FORT WAYNE – Wearing a cap advertising Allis-Chalmers farm equipment, George McCowan welcomed U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman to the Urban 4-H fields on Fort Wayne’s southeast side.
George, I’ve got to get you a John Deere hat, said Stutzman, R-3rd, a LaGrange County corn and soybean grower.
That means I’ve got to get a John Deere tractor, McCowan replied.
He might consider it. After talking with about 30 Urban 4-H leaders and participants Friday morning, Stutzman climbed aboard a 1941 Allis-Chalmers tractor that had been driven to the site earlier in the morning. He started the engine, but it sputtered and died.
He tried again. Nothing.
Urban 4-H field worker Ephraim Smiley hand-cranked the engine. No go.
Stutzman switched to another old orange tractor. It wouldn’t start, either.
Some days they are going to run sweet, Smiley said, and other days.
But the 4-H program’s Urban Farmers project is up and running. Smiley said organizers have planted tomatoes, peppers and purple hull peas on the 16-acre plot of land. Much of the produce will be donated to Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana.
Urban 4-H is aimed at involving inner-city youths in agriculture, arts and crafts. A public kickoff for Urban Farmers is planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 21 in the fields in the 2500 block of East Tillman Road.
When Stutzman arrived at the site Friday, children presented him with wildflowers they had picked.
4-H starts with education and understanding which berries to eat and which ones not to eat, Stutzman said.
With an emergency vehicle siren wailing from a nearby street, Stutzman said that Urban Farmers is about understanding how we can raise food in a way that we can all live healthier lives, that we can help our fellow man and also to protect the earth that we have been so blessed with here in America.
Stutzman later asked Smiley what kind of fertilizer had been applied to the farm. Informed it was a chicken manure product, Stutzman responded, Oh, that’s the best.