It all started in 2009 when my then girlfriend, now wife, Lindsay, and I bought our first home on the north side of Indianapolis in the Broad Ripple neighborhood. A majority of the homes in this neighborhood were built in the 1940’s and 50’s and therefore, lack garbage disposals. As any sensible and reasonable wife would ask, Lindsay requested a garbage disposal. And, as any sensible and reasonable husband would act, I brought home 4 chickens and built a little coop. Despite my folks never even having a vegetable garden while I was growing up (they were great parents and still are, we just did other things to occupy our time), somewhere along the way I’d learned that chickens will eat damn near anything. So, in my mind, I had installed a garbage diposal… and one that produces eggs!!
After a steep learning curve, I figured I could teach a class at IUPUI, our local university, on how to raise chickens in the spring of 2011. I’d been teaching a class there for several years on an unrelated topic, yet still somewhat unusual called “How to Hike the Appalachian Trail” so my boss kind of said, “O.K.??? We’ll see if anybody signs up.” And sign up they did!! It was a full class. Many of the folks already had chickens, knew much more than I did and were just looking to meet other people with chickens. The goal of the class was two-fold: 1) teach the students how to raise chickens and 2) take the students on a field trip of sorts to see chicken coops in Indianapolis. One of the students spoke up and suggested that a “Tour de Coops” (think of a fancy home tour, but with chicken coops instead) should be organized for all of Indianapolis to enjoy. So, I started a Facebook page titled Nap Town Chickens, set the date for September 18th, 2011 and went about trying to get the word out. We didn’t know what to expect but even if just 10 people showed up, I’d have been thrilled (it was a tour of chicken coops, after all). The day came and upwards of 500 people were in attendance!! We even ran out of maps and ended up having to draw the route on pieces of scrap paper!! I could tell something was going on here. It got me thinking…
Each coop on the tour was sponsored by a local business and if a local business was willing to sponsor a private, residential coop for just a few hours on one day, maybe they’d be interested in sponsoring a chicken coop at a school for as long as the school is willing to take care of it. So, in early 2012, I contacted a local business and then an elementary school and they both said yes. “Project Poultry” was born. Since then, with the help of numerous businesses and schools, we’ve been able to outfit 27 schools and non-profits in Indianapolis, Louisville and Chicago with chicken coops. Students, teachers, parents and the community were learning about where eggs come from, animal husbandry, the laying life of a hen and best of all… using chickens as an alternative form of composting.
Around the time “Project Poultry” was getting going, a young woman by the name of Anne Collins contacted me wondering if there was anything she could do to help. She was a backyard chicken farmer herself and just wanted to get involved in the “movement.” I told her, “not really, but let’s stay in touch.” We stayed in touch, her step-father started helping me build coops and then one day, about a year later in early 2013, Anne said, “let’s open an urban homesteading store!!” And so, Agrarian was born!! We opened our doors August of 2013, just 6 months after having our initial concept meeting.