The Fungi Connection is the vision of at least 15 years of labour, love, and determination.
Darin and Deb Kelly -- that's us -- joined forces in 2006 with a common love of growing veggies, flowers, fruit, and fungi. From those early days, we dreamed of owning and operating a farm, where sustainable methods would allow us to make a living while bringing beautiful, delicious, and healthy food to our local community.
Darin grew up in and around London, Ontario, and moved to the States when he was 19, following his parents. I (Deb) grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana, then went to Indianapolis for university, where I studied English Literature and music, and later, law.
Darin was also an English major at university, and later pursued a Master's degree in Dendroclimatology. Of all our passions, though, "growing stuff" has endured.
We met and began our first garden in 2006; (our first couple of dates included seed catalogs and the beginning of a compost pile). Darin proposed in September that year, by hiding a ring in the bean patch, where I found it while harvesting.
By late 2007 we were married and attending several markets in Indiana, including the epic Bloomington Farmers Market.
Our first farm, Good Life Farms -- inspired by the book The Good Life, by Helen and Scott Nearing -- began as a small farmers market stand in Terre Haute, featuring a variety of home-grown veggies and flowers. We were learning to be a family of farmers, with the help of our two children (Darin's from his first marriage), Julian and Caitlin.
We were also determined to grow food successfully without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. I had survived one round of breast cancer by the time Darin and I met, and I was a proponent of organic methods.
Both of us share a love of living things, and have always endeavoured to live and let live when it comes to wildlife and insects.
During the first two years of attending farmers markets, we slowly began to see ourselves as "real" farmers. We identified a gap in most of the markets, which was fresh local lettuce and lettuce mix, and that became our focus: how to grow the best-tasting lettuce, and how to extend the season, providing sweet, supple lettuces throughout the hot Indiana summers. We have grown, harvested, and sold field lettuce when the temperature hit 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37C), and we have done the same when the hoop covers were buried in snow and ice, protecting the fragile heads from some of the coldest Indiana winters.
In June of 2008, after successfully running a CSA the prior year, we experienced a grower's worst nightmare: a 100-year-flood, which finished off the scores of tomato plants, potato plants, lettuces, squash, beans, and everything else we had planted for our customers.
Shortly after that experience -- despite the extreme kindness of our CSA customers -- we began researching greenhouse and hydroponic methods, attempting to gain another level of protection from the whims of Mother Nature.
In the interim, we had started a new little family, welcoming Josephine Violet in March of 2009. I was also able to leave my full-time job as a newspaper reporter, and Darin and I became full-time farmers.
The first of what would be many future greenhouse operations began going up in the fall of 2009.