Urban Farm: AgriPark is open this season, offering rural experiences for Fisher and Geist residents

Located just east of the northern tip of Geist Reservoir is a unique opportunity for residents of the primarily urban Fishers and Geist areas. Fishers AgriPark, 11171 Florida Rd., honors Indiana’s agricultural traditions with a mix of fresh produce and farm animals for all ages to experience up close and personal.

Fishers AgriPark operations manager Trevor Wildey was busy on the park’s opening day of the 2024 season as parents with young children arrived to visit animals and pick a small selection of the park’s earliest spring produce.

Wildey said produce is a big draw all season long and park staff try to ensure there is a wide variety. Employees start more than 100,000 plants each spring, using the park’s greenhouses to germinate the seeds and prepare the plants to go into the fields.

“We’re going to lose some because of the weather,” he said. “A few weeks ago we had a bunch – it rained almost 4 inches, so we lost a few. We’re going to lose some of it to disease and pests and things like that. My guys are definitely planting a lot of it, but without the community it certainly wouldn’t be possible.”

Volunteers — in groups or individually — help transplant those thousands of starts, he said, and then help care for them throughout the season.

“For example, last Friday we had Fishers High School – they sent 40 students out and planted over 4,000 onions for us,” Wildley said.

The first products of the season are mainly leafy vegetables.

“Then we kind of move on to squash, peppers, green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes — the good stuff,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll do that through October and then we’ll end our season with a big fall festival at the end of the year – giving away our pumpkins and all that stuff.”

As with any farm, the success of the growing season at the AgriPark each year depends on the weather and other factors. But, Wildey said, when the produce is ripe, visitors can pick everything for free — and they pick a lot.

By multiplying the average weight of filled boxes of produce by the number of boxes distributed per season, he estimates that the AgriPark gives away about 100,000 pounds of fresh produce each season.

“That doesn’t necessarily count as pumpkin and sweet corn and all that stuff,” he said. “That’s just tomatoes, peppers, okra, green beans.”

On opening day it was still too early for visitors to pick their own produce. Instead, they gathered at the park’s playground and animal pastures — home to goats and sheep, a pig named Otis and a very friendly horse named Spirit, who likes to nibble on your shirt while you stroke his nose.

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In addition to large vegetable fields, the Fishers AgriPark offers shelter to sheep, goats, chickens, pigs and cows.

Otis and Spirit originally belonged to Wildey, who brought them to the AgriPark after he started working there. When Otis spotted Wildey from across the pasture, the pig quickly waddled over to his favorite person, growling happily, and Wildey jumped over the fence to give the pig some belly rubs.

In another pasture, a small herd of cows and a donkey were eating hay, but they were approaching the fence when Wildey brought a bucket of feed. A young boy thought he wanted to feed the cows, but when their big heads came close, he changed his mind and had his mother do it for him.

“We live about five minutes away, so we come here a lot in the summer,” Kaycee Port said of her and son Owen. “We really enjoy seeing all the animals. It’s not like anything else around. It’s a lot of free, independent play. He’s just allowed to explore and be in nature – kind of messy play. It’s really nice to be able to come to a working farm. You can see how it works. We also like to pick crops in the summer.”

Owen said his favorite crop is broccoli, which was news to his mother. She said they picked a lot of jalapeños and peppers last year.

The Fishers AgriPark is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Sunday and Monday.

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Trevor Wildey, operations manager at Fishers AgriPark, shows off some of the plants that are planted outdoors during the growing season for visitors to pick for free. (Photos by Leila Kheiry)

Activities at the AgriPark

The Fishers AgriPark organizes activities, workshops and summer camps for children throughout the season.

Operations Manager Trevor Wildey noted that even in the off-season, when the park is technically closed, it hosts school groups who come to learn about farming. The AgriPark also hosts pop-up classes, he said, such as quick brining, flower arranging and salsa — the sauce, not the dance.

“Although we’ve done barnline dancing before,” he said.

Pop-up events happen once or twice a month, Wildey said, and are announced only a day or two in advance. The best way to stay informed is through the park’s social media pages.