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Farm-to-Table Talk with Dan and Dana Dunbar & Braedon Kellner

Fresh-faced Tinker Street chef Braedon Kellner has used Dunbar Heritage Farms’ live greens and herbs from the beginning. While scouting ingredients for an opening-day menu at the Indy Winter Farmers Market, “I saw these red-frill mustard greens that Dan and Dana were selling, and I made a beeline to their stand,” he says. Now Kellner’s menu often features the rainbow-colored hydroponic greens the Dunbars dote on in their Lebanon greenhouses.

The Dunbars each had careers in other fields before farming. How has that helped this relationship?

Dana: I worked for many years in restaurant management. Dan worked as a network engineer for Key Bank, though he was raised on a traditional grain farm. I have the knowledge to work with restaurants and communicate what we have better because of my experience. And Dan’s customer-service training has given him the skills to manage a challenging business. We were growing tomatoes, peppers, and flowers for various markets for several years when a farmer friend called to say that the former Eden Farms hydroponic facility was available. We couldn’t turn it down.

Kellner: Dan makes all of the regular deliveries himself, and they can provide us products for many more weeks of the year than some other producers. And I love that I can request certain items, like a heritage squash they’re growing for me this year.

What are some of the benefits and challenges of hydroponics?

Kellner: In the winter, I sometimes need to keep the same menu for two weeks to a month, so we get hydroponic produce of the same quality and use it in its live state, cutting the greens right when the salad is ordered. We did this last winter with our live arugula salad that we paired with ruby grapefruit and avocado.

Dan: It can be tricky getting the nutrients right, and the monoculture can be affected by things outside of our control, like extreme weather and pests. When the temperatures shot up in May, we got an infestation of thrips, tiny insects that devastated our basil and arugula. But we feel we’re giving back to the community by growing healthier produce.

 

This article appeared in the August 2015 issue.

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.
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