Local Farm Emphasizes Heritage, Preservation and Community
Writer / Shelly Sack
Photographer / Mariah Krafft
When it comes to preservation, Weston Family Farm Retreat and Education Center delivers in spades – farm instrument pun intended.
From growing produce to breeding farm animals to creating educational opportunities, visitors of all ages are enriched by the offerings served by Judi Weston and the other seven members of her family.
Weston, who grew up in Massachusetts, became interested in sustainable preservation through some knowledge passed along from her Arkansas-born husband Ben. The couple, married for 26 years, has been busy sharing their passion with their six children, who are growing up on five acres of countryside on the north side of Zionsville.
Surrounded by neighboring corn and soy fields, the Westons have invited the community onto their property for scheduled Friday tours and Saturday farm markets. The venture, as a small business, grew during the pandemic when people were seeking outdoor activities, Weston says.
On the second Saturday each month, they are joined by local artisans, some of whom are wood crafters who create visual art with kitchen cutting boards and other household items. Others offer their Indiana-grown meats, jams, salsas, and lettuces grown using aquaponics.
“We’ve always done gardening and animals, and attempted business ventures with my kids,” Weston says. “With six kids home during COVID, we began adding farm animals and farm projects. July 2020 marked the first stand. It’s my midlife project. I feel like I have more time because my youngest is 7 and my oldest is 21. Now it’s time to help mom.”
Her two daughters are away at college, and Weston homeschools her four sons, who provide plenty of help around the farm. With farm animals and two gardens to tend, there’s plenty to be done.
The education portion of the family business name comes from the rare animals and the heirloom seeds they’ve sourced. Ben made a boys’ outing with his sons to source red and purple potatoes from Wisconsin, and they also grow Kentucky rainbow corn – a great seed corn to grind for making cornbread. Those hunting for uncommon peas and tomatoes will find Red Ripper black-eyed peas and 38 tomato varieties.
“A lot of the seeds have been around for generations that people have preserved,” Weston says. “My husband grew up on a farm and got me into the preservation of things.”
She thrives on the idea, using heritage seeds and raising unique animal breeds, and says she was pleasantly surprised to learn they were only the third family to live on the property.
Animals include four French Alpine goats, Coturnix quail from California, American Blue and Lavender Ice geese, and a Bernese Mountain dog, all of which the Westons hope to breed. Sixteen heritage turkeys, 60 laying hens, ducks, peacocks, and pigs round out the live mix.
“Having a farmers market shows people where the food grows and the animals that produce the product for you,” Weston says.” That’s the model I’ve been following – to share and be a place of education where people can come. I have my dreams for what I want to have happen, but they will hopefully.”
Future dreams include a barn renovation and possibly a commercial kitchen so Weston can teach the art of canning.
For now, Weston is happy to see the family dream become a reality.
“It’s been a great addition for our family,” Weston says. “They’re all helping me with this project and it strengthens my family relationship. They all help me with my projects. They all seem to enjoy it. They each primarily care for one animal, and that’s fun for them too. It’s just so much fun and makes me so happy.”
Weston Family Farm Retreat and Education Center is located at 1581 North 1100 East in Sheridan. For more information about scheduling a Friday tour or on the Saturday farm market, visit westonfamilyfarm.com.