Changing the way she ate wasn’t really so much of a desire as a necessity for Lucinda Gingerich.
A self-proclaimed former “junk food junkie,” Gingerich said her bad eating habits led to some serious health issues. After suffering long enough, it was clear a major change was needed.
It was then decided, between she and her husband Jonathan, that the two of them and their family would no longer eat processed food.
So in 2001, Jonathan Gingerich built a home in rural Howard County for the couple and their-now eight kids and started farming, first raising chickens in pastures, not cages, in 2004. The family’s devout Christian faith led them to want to grow their food in the most natural, sustainable way possible.
“When we couldn’t buy this kind of food anywhere, we started growing it,” Lucinda Gingerich said.
But the two underestimated how expensive growing food without the fillers that has dominated conventional farming.
“We quickly found we could not possibly grow the food for what you can buy it at Walmart,” Lucinda Gingerich said.
But the Gingerichs’ persistence and dedication never stopped despite not having much experience in farming.
It often took Jonathan working 20-hour days laying the groundwork for the farm, splitting work between his main construction job and managing the day-to-day needs of the farm.
The family’s farm business, Homestead Heritage, didn’t really become a business until 2006, when they took out a newspaper ad selling chickens. The initial reaction was positive and led to the family deciding to raise more chickens.
The pressure for the farm to be a success grew after the recession hit in 2008 and the country’s housing market crashed, leaving construction a very unreliable source of income for the family.
So the Gingeriches doubled down on the farm.
Eventually, the family added beef and pork to their now “farm-to-consumer” operation.
Keeping with their pledge, the cattle were only fed grass and the pigs are raised in pastures. All of the animals on Homestead Heritage are raised without any GMOs, antibiotics or hormones.
Or as the Gingerich’s like to put: raising food the way God intended it to be.
“When you treat an animal the way God wants it treated – you put it outdoors and let it eat what it wants to eat, then in turn that animal is much healthier. So when I choose to eat that animal, I’ve given it a good life, I’ve been a good steward, and so it’s been a happy animal and so it’s much more nourishing to me,” Lucinda Gingerich said.
“We treat everything the way God intended it be, and so that became our motto: Real food by God’s design.”
Without the assured selling markets that large farms, and ones simply growing corn and soybeans have, the Gingerichs had to grow their customer base from the ground up, an aspect of the small-farm model that has now been adopted by families nationwide they say is one of the most challenging.
The rise of consumers actively wanting to know where their food is coming from and how it was raised has definitely helped, though the Gingeriches have grown their customer base organically, through relationships created and farmer’s markets and churches.
Fourteen years into it, Homestead Heritage has some 500 total families it feeds. It has grown to a 140-acre operation. The family sells its products onsite Wednesday and Friday, at Sunsport Natural Foods, at an Indianapolis farmer's market and through its mobile market trailer on the weekends.
“You know, when I look back, it’s just an amount of small steps that eventually became a living,” she said. “It all eventually worked out. I guess God had a plan.”
The farm hasn’t made them rich, but the Gingeriches are just happy knowing they’re doing something beneficial and not destructive.
“One of the biggest pleasures is growing something that is beneficial for my customers and knowing it tastes good and is healthy,” Jonathan Gingerich said.