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Big City Promoter Becomes Organic Farmer

by Stan Maddux

Published: Friday, May 11, 2018

Shane Hansen has gone from being a promoter in Chicago to earning his keep raising organic vegetables.

The 40-year-old Hansen does it on just a one acre parcel on 13 acres he owns in the hill country near Hudson Lake in northeastern LaPorte County

In 2012, Hansen started Rainfield Farm at 8531 N. 650 East.

Some of the 50,000 pounds of produce he churns out annually is sold at Al's Supermarkets in LaPorte and Michigan City and Barney's Supermarket in New Buffalo.

The rest is offered mostly at farmers markets and customers picking up produce at his farm on a weekly basis through the Community Supported Agriculture program.

He grows mostly lettuce and other green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale.

Tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers are included in the over 50 varieties of produce raised at the farm.

Hansen grows nearly one-half of his vegetables year-round inside five high tunnels.

The rest is raised outdoors during the traditional growing season.

He also offers eggs from about 50 chickens kept on the property.

Hansen, originally from

Michigan City, was involved in marketing and promotions in Chicago and had no previous experience at farming.

He was bitten by the agriculture bug, though, from volunteering on weekends at farmer's markets and getting to know the growers.

"I fell in love with the lifestyle," he said.

He then studied up on the profession by visiting growers at their production facilities even during his work-related travels.

Confident he could secure enough buyers, he decided to take the plunge after talking things over with his father, James, who later retired and moved to a guest house on his son's property.

He also helps out on the farm.

"Everything just kind of fell together all at the same time and it just made sense," Hansen said.

Hansen was recently awarded a $4,000 grant from the Chef Rick Bayless Frontera Farmer Foundation out of Chicago and a $10,000 grant from USDA.

The USDA funds will be used by Hansen to put up his sixth high tunnel and create a pollinator field to help with production of honeybees, butterflies and insects good for the soil and raising produce.

The other dollars will be for putting in plants to help reduce flooding in a field caused by runoff from the hilly areas.

His was the only small farm in Indiana to receive a grant from the Chicago-based foundation started in 2003 to help struggling small farms in the Midwest and preserve supply chains of fresh local produce deemed vital for the culinary industry.

Hansen is successful enough to make his entire living from organic farming and last year brought in a farm manager, Sarah Dillon.

One of the messages he tries to convey from his career switch is producing food can be done successfully from a financial standpoint without a lot of acreage and big machinery.

Hansen said the biggest challenge has been achieving a balance between the work involved in raising vegetables to the more hectic business end of the operation.

Rainfield Farm also supplies produce to various local health food stores along with juice and smoothie companies in Valparaiso and Chicago.

The farm also takes part in the school to farm programs in the Michigan City area schools and donates produce to the PAX Center, a Christian based organization in LaPorte that helps feed the hungry.

"It's a great opportunity for people. You can really do it on a small scale and do really well at it," Hansen said.

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