Living Roots EcoVillage

By Joy Neighbors

(A blog post last week reported how French Lick Resort works with producers in the community to offer locally sourced foods at several resort restaurants. Today, we visit one of those local suppliers, Living Roots EcoVillage.)

Michael Hicks of Living Roots EcoVillage
Michael Hicks started Living Roots EcoVillage almost two years ago. Before this venture, he sold produce near Bedford for 12 years. Nature has always played a huge role in Hicks’s life; he has served on the Board of Directors for the Local Growers Guild, the Board of Directors for Lost River Community Coop, and the Bloomington Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. Today, he is the EcoVillage farm leader and manages the CSA.

Washing Beets
Living Roots is a farm co-operative similar to a
homeowners association. Residents live off the beaten path on a quiet country road between French Lick and Patoka Lake. The EcoVillage uses organic farming methods but is not “certified organic.” “We practice holistic farming,” Hicks explained “This is a way of growing food without chemicals
EcoVillage Garden
or sprays; using smart planting and people-power as a way
to control weeds and harvest crops. We use straw for mulching around our vegetables because it helps keep weeds down and retains moisture for the plans. We grow our food this way not just for the flavor but to keep people healthy.”

Garlic Hung to Dry
Natural Mulch for Basil Plants
The farm is comprised of 75 acres that currently grows more than 350 varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruit. Produce includes corn, eggplant, squash, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, garlic, onions, herbs, green beans and melons. All of the food is grown without chemicals by utilizing sustainable farming methods, permaculture, natural mulching, water catchments and raised beds. The farm is also home to 16 people, 50 chickens, several grass-fed cows and three Heritage hogs.

French Lick Resort is a major purchaser of produce including salad mix, head lettuce, leafy greens like kale, chard and cabbage. According to Hicks, “The resort uses our peppers so we offer quite a mix. Heirloom tomatoes are popular so we have more than 2,000 plants, and over 2 miles of potatoes. Everything we sell the resort is fresh, seasonal and grown right here.”

Zucchini, Yellow, Striped and Pattypan Squash
Each May through December the EcoVillage offers a Community Supported Ag (CSA) program. “People pay in advance for the weekly basket of produce they receive for 32 weeks (May – December), and everything is grown on the farm,” Hicks said. We currently have 105 families involved; we are the biggest CSA in the state and one of the highest producing in Indiana.”

Besides healthy, chemically-free foods, Living Roots also offers opportunities for the community to come out and visit. “We offer a weekly class in yoga and massage therapy, and each spring we have a permaculture workshop,” Hicks said. There’s also a monthly potluck for those who would like to learn more about the EcoVillage and sustainable farming. The event is held the third Sunday of the month at the EcoVillage Community Center. A tour of the farm is offered before the sit-down meal. Visitors are asked to call (812) 727-5444 or email if planning to attend.

Living Roots EcoVillage
So what are Michael's plans for the future? “I’d love to see several other diversified businesses set up here under the EcoVillage umbrella,” Hicks replied. The EcoVillage provides a natural focus to farming and living. Maybe we’ll have a mushroom farmer or cheesemaker living here. People own their land separately but we all work together because that’s what it’s all about – working together for the benefit of all.”