Harvesting a heritage: Peru native with long farming history starts organic operation
Lauren Catey Dillon and Jeremy Dillon harvest zinnias on Friday, July 17, 2020, at their farm and homestead, Catey Heritage, just outside of Peru, where they grow food and flowers. Kelly Lafferty Gerber | Kokomo Tribune PERU – Lauren Catey Dillon and Jeremy “Jem” Dillon aren’t your typical farmers.
First, they’re both only 32 years old. Lauren works as full-time florist. Jem teaches philosophy courses at Ivy Tech Kokomo and works part-time at the Peru Public Library. And then there’s Lauren’s tattoos and hair, dyed bright pink.
“It makes it easy to find her around the farm,” Jem said with a smile.
Suffice it to say, the couple isn’t what most people expect from traditional growers.
“I’m not necessarily what looks like a farmer around here, but I kind of like that,” Lauren said.
And now, doing things their own way has started to gain the couple a reputation, and a solid foundation, for their new operation called Catey Heritage.
The farm was started four years ago when the couple began growing vegetables on a small plot of land owned by Lauren’s parents.
But in the last two years, the operation has grown by leaps and bounds after the couple moved out on to 20-acres located at 2742 E. Wabash Rd., a few miles east of Peru.
Today, there’s a large greenhouse with tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables. Outside, they grow broccoli, kale, beets, squash and carrots. They sell all the vegetables at the Peru Farmer’s Market, along with eggs from the around 70 free-range chickens roaming the grounds. Zinnias, shown here, are picked by Lauren Catey Dillon and Jeremy Dillon at their farm and homestead, Catey Heritage, just outside of Peru, where they grow food and flowers. Kelly Lafferty Gerber | Kokomo Tribune Then there are the flowers blooming around the property, which Lauren turns into bouquets and sells. They also deliver flowers and buds directly to customers through a subscription service.
Overlooking it all is a large farm house that was actually ordered out of Sears catalog. There’s two old barns that date from the 1800s, as well as an old garage that, until recently, housed a blacksmith’s forge.
Lauren said the property is old. In fact, there are only three names on the deed. The first was Miami Indian Chief Jean Baptiste Richardville. The second was the Butt family, which owned the land from the 1860s to the 1990s. The third name is Catey, Lauren’s family.
She said her dad, who is a traditional crop farmer, bought the land mostly to use as farm ground. About 60 acres of corn now stands right in front of their house.
The whole picture sets up an interesting contrast. In front of the house are rows and rows of corn grown the traditional way by her father. Visitors have to drive down a long lane through that corn to get to Catey Heritage, where all the produce and flowers are grown following only organic principles.But, Lauren said, it’s all farming, and that’s something her family knows all about. She said there […]