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Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a unique model of local agriculture that began in Japan over 30 years ago, when a group of women were concerned about the amount of ...

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A CSA is a relationship of mutual support and commitment between local farmers and community members. In turn, members receive a weekly share of the harvest during the local g...

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You can participate in Victory Acres Farm in a variety of ways. 1. Print, fill out and submit the Victory Acres Farm Friend Membership Form via mail: click here.  2. You ca...

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A Place to Belong by Eric Himelick PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 03 August 2012 10:14

Victory Acres was home to an early settler village called Lick Skillet in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Before Indiana was a state, people were already moving to this Northwest Territory neighborhood from points further east. One of these early settlers was my great-great-great- great grandfather, Daniel Wise. Born in 1805, he moved to the area as a young man and raised his family. Jacob Wise, his son, did quite well for himself and ended up owning more than one local farmstead. One of those farms, maybe the property that is now Victory Acres, was part of his wedding present from his in-laws, the Marine family. When Jacob was just beginning his family in the mid-1850’s, the railroad arrived bringing with it progress and change. He raised a daughter, Lydia, across the tracks from the farm that was to become Victory Acres.

A dashing young gentleman arrived from the east and soon came courting Miss Lydia. Shortly before the marriage of George Himelick and Lydia Wise in 1893, George secured the farm across the tracks, with assistance from his future in-laws as a wedding gift.   In 1900, the Himelick’s built a new house for their growing family, replacing the old log cabin, and they began to fill it with love. They raised twelve children in that house, including my great grandfather, Waldo Himelick.  Even as the Grant County gas wells gave out, the automobile and airplane were invented, and the clouds of WWI darkened the world horizon, the farm was a place that endured the changing times.

When George passed away in 1939, Lydia moved to town, and for several years the farm was rented out or left empty.  WWII came and went.  Waldo’s son--my grandfather--Verlin Himelick, USMC, saw action in the South Pacific.  He had many war stories that he seldom told, but they affected him deeply. He returned, married a beautiful young lady from New Mexico after a courtship of only four months, and moved her back to Indiana to farm. Needing a place of his own, he talked with his grandmother about buying the “Old Home Place.” The sale was arranged, and for the next 50 years, he called it home.

Eventually, my own father married and shared the land with his parents. The farm was the only home I knew for the first 18 years of my life. While my parents worked and my mother went to nursing school, my brothers and I often spent time with my grandparents in that same old farmhouse. Having them that close to us was a huge blessing.

Like many farmers, my grandfather hit hard times in the mid-1980’s. He lost his farm equipment to a bank foreclosure and spent the next ten years as a truck driver. He approached the twilight years of life without a retirement fund, working into his late 70’s driving a truck for his brother, Jack Himelick, at Jack’s gravel operation.  Because he was cash poor but land rich, he began to contemplate the unthinkable: selling off his land as a way to have something on which to live when he was no longer able to work. The idea of my grandfather selling off the family land made me sick, but few other options remained.

Having lived at the farm my whole life, my roots in Upland ran deep.  As Wendell Berry would say, “Everyone is born to a place,” and this farm was my place.  But like most young men my age, I went exploring. I studied theology and pastoral ministry at Union Bible College and did an internship in St. Louis, opening my eyes to the needs of urban America.  I returned from St. Louis forever changed and began to minister among the needy in an eastside Indianapolis neighborhood. I had no real plans to start a ministry, but God had other ideas. By 2005, Rochelle and I had been building Victory Inner-City Ministries for seven years.  One of the challenges we faced again and again was the need for people -- broken, messed-up people -- to disengage from the city. At funeral after funeral I wondered if things could have been different for young men like Andre or Lamonte if they had been able to get away from the madness of the inner city.

Each time I would think about the need for a safe place, a place like the one where I had grown up. I had come to the city to minister, but so many of my urban friends needed a place like our family’s farm. In the midst of a “place-less,” transient neighborhood like the one in which I lived, many of these people could be radically affected for good by a place with roots, heritage, and a sense of community.

In Upland was a farm that had fallen into disrepair and needed people to do good work, and on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis were people, many unemployed and homeless, that needed good work to do.

I took a prayer retreat at Victory Acres in October 2005. For three days I walked the farm and sketched what I envisioned (by faith).  We presented these ideas to the Himelick family and to our ministry’s board of directors. With green lights from them and Grandpa’s strong sense that this plan for a ministry was what God wanted, we set a closing date.  Unfortunately, Grandpa never lived to see it. The day we were to sign the papers was the day he died. His last words to me were, “Eric, I just don’t want this thing [the land] to go into an estate.”  He was concerned that the land would become entangled in litigation unless he got the deal finished before his passing.

But the deal was completed.  In June 2006, the farm was sold on contract to Victory Inner-City Ministries to be paid over the next 15 years, providing my grandmother with a retirement income she wouldn’t have had otherwise and enabling her to live out the last five years of her life in her own home.  As I visited her at different times over those five years, she would often thank me, and I would return that thanks. Truly, it was a win-win situation.  More importantly, it was a God-inspired situation.

Over the past six years, the farm has slowly come back to life -- new fields, new greenhouses, new crops, new people, and a new generation of Himelicks living in the old farmhouse. With only five children, I’ve got a ways to go to catch up with Grandpa George’s family, but I bet his kids didn’t make half as much noise as our rowdy crew.

With Dad and Mom living down the lane, it still feels a lot like a traditional family farm, but we are slowly transitioning to a different form of ownership. Now, as a non-profit farm, we are stewards. The farm will always be connected with the Himelick’s family story and the Himelick family name, but it has become more than just a place for our family to call home. For many, it has become the home they never had and the family they never knew. It has become their farm too.

It’s kind of curious. So many of our interns return. They call from all over the United States to see how the season is going.  They email to say that they’re keeping up with the farm on Facebook or the website. When they can, they drop by “just to say hi” or to show the farm to a friend.

Victory Acres has become for many new people what it has always been for me -- a home.  It has become a stable point on the map in the middle of a transient world. For every Dorothy without a Kansas to go back to, Victory Acres is like the light left on in the kitchen at the end of a long trip, a breath of fresh air, a place to belong.  Dorothy was right.  There’s no place like home.

 
Around Our Table PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 May 2012 12:38

Since we moved into the newly renovated farmhouse in late February, hardly a day has gone by that our dining-room table has not been filled. Guests from near and far, recovering addicts, interns learning agricultural skills, and of course, our family fill the places around our table.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t really given much thought to the daily ritual of preparing, sharing, and cleaning up these farm family dinners. It was just part of the woodwork.  It was just part of the life we live here. But there are those to whom this familiar scene is anything but familiar.

Dale, a young man biking his way across America, arrived last week to spend a week or so at our farm as part of the WWOOFing program. He found our farm online and called to see if he could spend some time volunteering in exchange for food and a place to sleep. We welcomed him. After his second meal with us, he remarked to my dad, “You don’t know what you have here. There aren’t very many places anymore where people sit down together as a family and eat like this. This is really special.” He went on to describe how his family had never had a collective mealtime.  Each individual would just get what he wanted, whenever he wanted, and eat it how and where he wanted. His comment got me to thinking. How many other people are missing the same kind of nutrition, intimacy, and fellowship that we share so freely each day around our table?

There is a lot more involved in the simple but profound act of gathering around a table for a meal than just the food. It is a statement about life, culture, and the things that we count as important. The same forces that push us to “just grab something at a drive-through” are the same forces that are ripping our homes and marriages apart. People are more disconnected, more starved for intimacy than ever before. We don’t have time for the things that really matter.

A simple meal is a statement, but it also raises many questions. Where did the food come from? Who grew it? What were the conditions for the workers and the animals? Were there harmful chemicals used? How was the food prepared and by whom? Who is here? Who will be eating with us? How are they to be welcomed? Is the meal warm and inviting?  Is there music?  Does it feel like home? Is it delicious? Is it nutritious? Is it balanced? Is the conversation around the table uplifting? Is it a friendly review of people, places, events and experiences--present and past? Until the last dish is washed and put away, does everyone enjoy the time spent together? Can a simple dinner transcend meeting a physical need and provide deeper meaning?

Each meal is a profound experience, a spoon-sized sample of that Great Feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is a little taste of heaven on earth. The very way in which God made food so tasty and the way in which so much of our lives are dependent on others for food and so much of our lives are spent preparing and serving meals is a clue:  There is more here than food. We live through the death of other living things. We are sustained at the expense of the time and life of others. Each meal is sacred. It is a glimpse of eternity. God Himself is present with us around our table.

 
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