About Us

Brief History~
A small, all volunteer grassroots nonprofit, organized in 1998, Heartland Communities, Inc. was originally created to demonstrate sustainable living through projects in permaculture and organic growing, cooperative enterprise, alternative energy, intentional living, and youth development. After several years of working toward these goals, the tragic events of September 11, 2001 changed the cultural, political and financial landscape. The members believed that our local community was not ready to embrace these ideas and the organization was shelved and lay fallow for five years. Community members called for the resurrection of the organization in 2006, perceiving that the mainstream society had “caught up” to understanding these ideas; even the City government had created an energy and environmental services department to “go green” and the timing was right to renew our efforts to become active voices for sustainability. We were involved in projects to advocate for cooperative housing as a viable model for low-income homeownership and succeeded in changing the conversation state-wide, when state housing development department offered training in cooperative housing and related topics and housing development officials from Fort Wayne attended.

In 2007 the organization discovered another grassroots effort working on the issue of water quality and the poor health of the three rivers whose confluence flows through downtown Fort Wayne at the headwaters of the Maumee River, which then flows to Lake Erie. We took the development of Save Maumee Grassroots Organization as a project, acting as fiscal sponsor for nonprofit activities including grants and donations, and participated in capacity building over six years, through training and certification of the founder and director in watershed management, the establishment of a Board of Trustees, by-laws, incorporation, and IRS1023 application for nonprofit status in December 2013′ which was successfully granted in 2014.

Our current focus, Plowshares Local Food System Project, was convened as the Food and Jobs Initiative by The Workers’ Project, Inc., a worker education and organizing nonprofit formerly associated with the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council, in collaboration with Associated Churches, Inc., the Urban League, Fort Wayne Chapter, and other community stakeholders. The initiative is being lead by Jain Young, administrator of Heartland Communities, Inc., and who serves as Project Organizer and Technical Writer. Plowshares is a community economic development project to organize farmers and farm workers and develop a local food aggregation distribution system for local consumption, while creating jobs and job training for new food workers.


jain young december 2014 portrait

Jain Young

A grant writer and Community Economic Development Project Manager, Jain Young holds a Master’s Degree in nonprofit management called Executive for Public Service and is administrator and Treasurer of Heartland Communities nonprofit. She wrote and was awarded a grant from USDA to spend a planning year gathering stakeholders, organizing farmers, and developing a business plan for Plowshares Cooperative Food Hub, which was implemented in 2018, as well as a design for Local Food System. Jain has devoted many years preparing her skill set to deliver community economic development outcomes to the Fort Wayne, Indiana area through the development of cooperative small businesses, creating permanent, high-quality jobs and businesses, with a focus on new farms, a skilled farm workforce, and entrepreneurship for food manufacturing of locally sourced food. Her experience as leadership in the robust Three Rivers Food Co-op Natural Grocery, which has grown over 40 years to $4 million in yearly sales, is a testament to the skills required to take the next step toward creating that Local Food System within a community vision for quality food access.

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David Greene

David Greene is an entrepreneur who has successfully created many businesses. He has made a living in hand-blown glass art production and sales distribution for over ten years. David taught several apprentices and organized production studios, with students who gained national renown.  For twelve years he served as a therapeutic massage therapist with a successful practice in the 1990s when there were only a handful of massage therapists in Northeast Indiana. A Classical Chef certified by the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he has many years experience in food service management, marketing and entrepreneurship, and has been certified in food sanitation in several states. Throughout his career as Executive Chef in many fine dining restaurants he refined skills to meet demanding production levels while maintaining the highest quality and food safety. The management of those food establishments required the ability to provide ongoing training and supervision of food workers. David is President of Heartland Communities.

The Beginnings of Heartland

by Jain Young, a founding Steward of Heartland

We were ready to dedicate ourselves to a piece of land that we had experienced as worth preserving in the years leading up to the death of its owner in 1998. Pioneer Trails had been a Boy Scout camp that was decommissioned and sold to Ted Leininger in the 1970s.  Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Ted allowed a group of Northeast Indiana friends to hold retreats and  Kith & Kin Gatherings at the run-down campground, where we had experiences that gave a sense of the sacred and to become attached to a Place, to feel love for the land that city dwellers rarely find.

When Ted passed away, his heirs cleaned up the camp for sale. It seemed that it was primed for a developer to slice and dice the 200 acres into wooded plots for a high-end residential neighborhood 40 minutes outside Fort Wayne. We decided it was worth a try to find a way to use the land for good causes, to allow people to experience it as holy and heal from inherited and experienced traumas that create toxic cycles of poverty and criminality. A Peace Camp for experiential contact with Nature, in a cooperative demonstration eco village that implements self sufficient living.

We began to raise money, to look for financing, to create programming, to reach out to organizations that could help and would benefit from a place to offer their own programs. At a chance meeting with an old friend, we described our intentions, and he said there was someone he wanted us to meet. Civil Rights giant Reverend James Luther Bevel was in town, and a meeting was arranged.

There is a whole chapter about Bevel in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s book, Why We Can’t Wait. King says Bevel was his strategist, and architect of the famous marches of the Civil Rights era. The marches were met with violence, attack dogs and fire hoses. The Middle-class White Americans were watching it on the news and many understood that it was wrong, but they were not speaking up. King said it was Bevel who made the difficult decision to include children in the marches. When Americans saw children in harm’s way, being in the line of attack by the enforcers of oppression, they could no longer remain silent and began to speak out. King believed that it was the moment that turned the tide of the Civil Rights Movement and directly lead to the victories they won. He credits that to his strategist, James Luther Bevel.

Bevel was working in the neighborhoods of South Chicago in 1998 and teaching his own philosophy of nonviolence and self-governance. Bevel met with David and briefly outlined his theory, asking if he understood. David was able to reflect back the essence of Bevel’s teaching in a way that demonstrated that we were essentially already living the theory as practice, and were preparing to make the camp a perfect setting to take people out of the city to experience a way of live informed by those ideas.

The core of James Bevel’s theory of nonviolent living was that it must begin in the family household. His frame of reference was a traditional family, but we can broaden that to apply to non-traditional families as well. In his vision, if a man and a woman were truly equal and self-governing, that would set up a dynamic of nonviolence and healthy interaction where neither partner is oppressed by the other. That, he believed would act as a pebble in a pond and ripple out to communities and society to set up a healthy society of truly equal and self-governing people where oppression could not exist.

Bevel told me stories of his experience at the Highlander Folk School, where the core organizers of the Civil Rights Movement were trained: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bevel, Rosa Parks, and others.  He said the hardest and most important lesson he learned there was how he was complicit in his own oppression.  It was a major paradigm shift.  He had been so angry for so long, and with good reason that he had to do mental gymnastics, but he did get it.  It was simply that no one is oppressed who doesn’t consent to be oppressed. So part of his theory was the understanding that the equal-and-self-governing dynamic also included the strength and self respect to withdraw consent and refuse to participate in a situation where one is on the receiving end of oppression, in society but also in the most basic personal relationships.

Bevel recognized that we were living that dynamic already to a great degree. He said that he believed we were the pebble in the pond. He believed this proposed camp could be the next Highlander Folk School and he gave us the seed money to create the nonprofit organization that would bring it into being, Heartland Communities.

We came very close to succeeding in our effort to buy Pioneer Trails Camp. The organization was founded, we developed plans and programs and got buy-in from related agencies. We came close to convincing the Nature Conservancy to finance the purchase of the property. But in the end, a wealthy friend of the deceased owner stepped in and wrote one check, purchasing the property for his own private hunting ground. At least it wasn’t divided up into plots for a housing addition.