Grace Hooley | Echo
When asked to describe Victory Acres with one word, Eric Himelick, the founder and executive director of victory acres, used the word peace.
Victory Acres is a farm located at 5275 S. 800 E. Upland, and while they sell organic produce such as chicken eggs and berries, Himelick is hoping to use Victory Acres for so much more.
"I oversee the operations of Victory Acres Farm as Executive Director (This is a volunteer position)," Himelick said. "To pay the bills, I work as the Director of Development and Urban Ministry for Evangelistic Faith Missions (www.efm-missions.org). The city ministry that I founded in 2000, Victory Inner-city Ministries, merged with EFM in 2015."
Himelick studied at Union Bible College in Westfield, Indiana, and after this he began working and living with his wife in inner city Indianapolis. Their house was rough with bullet holes decorating the walls, but Himelick felt called to continue this city ministry working with hard people and broken families.
Himelick and his family continued their ministry in inner city Indianapolis until October 2005, when Himelick came home to an old family farm hoping for a time of prayer. He walked along the farm and prayed, hoping to cultivate something greater than crops. Through a series of events, he purchased the farm on contract from his grandfather.
"Grandpa was cash poor but land rich," Himelick said.
It was here at Victory Acres that Himelick and his family started to receive healing from some of the jadedness the inner city had caused. After the healing came peace.
In 2006, Victory Acres had their first "planting day" and 50 people from Indianapolis volunteered to help, including Dan Perkins ('93), who was studying at Taylor University. Perkins helped Himelick understand Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
"Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer," according to the Local Harvest website.
"The inner city was kind of a vortex," Himelick said. "We needed a place outside of the city to heal . . . We just jumped in with both feet."
Himelick's vision for Victory Acres is to have homes for inner city families to come and restore their lives. Himelick claims that he gets calls everyday from people in the inner city asking if they can come to Victory Acres, and it breaks his heart to turn them down because they are not ready yet.
One story Himelick detailed was of an 8-year-old boy he met while working in Indianapolis who is now 27 years old, and he called because Himelick and his ministry were the only help he had left. This boy's family had fallen apart, so Himelick had him bring his wife and family. Himelick, his wife and his six children, ministered to this family until they were ready to move on their own again.
"We see ourselves walking the road with them, but we aren't ready to do that yet," Himelick said.
All of the sales Victory Acres makes go to the ministry helping inner city families. They have currently paid off about 65 percent of the original purchase of the farm and are on hoping for the farm to be fully paid by 2028.
Martin Hunt, the farm manager, is the only paid employee at this time. They have volunteers, but they hope to have more paid help in the future. Himelick estimates they would need approximately $100,000 to $200,000 to finish what they need to have Victory Acres up and running.
"Working at Victory Acres is a mix of work and hospitality," Hunt said. "Right now we are doing a lot of work fixing up building, cleaning, and organizing so it seems that all we are doing is work! However, we have hosted different groups throughout the summer . . . We are always open to have people come by and see what God is doing here!"
Victory Acres raises over 80 tons of organically grown fruits and vegetables. They have also helped 26 individuals from the city, including some from prison, drug rehabilitation and homelessness.
They are always looking for relational partnerships with those who seek God and His mission at Victory Acres.
"It's challenging . . . but we're just taking it one day at a time and not trying to be something we're not," Himelick said.