20U40 RYAN RICHARDSON

20 UNDER 40: Ryan Richardson

2012-09-26T00:00:00Z 2012-09-29T14:57:04Z 20 UNDER 40: Ryan RichardsonStory by Lesly Bailey nwitimes.com
September 26, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Ryan Richardson wants region residents to get their hands dirty.

His GrowNWI initiative strives to bring communities out into the garden and provide a path to education and involvement.

“I started this initiative in order to bring together groups that were all working toward a similar goal. We want to get people more educated on locally produced items,” Richardson says. “Connecting with one’s food source is the cornerstone of beginning a healthy lifestyle.”

The group starts organizations at the ground level, helping them with the basics and serving as a guide to gardening.

“Getting started is often the biggest challenge. I felt that if we could help groups get started then the many talented and passionate people that we are so lucky to have in Northwest Indiana would take community gardens and growing your own produce to a whole new level,” he says. “We meet onsite and help decide locations, install beds, get plants and seeds and mentor along the way.”

Launched in 2011, the initiative began with eight gardens and now has more than 40. It was prompted by a One Region One Vision call to action as well as his foray into the world of farming. The vice president of development at Luke Oil found himself in a new arena when the company took over County Line Orchard in Hobart in 2006. He now serves as the orchard’s vice president of operations.

“Rep. (Pete) Visclosky challenged local business leaders to do something in their areas of expertise: to not just talk but do,” he says. “I have had a unique career path that has enabled me to understand how to adapt and use resources to accomplish a goal outside of one’s comfort zone. I studied business and economics at Purdue and two years after graduation, I was learning the fine details of growing and caring for apple trees and pumpkins. I was able to chop down a pretty tall learning curve.”

Chuck Gleason of GrowNWI says Richardson’s leadership blends both his business and farming roots.

“Ryan is a leader in the environmentally-conscious community because he is a farmer and a business owner and he understands what it takes to make the two work in harmony,” Gleason says. “Ryan seems to have a spirit that is perfect for helping the communities that he loves. Through these initiatives, he has increased the fresh and healthy foods in Northwest Indiana and he has single-handedly introduced thousands of adults and children in these communities to gardening and the healthy benefits of growing your own food.”

The GrowNWI organizations can use their produce for their own purposes, donate it or sell it as a source of revenue to GrowNWI’s Veggie Box program. It is a weekly delivery of fruits and vegetables that combines the community garden creations and local farmers’ offerings. Down the road, Richardson envisions including value-added products such as canned items and jams created from region produce.

“Not every year is a good year with farming – there are lots of challenges. You learn as you go and we are starting to see groups working together and sharing ideas and their successes and failures on what to plant and what has worked,” he says. “We have some strong gardens that in the next few years could be small-scale working farms.”

Richardson sees the impact of GrowNWI on the next generation and its potential.

“They may not grow up to be farmers per se but it can open up another avenue – if they want to be a biologist they may focus on a safer fungicide or study insects and their impact,” he says. “Our goals are to improve communications between groups and continue to increase the volume of produce that is generated by the community gardens.”

Tom Collins Sr., president of Luke Oil, says all of Richardson’s roles allow him to connect to the community.

“Through Luke Oil and County Line Orchard, Ryan has organized numerous fund-raisers and donated to various area charitable organizations including donating countless hours of his own time. He has donated the labor and materials to begin community gardens for countless churches, municipalities and youth organizations,” Collins says. “Through the County Line Orchard’s school tours program, Ryan oversees the seasonal visit of over 50,000 area students per year to observe and learn about the process of growing fruit from pollination to harvesting.”

“I have the opportunity to work really closely with many aspects of the community,” Richardson says. “Through our success in business, we are able to give back quite a bit through fund-raising including the orchard’s Beatles at the Barn fund-raiser for food banks and we are able to help out area cancer walks and dozens of local charities and organizations throughout the year.”

Richardson says Luke Oil founder Ralph Luke was an early inspiration on how to juggle business and family, which for Richardson includes wife Kristin and five children.

“I work every day on balancing Luke Oil, the orchard, GrowNWI and family as all four have grown quite a bit in the last 10 years. I couldn’t have done it without my supportive wife and our dedicated employees,” he says. “Ralph was an amazing mentor. I grew up with him as I dated my wife (Luke’s granddaughter) in high school. His personality, business acumen and the way he treated all people regardless of who they were have always stuck with me.

“Having the opportunity to learn from Ralph certainly has impacted the way our family business balances our time with private enterprise and community involvement. I am proud we are the third generation keeping the family business going and we have a fourth generation to continue to do the same.”

 

 

Ryan Richardson's GrowNWI initiative strives to bring communities out into the garden and provide a path to education and involvement.

“We want to get people more educated on locally produced items,” Richardson says. “Connecting with one’s food source is the cornerstone of beginning a healthy lifestyle.”

The group starts organizations at the ground level, helping them with the basics and serving as a guide to gardening.

Launched in 2011, the initiative began with eight gardens and now has more than 40. It was prompted by a One Region One Vision call to action as well as his foray into the world of farming. The vice president of development at Luke Oil found himself in a new arena when the company took over County Line Orchard in Hobart in 2006. He now serves as the orchard’s vice president of operations.

The GrowNWI organizations can use their produce for their own purposes, donate it or sell it as a source of revenue to GrowNWI’s Veggie Box program. It is a weekly delivery of fruits and vegetables that combines the community garden creations and local farmers’ offerings.

Richardson sees the impact of GrowNWI on the next generation and its potential.

“They may not grow up to be farmers per se but it can open up another avenue – if they want to be a biologist they may focus on a safer fungicide or study insects and their impact,” he says. “Our goals are to improve communications between groups and continue to increase the volume of produce that is generated by the community gardens.”

 

 

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