INDIANAPOLIS — Just off Interstate 70 on the east side, the organic farm at Indy Urban Acres made South Carolina’s Kelcy Quarles feel right at home. The Colts’ defensive tackle joined Indianapolis Colts teammates Matt Overton, Josh McNary, Hassan Ridgeway and Curt Maggitt harvesting radishes in the garden Tuesday.
“I’m the country boy of the team,” said Quarles. “Like eating dirt and all that stuff, that’s doesn’t bother me.”
“People love coming out here,” said Tyler Gough, Indy Urban Acres Farm Manager. “They like being in the sunshine. They like being in the dirt. It’s great to see organizations like the Colts and a number of other volunteers that we have. I think it goes beyond playing in the dirt and picking food. It’s knowing that what they’re doing is helping somebody. It’s helping somebody today and I think that’s the most rewarding.”
The city park helps feed the 150,000 people in Indianapolis defined as food insecure.
“It’s 80,000 kids, which is really heartbreaking,” Gough said. “That’s why we need to get food to these kids so that they don’t have to wonder where their next meal is coming from and they can know that it’s going to be healthy that’s going to nourish them and help them through their childhood. If the word gets out and people understand what’s going on, and they understand the problem – that’s how we’re going to solve food insecurity is people talking about it and figuring out ways they can help and organizations like the Colts saying, ‘What can we do?’.”
“It’s two benefits,” said Quarles. “You come out here and get a good workout in, walking around, picking stuff, being active. And you come out here and get some good nutrition.”
Indy Urban Acres produces almost anything that will grow in Indiana, plus honey from 60,000 bees in two hives. Eighteen chickens provide one egg each per day to the neighbors.
“I always say artichoke to zucchini,” said Gough. “We want to get food that people want at the food pantry and they’re going to eat. So we go heavy on potatoes and onions and tomatoes and peppers. It’s also and educational piece, so we like to grow kind of the weird things, peanuts and things like that.”
On just two acres of gardens, Indy Urban Acres produces 30,000 pounds of fresh produce a year. Most of that food winds up just down the street. Just a few blocks from the farm, Old Bethel Pantry provides food to 750 families a week.
“We see the people that we’re helping,” said Gough. “It’s basically in the field in the morning and on somebody’s plate in the afternoon. We like to walk it to the food pantry so that people can see how close it is.”
The pantry clients cheered as the Colts delivered the fresh radishes to the pantry.
“I like picking it and doing all that, but also seeing how happy those people are,” said Quarles. “It makes you see how blessed and fortunate you are to have what you have. It’s not promised. It could be you one day. You want to help and give back any way you can.”
The NFL can be a harsh business. The Colts released Quarles Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours after his visit to Indy Urban Acres.