Friday, July 22, 2005
Why words matter
David Hoppe (NUVO)
Traders Point, the bucolic enclave on the city’s far Northwestside, feels a world away from downtown Indianapolis. But owing to its proximity to freeways, it actually takes less time to drive downtown from Traders Point than it does from Broad Ripple. This is a blessing and a curse. It makes commuting easy for people who work downtown but want to get away from it all when they return home at night. It also makes Traders Point an irresistible morsel for developers who would turn its genuine country charm into yet another level hunk of upscale suburbia.
This troublesome observation is duly noted and set aside. That’s because it’s Friday evening at the Traders Point Creamery. The time before sunset that photographers call “the golden hour.” Light burnishes the trees and meadows. Even dust in the air looks precious.
A crowd of us is sitting on a deck eating fresh chicken salad, slaw and soba noodles with green beans that taste like they just came out of the garden. There’s lemonade, bottled water and, of course, cold bottles of that Traders Point chocolate milk.
It’s Friday evening at the Trader’s Point Creamery. The time before sunset that photographers call “the golden hour.” Light burnishes the trees and meadows. Even dust in the air looks precious.
Finding this place was a little like coming upon a big family party. After we parked our car at the end of a gravel driveway, we strolled through a friendly gauntlet of local growers offering us fresh produce, meats, honey and bouquets of flowers. The dishes on offer for this evening’s meal were written on a chalkboard.
From where we sit we can see a pond and, at a distance, a herd of dairy cattle. When we finish eating we get up and explore. There’s a barn with a basketball hoop attached to a beam inside (how Indiana is that?). We meet a trio of newborn calves. Free range chickens are, in fact, ranging freely and, beneath the branches of a shade tree, we can see a swimming hole in which kids are actually swimming. Up in the visitor’s center, a young woman makes me one of the best milkshakes I’ve ever had. Then we all go downstairs and load up on milk and cheese and meat to take home. We pay for everything using the honor system.
On the way out, my son says, “If this place was in Northern California, it would be famous.”
He’s probably right.
This, however, is Indiana. What that means, exactly, is hard to say. I am speaking quite literally here. Studies have been done that indicate we Hoosiers have a difficult time articulating what it is that makes our place special. It’s easier for us to tell other people what we don’t have (mountains, seashore, celebrities) than what we do (places like Traders Point).
Our inability to talk about the qualities of our place has consequences. It makes us think that something here doesn’t measure up — as if the lack of words we have for something signifies a great emptiness.
Well, it’s not just nature that abhors a vacuum. Ugliness can’t stand it either. Our loss for words about Indiana has given people license to do their worst to a landscape that’s easily exploited — especially when no one stands up for it with language as powerful as the urge to make a quick buck.
Gov. Mitch Daniels provides a case in point. During his campaign, Daniels crisscrossed the state, stopping in small towns and singing the virtues of the Hoosier sense of place. He emphasized stories of how individuals have worked, often against the odds, to create a distinctive quality of life for themselves and their communities.
You’d think that a place like the Traders Point Creamery would exemplify what Daniels likes best about Indiana. Here are people who are putting the culture back in agriculture. Not only are they creating great tasting and wholesome products, they’re doing it in ways that respect the land and the animals from which these products are derived. They are offering a model that connects the best practices of Indiana’s farming past with a world hungry for the unadulterated and the authentic. You’d think Daniels would look at Traders Point Creamery and see the future.
Unfortunately, it’s agribusiness, not agriculture, which gets Daniels’ attention. Instead of making Indiana a brand synonymous with quality and care, he wants, for the sake of productivity and profit, to double the number of our industrial hog farms. If this turns large portions of rural Indiana into corporate colonies and makes the air in these places unfit to breathe — so what? It’s only Indiana, a place without so much as a vocabulary to defend itself.
The folks at Traders Point Creamery have joined with some of their neighbors and Historic Landmarks of Indiana to try and make Traders Point a rural historic district. This designation could help protect it from the suburban development that’s crowding in on all sides. It’s a necessary start, but doesn’t come close to describing what’s so remarkable about this place. I recommend you experience this original bit of Indiana for yourself — then take the time to tell your friends about it. Dinner is served at Traders Point Creamery from 5-7 p.m. on Friday evenings through October and costs $15. The Creamery is located at 9101 Moore Road. Call 733-1700 for more information, www.traderspointcreamery.com.