Love Where You Live: Phyllis Miller digs deep into Elkhart County’s farm, food cultures

By July 12, 2018Countywide, Goshen

By Marshall V. King

When Phyllis Miller was growing up in Middlebury, her uncle often planted an acre of sweet corn in the spring. When it came time for harvest, the family would gather. True to the family’s Amish heritage, the young people would remove the silk from the corn and it was a rite of passage to join the adults in cutting the corn off the cob. When everyone was done, each family took home a portion.

In the decades since, Miller has continued working cooperatively in Elkhart County in hopes that everyone gets a share. The retired nurse and project manager lived and worked briefly in Seattle, but after coming home tended her deep roots here. Growing up on a farm and having Amish relatives gave her passion for community and hard work.

Since retiring from Elkhart General Hospital after 34 years, she has more time to volunteer. She’s focused on economic systems that work for people. In the Vibrant Communities planning process in 2016, Elkhart County residents singled out the importance of local food as an Action Agenda item: “Promote the use of local foods and native plantings.”

“What’s going to change this country is one community at a time like Elkhart County,” says Phyllis Miller. (Photo by Grant Beachy)

Miller is leading the Elkhart County Food Council to help local food producers and eaters find each other. “We just need a way to connect,” she said. Miller helped 13 Amish farmers sell baskets of food each week to 100 Beacon Health System subscribers.

Prior to the food council, she’s been passionately volunteering as a board member for Maple City Market, a member-owned co-op in Goshen. She touts Seed to Feed as a creative solution to help people find fresh food. She volunteers for Ten Thousand Villages, which uses fair trade to help others. She believes in democracy and principled capitalism to help other humans. That work is her form of ministry.

“What’s going to change this country is one community at a time like Elkhart County,” she said.

Marshall V. King is a Goshen-based free-lance writer. He wrote this on behalf of Vibrant Communities.

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