN is unique in that it brings a crowd of people specifically to learn more about eating local and how to connect their lives to the lives of the farmers who grow their food.

It is also about quality products and getting them into the hands and mouths of the people. From beginning to end, the quality product is number one and that is why people are interested.

click to enlarge Cindy Hawkins, of Circle City Sweets, is one of 37 chefs cooking for Dig IN. - EMILY TAYLOR
  • Emily Taylor
  • Cindy Hawkins, of Circle City Sweets, is one of 37 chefs cooking for Dig IN.

"There are a lot of very happy and involved people," says Neal Brown, co-founder of the event. "The food that the chefs prepare is more fantastic every year and we are seeing more and more quality local ingredients with each event and more and more people caring."

Chef Roger Hawkins of Circle City Soups is among the 37 chefs on the bill for this year. His wife, Cindy Hawkins, of Circle City Sweets, is too. "This event is so important," Roger says. It brings like-minded people together to eat delicious food and talk about the delicious food they are eating with the farmer who grew the vegetables, or raised the proteins, and the chef who created the dish."

"Dig IN serves people who dig food. They are there about the food," Cindy adds. "The customers interact with us. They ask questions. They stop and want to talk and learn more about our product and where our store is and have questions about our food and appreciate it. And then they stay engaged. They visit us regularly and become regular customers."

click to enlarge Roger and Cindy Hawkins, Circle City Sweets and Circle City Soups
  • Roger and Cindy Hawkins, Circle City Sweets and Circle City Soups

What you might not know is that this event is about more than just eating and rubbing elbows with local farmers. The overarching goal of the festival is education--letting the public know the ins and outs of Indiana agriculture, what products are grown and produced here and the importance of a sustainable food culture.

Dig IN showcases large and small farms from all over the state. Some of the best produce is grown right here in Indiana and Dig IN has created a distinctive environment where those items can be tasted, talked about and celebrated.

"People have forgotten what grown fresh and local tastes like," says Rob Gaston, Director of Dig IN. "If we shifted our eating habits from fast and cheap to slow and sustainable, there could be a real shift in the framework of our food systems. That's what this event is about."

click to enlarge Caleb France, Cerulean
  • Caleb France, Cerulean

"Dig IN exemplifies all this. Customers become aware at the table where the food is from, how it is being served, how it was cooked," Caleb France, co-owner of Cerulean, says. "That really helps our business, because people seek us out."

Matt Kornmeyer, owner of Scratch truck, says, "At the end of the day, I'm in a food truck. I don't own a restaurant, but I get to play with the big dogs, something I rarely get to do. To be a part of the group is good for the trucks. To have access to the local ingredients and get to show off what I can do with them, that makes this whole thing worthwhile."

"Even the volunteers--they care, too. The event planners are great, the fellow vendors are great, participants are awesome," Cindy says. "That really helps the food community here in Indy, and statewide. They become actively involved with us and business improves, but so does the mindset."

"But more than that, the local ingredients we get to use really helps with the sense of pride and accomplishment," Roger says. "I get tomatoes from a farmer right outside the City Market door on Wednesdays. I get to physically inspect the tomato, see that it is fresh, taste that it's sweet, not made in factory. I can meet the farmer, know that he cares. It's about quality. Every single step I ask that question: 'is this quality, is this going to make it better?' And people notice and eat my food because of it."

For $40 a ticket, you can try 37 sample plates, which equates to almost five pounds of food. Plus unlimited samples of beer and wine. "There is no way you can even eat all of that," says Gaston. "And you can never go anywhere else where you can sample all of these valuable vendors' food for that price in one place."

click to enlarge Matt Kommeyer, Scratch Food Truck - EMILY TAYLOR
  • Emily Taylor
  • Matt Kommeyer, Scratch Food Truck

It seems that the event is not at all about competition, but about commending one another for being masters of their craft and celebrating the Farm to Fork experience with one another.

"When we get to do that as a community, that's when food becomes exciting," France says. "Dig IN really completes the whole circuit."

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About The Author

Ashley Kimmel

Ashley Kimmel is a transit blogger and social justice columnist living in downtown Indianapolis. She is currently getting her MPA with an Urban Sustainability concentration at IUPUI and works for a local community development corporation on the Near Eastside.

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