VALPARAISO | Beth Sakaguchi Eccles is a third generation area farmer whose vegetable growing roots go back to her Japanese immigrant grandparents.
Eccles, one of four individuals who spoke on Friday at the Food Summit on their local food success stories, said she was excited to get the word out about her naturally grown produce and that of others.
"I've never been asked to speak at an event in Northwest Indiana or even in my own town," Eccles said.
The Food Summit event, held at Valparaiso University Law School, was sponsored by the law school, Purdue University's Local Food Program and Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.
Hosted by Valparaiso University Law School Associate Professor Nicole Negowetti, the Food Summit examined opportunities for producers, distributors and emerging new markets such as food hubs and mobile grocery services.
The event was a first, but one that Negowetti hopes will lead to the formation of a Food Policy Counsel which could look to bring fresh foods to schools, address food deserts in communities and educate the public about buying locally grown fresh food.
Eccles told participants her grandparents, when they came to the North Judson area from Japan in 1934, began raising Japanese and Chinese vegetables to sell to restaurants and groceries primarily in the Chicago area.
Her dad took over her grandparent's farm but when he retired Eccles and her husband, Brent Eccles, expanded it and purchased adjacent property now called Green Acres.
Green Acres grows more than 500 varieties of heirloom vegetables and fruits marketed primarily in the Chicago area to farmer's markets or restaurants.
"We practice all organic farming," Eccles said.
Others on the panel included Robert Colangelo, founder of Green Sense Farms in Portage; Brad Hindsley, of Spire Farm-to-Fork Cuisine in LaPorte and Eve Kaiser, of LOAF in Chesterton.
Hindsley, who grew up on a small hobby farm south of LaPorte, said he believes the farm to fork movement is one that is here to stay in the area.
Hindsley opened his first restaurant in 2012 and 90 percent of the items that go into his menu are purchased from farms within 250 miles.
Some 10 items, including chocolate, olive oil and seafood, are purchased outside that area.
"And all our food is made from scratch," Hindsley said.
Kaiser, who opened LOAF, or Local Organic Affordable Foods, a year ago in Chesterton, said her grocery store offers only fresh produce and food items from local farmers.
"It's the next thing and it has to be what happens. This has to be the way of the future and the way people are eating," Kaiser said.