Grown in Town Farmstead: An Urban Agriculture Initiative

By Haley Long, Sustainability and the First Year Experience intern

Riding along East Miller Drive over on the South side of town, it’s usually pretty easy to spot John Galuska’s urban farmstead. The little houses that line one side of the road are a bit older, with well kept lawns that all seem to blend together after a while. When you reach John’s place, though, it’s obvious that you’ve arrived at your destination. The property is easily spotted due to the mass of flowers that fills up the space where a front yard might otherwise be. The wildflowers and grasses, which mimic the prairie ecosystem native to southern Indiana, and the sunflowers, which can reach up to 14 feet tall, are a good landmark to look for when searching for Grown In Town Farmstead.

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Now, this is not my first time visiting John’s urban farm. I have been here several times over the past two years since first meeting John while taking his Farming the City course at IU. John has been lucky enough to actually teach students what he does at home in his everyday life- farm the city. His passion for sustainable urban agriculture and food security is infectious, and was actually the catalyst that got me interested in growing food myself.

Each of my visits to Grown In Town Farmstead has been slightly different- there is always some new project in the works, or a bed full of plants ready to harvest, or a patch of wild berries that are ripe and ready to be picked. Since my last there has been many new developments, including a newly built rabbit “house” which has greatly improved the living conditions of the family’s horde of pet bunnies. “Pet bunnies”, though, is a misnomer – these things are more like giant monster-bunnies. Weighing in at 8-10 lbs, the American Chinchilla rabbit was first bred in France as a dual-function breed: good for both meat and fur. When I asked what his reason for keeping the giant bunny rabbits was, John said that they were originally supposed to be used for their manure and as a protein source for his family, but that all changed of course when John’s two kids became self-proclaimed vegetarians a few years back. Now they are family pets kept primarily for their nutrient-rich manure, which requires no composting before it can be used as an organic fertilizer.

Other features of Grown In Town Farmstead include a chicken “palace” constructed largely from recycled materials, several hoop houses, a multitude of raised beds, and a mini-orchard that has been expanded to include apples, cherries, plums, “fancy” paw-paws, apricots, citrus, and quince. Perhaps John’s most sustainability-minded project, though, is his “urban compost” system. John collects organic waste from local restaurants like Soma, Laughing Planet, Bloomington Bagel and Feast every week and then brings it back to his farm where it is composted and transformed into a high-quality soil-amendment.

We hope that John Galuaka’s urban farm will be a main stop during the IUBeginnings SustainAbility trip this fall. During the trip, Incoming freshmen interested in sustainability and environmental issues will be given a great opportunity to explore Bloomington through the lens of sustainability while also being introduced to some very influential and inspiring people in the community. To learn more about the IUBeginnings SustainAbility trip visit the First Year Experience website.

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