Digging IN with Chris Baggott of Tyner Pond Farm
By Ryan Puckett | August 23, 2013
One thing most people don’t know about Dig IN is that the festival IS NOT a fundraiser. Rather, Dig Indiana (the not-for-profit that puts on Dig IN) raises money to put on the festival. This wouldn’t be possible without the support from Indiana’s Family of Farmers, The Indianapolis Foundation (an affilate of Central Indiana Community Foundation), Eskenazi Health and many others.
One sponsor that is new to Dig IN this year is Tyner Pond Farm (TPF). They are providing the chickens for the Pancetta & Chicken Salad Bibb Lettuce Wraps dish being prepared by Chef Miguel Cordero of Northside Social. What’s particularly interesting about Tyner Pond Farm (TPF) is that its owner is somewhat of a tech celebrity, Chris Baggott. Chris co-founded both ExactTarget and Compendium.
Chris started TPF in 2010 and the Indianapolis Business Journal did a great story about the farm last November.
Below is an interview with Chris (edited for clarity).
RP: What animals are raised on TPF?
CB: Our focus is on a rotation of grass-fed Beef. We raise two breeds: Wagyu and South Poll. The Wagyu are amazing but don’t have such great grass genetics. Our bull is a South Poll and has amazing grass genetics. Our calves this spring are either 100% South Poll or Waygu/South Poll cross.
We also raise heritage pigs on pasture. These are mostly Berkshire as well as Large Blacks and Old Spots. We focus on these breeds because they are able to pull a lot of their nutrition from forage. Our goal is to keep to the absolute minimum the amount of dirt our pigs even see. We want them on grass as much as possible. That is unique and translates directly to both the nutrition of the meat and most importantly the taste.
Finally we raise pasture chickens using the Salatin method of daily moves in floorless cages. Like all of our other animals, the goal is to keep them moving and on fresh grass at all times.
RP: What makes the products from TPF special?
CB: We focus on two things with all of our animals.
The first is low stress. We want them to have a really happy life. I totally believe that this is not only the ethical thing to do but significantly adds to the quality and flavor of our birds.
The second thing is grass. We are passionate about this for all of our animals. No dirt, no concrete but fresh green grass in front of them at all times.
I wish everyone could come and see the birds and all of our animals in this environment. I think then they would truly understand what makes this meat special.
RP: Why get did you get involved with Dig IN this year?
I’m passionate about local food. I really think that the destruction of local economies in general have created the two biggest societal problems we have today: The healthcare crisis and income disparity.
When we destroy local economies we destroy opportunities for a broader swath of the population to participate in the American Dream. We went from a country of small businesses to a nation of global companies and employees in less than a generation. It’s not to late to turn back this tide and local agriculture is one of the best places to start. Dig IN is the most public manifestation of this mission.
RP: What do you hope people get out of the Dig IN experience?
CB: I would like people to see not only the volume and range of local food in Indiana but also to understand the nuances of different foods from different farmers using different methods.
Next to my booth at the Downtown Farmers Market there is a great kid named James selling coffee. People come to him all day long and talk at length about the source, the environment, the altitude and roasting methods of his coffee. People then move over to our stand and ask, “How much is the pork chop?”.
This is exactly what is wrong with the current system. The coffee industry has done a wonderful job of creating intelligent consumers. The food industry has done an excellent job of creating ignorant customers. Part of the job of Dig IN is to help help change this.
RP: Why is it important – in your opinion – to know where your food comes from?
CB: Well for most of the reasons that I’ve discussed before. But ultimately, food is the most important thing we can do for our health and the health of our society. Local food creates local businesses. Local food keeps dollars circulating in our communities.
According to Dr. Ken Meter, 97% of the agricultural bounty of Indiana is sent out of state to be processed and 97% of our food is imported from outside of Indiana (25% of that is imported from outside the United States). So much for feeding the world…we are not even feeding ourselves.
Knowing and supporting your individual farmer is a magic relationship. They grow your food the way you want it…transparently. Your individual support keeps the farmers economically viable and encourages others to look at the local alternative..
RP: What are some of your favorite Indiana foods?
CB: This time of year I can’t get enough non-GMO sweet corn. I just love it and eat it every day. Tomatoes also and, of course, pasture-raised meat.
RP: Anything else a foodie coming to Dig IN should know about TPF?
CB: Just that I sort of cringe at the term ‘foodie’. The farm-to-fork movement has to be a big enough tent to bring in everyone. Not only the ‘foodie’ but all the eaters out there. We have to work on our methods to bring down the costs as well as work hard on the education front so that people really understand the importance of local food to their own well-being. The food industry is a massive foe and we all need to work together if we are going to make a dent. A simple example: Hancock County where we farm has a total food-spend of $170 million dollars a year. Less than one million of that is spent on locally produced food. What we are demonstrating at Tyner Pond Farm is an economically prosperous alternative…a laboratory for other farmers to see not only the methods but the support from the consumer.