The American Licorice Company started in 1914 out of a small, rented space in Chicago by Martin Kretchmer, his son Frank Kretchmer and son-in-law Peter Shock. Now, the company is oriented in a large facility in La Porte, Indiana, and it’s still family-owned and making a positive impact in the La Porte Community. Don’t believe they’re only about sweets; they’ve also started a community garden to aid not only the community, but local students as well.
American Licorice Company sponsors the Sweet Goods Community Garden in La Porte by providing the needed space and materials to keep the garden flourishing. The community garden, maintained by the Future Farmers of America (FFA), provides fresh produce for the general community and allows companies such as NIPSCO, American Licorice, and New York Blower to grow and sustain personal, little gardens within the area.
“The front section is a mixture of lettuce, kale, cabbage, collard greens, cucumbers, bell peppers, summer squash, a variety of tomatoes, and zucchinis,” explained Steve Walters, Economist and Regional Procurement manager for American Licorice Company. “ Everything is purchased by American Licorice then all of this is open for the community to come and pick. We put some things out on the free produce stand and welcome people to come pick. We only ask that they stay in the front section because the back section has reserved areas.”
The Future Farmers of America program is currently run by Mr. Robert Walker of La Porte High School and was restarted in 2015 after a 30-year hiatus. Walker is proud to be a part of the program and appreciates the positive nature of the community garden.
“All of the produce in the garden is purchased by American Licorice Company,” said Walker. “The produce is open for the community to come pick, so we welcome everybody into the garden.”
All the efforts would go to waste if it weren’t for the FFA members who help maintain the garden. Members from La Porte High School are able to apply for an internship with American Licorice Company which allows them to work within the garden. The goal of FFA is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. American Licorice is aiding this goal by providing a meaningful internship opportunity.
This past summer, three students from La Porte High School were selected to intern for American Licorice: Ethan Mikowski, Scott Strand, and Liv Teitsma. Their jobs included pulling weeds, planting, maintaining the plants, and general gardening research.
“I chose to be a Garden Intern because of my Agriculture teacher, Mr. Walker,” Mikowski said. “He pitched the job to my class, and I immediately thought it would be a fun and good learning experience. It was nice to help out local people of La Porte, and working for American Licorice was a joy. The company really cares about everyone’s safety and the environment, and those are great morals to look for in a company.”
“American Licorice Co. is very community-oriented and that is something that is very important to me,” Strand said. “I loved being able to work with my hands outside and help the community as a Garden Intern.”
American Licorice Co. would like to thank their interns for all their hard work and dedication to the Sweet Goods Community Garden. The garden offers a great opportunity for the community to pick a variety of produce, free of charge. Check them out, and for more information on American Licorice, visit them here!