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A Pictorial History of the Wisdom of Food Production, Practice, and Provisioning

Almost half (46.6 %) of Indiana farms are smaller than 50 acres. 
--2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture

An Evolving Bibliography

Sustainable Food Systems Science, Indiana University.

Initial funding from the IU Bloomington Office of the Provost and the IU Bloomington Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

Anthropology of Food, Indiana University.
Food Institute, Indiana University.
“Food after the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Case for Change Posed by Alternative Food: A Case Study of the American Midwest.”

Robinson, J. M., L. Mzali, D. Knudsen, J. Farmer, R. Spiewak, S. Suttles, M. Burris, A. Shattuck, J. D. Valliant, A. Babb (2021).

Global Sustainability.

Selling Local: Why Local Food Movements Matter  
Robinson and Farmer (2017)

Indiana University Press

Read these sample chapters:

Why Local, Why Now?--Chapter 1

Growing Capacity--Chapter 5

Systems Approach--Chapter 6​

The Farmers' Market Book: Growing Food, Cultivating Community 
Robinson and Hartenfeld (2007)

Indiana University Press

Read these sample chapters:

The Bloomington Farmers' Market--Chapter 3

Market Customers--Chapter 4

Market Vendors--Chapter 5

Market Generations--Chapter 6

New Farms, New Farmers--Chapter 7

Market Futures--Chapter 8


“Making the Land Connection: Local Food Farms and Sustainability of Place.”
Robinson, J. M. (2016)

In The Greening of Everyday Life: Challenging Practices, Imaging Possibilities.  Edited by Jens Kersten and John M. Meyer.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press. 198-210.

“Family as a catalyst in farms’ diversifying agricultural products: A mixed methods analysis of diversified and non-diversified farms in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.”

Valliant, J. D., J. Farmer, S. Dickinson, A. B. Bruce, J. M. Robinson. (2017)

Journal of Rural Studies 55 (October): 302-315. September 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2017.08.017

“Agrileisure: Farmers’ Markets, CSAs, and the Privilege in Eating Local."
Farmer, J. R., Chancellor, C., Robinson, J. M., West, S., and Weddell, M. (2014)

Journal of Leisure Research, special issue on Social and Environmental Justice 46:  313-328.

Indiana Uplands: Local Food, Local Good A 2020 Report


"Race, Power, and the Ballot: Early Black Settlement in Sugar Creek Township"
Jill Weiss Simins (2019)

"Black families had established a thriving farming community around Thorntown in the Sugar Creek Township of Boone County as early as the 1840s. But the article showed more than the prejudice of the local editor, who saw this community as “imported,” as “other,” and as not “real” or “true” Boone County voters. "

"By the 1840s, patriarch Moody Gilliam moved his large family, described as “mulatto” by white census takers, from North Carolina to Boone County, Indiana. Other members of the Gilliam family had been prominent in the establishment of nearby Roberts Settlement in Hamilton County. This proximity to family and another black community certainly played an important part in the decision to settle and farm in Boone. The Gilliams owned at least $1000.00 worth of property by 1850 which they farmed and improved successfully. By 1860, Moody Gilliam’s property was estimated at $4000.00. This would be approximately $120,000 today, a solid foundation for a family facing unimaginable prejudice and legal discrimination. [2]"

"Despite racist legislation and prejudice, Black settlers established a successful farming community in Boone County concentrated in Sugar Creek Township near Thorntown.

"By 1860, seventy-two Black Hoosiers lived in Sugar Creek Township with eleven based in Thorntown proper. The census from that year, shows us that they arrived mainly from North Carolina and Kentucky, that they were predominately farmers, and that most could not read and write. Many Black Southerners had been prohibited from obtaining an education as it was seen by white slave owners as a threat to the slavery system. The mainly illiterate founders of the Sugar Creek settlement, however, broke this systematic oppression by making sure their children could read and write."

"There were instead farmers, washer women, school teachers, reverends, barbers, ditch diggers, students, and veterans. [19]"


[2] 1850 and 1860 United States Census accessed AncestryLibrary.

[19] 1850 and 1860 United States Census accessed AncestryLibrary.

The Negro in Indiana before 1900
Emma Lou Thornbrough

Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1985

The Midwest’s Food System is Failing. Here’s Why
Karen Perry Stillerman

Union of Concerned Scientists, July 17, 2018

Indiana ranks 46th in the UCS 50-State Food System Scorecard and reflecting a fundamental paradox that the Midwest "bread basket" is lagging in terms of the health and sustainability of their food and farming systems. Worse, Indiana ranked 49th in a Union of Concerned Scientists assessment "using measures including percentage of cropland in fruits and vegetables, percentage of cropland in the top three crops (where a higher number means lower diversity), percentage of principal crop acres used for major animal feed and fuel crops, and meat production and large feeding operations per farm acres."

Southern Seed, Northern Soil: African-American Farm Communities in the Midwest, 1765-1900
Stephen A. Vincent

Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999

Fite, Gilbert C. American Farmers: The New Minority (Indiana U. Press, 1981)
Nordin, Dennis S. and Scott, Roy V. From Prairie Farmer to Entrepreneur: The Transformation of Midwestern Agriculture.
Indiana U. Press, 2005. 356 pp.
Indiana's pre-Civil War black farming community a Smithsonian surprise
Will Higgins

The Indianapolis Star 2017

Lyles Station, Indiana, was recognized at the Smithsonian Museum.  Free Blacks settled there prior to the Civil War and the community continues. 

Braceros in the Corn Belt Part One: Secretary Wickard & the Myth of the Agricultural Labor Shortage in WWII

Indiana History Blog 2018

Braceros in the Corn Belt Part Two: “Ambassadors of Goodwill”

Indiana History Blog 2017

"The U. S. government began importing Mexican laborers to work on American farms almost immediately after Secretary of Agriculture (and Carroll County native) Claude Wickard successfully negotiated with the Mexican government to begin what became known as the Bracero Program. The first workers arrived in the fall of 1942 and by February 1943, approximately 4,000 Mexicans were at work on farms in the American Southwest. Thousands more were employed by the railroad industry in the name of war preparedness. East Coast growers and processors soon demanded access to foreign workers and the federal government again complied. By April 1943, the program included Jamaican and Bahamian workers as well. By early 1944 bracero were at work laying railroad tracks and picking and canning produce in the Hoosier state."

Indiana farmers harvest historic hemp crop, hoping for a new growth industry
Joseph S. Pete

NWI.com Oct 21, 2019 Updated Jun 28, 2020

Corn, Tomatoes, & POWs: Hoosier Agriculture During World War II

Annette Scherber 

November 17, 2016

Democracy for Some: Defining the Indiana Landscape through the Rectangular Survey System
Indiana History Blog
Simins 2017

"The removal of the native tribes living in the territories was the first step of the survey process.  Both the proposed 1784 Land Ordinance and the adopted 1785 Land Ordinance called for American Indian removal. The United States government worked towards this end through both military action, economic pressure, and treaties in order to make space for white male settlers to farm the land. On July 13, 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, an act which created the Northwest Territory (an area that would become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota) and provided a system for settling the area to create new states."

"Between 1774 and 1794, Indian villages in New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio were constantly attacked by the American army and militias. The Shawnee, Delaware, Iroquois, Miami, Odawa, Wyandot and Mingo saw unspeakable violence committed against their villages during this time period. Over 100 Indian villages were burned and destroyed, leaving an unknown number of civilian casualties."

In Indiana, The Last Remnants Of America's Free African-American Settlements

September 22, 2016. NPR.  

"The Greer property is in Lyles Station, a little-known farming community in Indiana where free African-Americans began buying land in the 1800s. The hundreds of acres of farmland Greer's grandfather bought in 1855 is among the oldest in the community."

Farmer's Institute Academy National Historic Site

"Guest Roadtripper Norma Erickson, a volunteer at the Indiana Medical History Museum, invites us on a visit to the Farmers Institute Academy, a landmark of Quaker and African-American history in the southeast corner of Tippecanoe County. 

The white, two-story wood-frame structure, topped by a charming cupola, was built in 1851 by members of the Society of Friends. Quaker families were moving from Ohio to this area as early as 1828 and by mid century the congregation - known then as the Greenfield Monthly Meeting - had grown to the point where it was able to build this structure to house a school. It was the first institution of higher learning in a rural area of the county, as noted on the historical marker placed on the site by the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

Norma tells us that she originally visited the Farmers Institute Academy in search of African-American history and learned that some members of the congregation were conductors on one of the Western Indiana routes of the Underground Railroad. The local Sleeper family, for example, took into their home people fleeing slavery in the South and helped them on to the next station. There was another active Underground Railroad station at nearby Bethel in Fountain County.

Norma shares the dramatic narrative of the Sleeper family, along with other stories that touch upon local African-American history, as she leads us on this fascinating Roadtrip." From here.

Angel Mounds State Historic Site

"The site was inhabited from A.D.1000 to A.D 1450, and during this period up to 1,000 people may have lived there at any one time. Angel Mounds is thought to have been a political, religious, and social hub for the people living along the Ohio River. These residents were likely horticulturalists/agriculturalists who supplemented their diets with fish and freshwater mussels from the nearby river and game from the surrounding lands."


Virginia Claypool Meredith

"As a writer, speaker, stockbreeder, and university professor, Meredith (born 1848) encouraged women to pursue education and careers related to farm life. She inherited Oakland Farm, three blocks south, 1882. Successfully grew business and reputation as farm expert. Appointed to 1893 World's Fair Board of Lady Managers. She was known as "Queen of American Agriculture.""


Looking At History: Indiana's Hoosier National Forest Region, 1600 to 1950
Ellen Sieber and Cheryl Ann Munson (1992)



Cover Photo: "Going Home," photograph from the Hohenberger Collection, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Reprinted with the permission of the Indiana University Foundation.

Windows on the Past


Sources for History
Geographical Setting

History of South Central Indiana

Cultures in Transition: Native Americans, 1600-1800
Transplanted Cultures: Pioneer Settlement, 1800-1850
Regional Distinctiveness: Tradition and Change, 1850-1915
Twentieth Century Changes, 1915-1950

History in the Making

The Forest Service and the Public
The Public Role

Local and State Historical Organizations and Museums

End Notes

Sources for Further Reading

Illustration Credits


About the Authors

Other References of Interest

  • Greta de Jong. You Can't Eat Freedom : Southerners and Social Justice after the Civil Rights Movement. University of North Carolina Press, 2016. Ebook.

    • Discussion of cooperatives as relevant to small farmers, especially federal programs, how they were ignored by the USDA, how they were displaced, their revival, and their anachronism. 

    • "When freedpeople and their allies suggested that real freedom required a redistribution of land and resources in the South to ensure economic independence for former slaves, political leaders balked. They believed the future lay in large-scale agriculture, not small farms" (1).  With White supremacists in Southern governments, freedom for Blacks was restricted.  They were prohibited from owning land and instead became laborers.


See also evolving images and voices