Inspirational Three Sisters Mounds Sunshine Experiment with Sunflowers and Community Seed Distribution in Evansville, Indiana

Progress report for FNC22-1337

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Catalpa Tree LLC
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Lindsey Krantz
Catalpa Tree LLC
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Project Information

Description of operation:

My farm is 0.46 acres in Evansville, IN, where I reside at my farmstead in an established urban core neighborhood. The house was built in 1962. There is a street light in the front yard that caused my light meter to measure 0.1W/m^2 at the edge of Circle #1 on a night with a new moon. It's bright enough to wake me up if gets in my eyes (cats push the shades up sometimes), so I am wondering if it interfered with the beans and squash. I am a creative entrepreneur, editor, artist, writer, and farmer. The crop circles were grass and clover lawn before this project. I also have pecan and mulberry trees, goumiberry bushes, a magnolia tree, an elderbush, and mints. I grew some tomatoes and eggplant last summer, which was my first time to grow them both. No livestock/dairy/grazing systems. I have 2 pet cats. I have been gardening for about 4 years at this location and I am now taking farming more seriously due to the potential for bettering my life situation (nutrition, fun, community, profit, biodiversity, educating) that I see due to doing this project. Before I received this grant, I wanted rainbarrels and through this project I have them now. The sustainable practices I did before receiving this grant money are as follows: interest in biodiversity (lifelong), planting hardy perennials (so I don't have to re-do everything annually), planting fruit and nut trees (lifelong interest in resilient food systems; planting as such as a child with father; been planting them for 4 years here).


Project Timeline for 2024:


  • Submit project timeline for the 11-month no-cost extension with progress report
  • Inquire about funding for printer assistance (start-up capital)
  • Make outlines and assign ISBNs to the two books written for this project:
    1. String Revolution Method of Perennial Planting Layout 
    2. Reflections and Research Findings from FNC22-1337


  • Field research in Crop Circles #1, #2, and #3 to figure out how to explain the string revolution method
  • Write out seven illustrative anecdotes from the project (qualitative data)
  • Seeking funding assistance for printer


  • Develop first half of outlines for both books into prose
  • Seeking funding assistance for printer


  • Develop second half of outlines for both books into prose
  • Seeking funding assistance for printer


  • Seeking funding assistance for printer
  • Write introductions, indices, and glossaries for both books
  • Space available to receive printer at farmstead
  • Develop book distribution plan


  • Printer funding assistance in place
  • Specific printer identified to purchase (local preferred)
    • Double check that there is space in laboratory to receive printer
  • Formatting and editing of both books
  • Continue development of outreach plan for book distribution


  • Contract negotiations for printer
  • Continue development of outreach plan for book distribution


  • Contract for printer signed
  • Printer delivered
  • Acquire paper, ink, staples, etc. to print books
  • Finalize outreach plan for book distribution
  • Finalize formatting of books based on equipment capabilities
  • Print books


  • Print books
  • Begin distributing books


  • Continue distributing books through end of October


  • Prepare and submit final report

December 2024

  • Due date of final report for FNC22-1337:  
    • December 15, 2024
  • Proposals for NCR-SARE's 2025-2026 Farmer Rancher Grant due
    • TBA which day in December 2024


In this project, "Inspirational Three Sisters Mounds Sunshine Experiment with Sunflowers and Community Seed Distribution in Evansville, Indiana," we will grow three spectacular 24-ft-wide formations of seven 4-ft-wide mounds each.  We will grow specialty/ancient varieties of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers that are native to the Americas.

This project is ecologically sound, because 3 Sisters (corn, beans, and squash) enrich the soil and help each other grow.  A 4th Sister of sunflowers enriches the fabric of the plantings, too, and will be planted on the North side of the formations to avoid shading the 3 Sisters.

This project is socially responsible, because it is a type of intercropping/symbiotic planting practiced in Indiana since time immemorial, but has died out almost completely in Evansville, IN.  Much respect goes to Indigenous peoples' planting techniques which inspire this project.  The community seed distribution will cause 3 Sisters plus sunflowers plantings to proliferate across Evansville, IN.

This project is economically viable, because it transforms lawns into productive cultivated land that can be cultivated for food production after this project.  It pays decent compensation to the three socially disadvantaged people working on it and will sell well.

Project Objectives:
  1. Respect and educate about the Indigenous agricultural practice of 3 Sisters (corn, squash, and beans) plus sunflowers mounds plantings.

  2. Inspire an increase in urban agriculture by placing a spectacular 24-ft diameter circular planting in my front yard and two 24-ft plantings in back yard (seven 4-ft diameter by 4-in raised mounds per planting), with 5 field days.

  3. Find out whether the shady or sunny plantings make more pounds of produce and distribute the information.

  4. Equip neighbors in Evansville, IN, with information about the Krantz revolution method and information about sunflower, squash, corn, and bean plants, to be used to recreate my plantings or to innovate alike.


Materials and methods:

This will be brief and I will go into it at length in the book about the project that I'm going to write.   

Three Sisters (corn, beans, squash) plus sunflowers are nutritious to humans and grow symbiotically.  The display garden in the front yard (Circle #1) served as a way to inspire and familiarize the neighbors with these plants and the idea of growing food in their lawns instead of grass.  Food is getting more expensive and biodiversity is going down, so this project aims to inspire people to take the plunge into farming.  Judging from how my neighbors disappeared about half of the ears of corn, there is interest, at least in eating Jimmy Red Corn.

Managing people was very stressful. Given health constraints, for 2023, I am not going to be doing a display garden for this project.  I am going to do something in the circles.  The idea of doing basic science with it is not tenable because so much of the corn is going missing.

Seed distribution efforts and working with subcontractors was stressful, so that is one reason I am only going to distribute red clover seeds (to be planted where the farmer wants to turn grassy lawn into cultivated land soon).  There was very little interest in signing up for seeds, as underlined by the very little interest in the free seed signup survey that I made.  Due to this low interest and the crop failures with squash and beans in all of the Circles, it would be irresponsible to push the same seeds into the Evansville, IN, area, because I don't want people to try to farm but be discouraged by a crop failure.

I took several data points off of each ear of corn using a survey (data entry tool) that I designed:

pollination score graph weight

Width of ears of corn


length graph


But these are probably only the smallest ears, considering that people picking, probably took the largest ears.


bar graph in blue
The Statistical Mystery of the Missing Jimmy Red Corn

For this project, I developed a twine-based measurement system for building the crop circles. I was successful with it (all 3 circles were built to the correct dimensions). I have named it “the Krantz revolution method,” because it involves measurement of where to place soil and mulch by revolving the endpoint of a piece of twine around a stake in the middle of each of the mounds. The Krantz revolution method relies on geometric facts:

(1) all points on a circle are equidistant to that circle's center;
(2) a line segment that goes between a circle and its center is the radius;
(3) the radius of a circle is half as wide as the widest part (diameter) of a circle;
(4) when a circle is inscribed in a square;

(5) the circle and square have the same center and;
(6) the diameter of the circle equals the length of a side of the square.

Krantz revolution method steps, as developed in the project NCR SARE FNC22-1337:

1. Twine (can be thin or thick but NOT stretchy), a twine-cutting tool such as scissors, a measuring tape, stakes, and EITHER a geomagnetic compass with degree measurements (preferred) AND/OR a protractor (functional but more difficult to use).
2. A schematic of the site can be helpful, but is not necessary to the Krantz revolution method.
3. Locate the center of each circle to be measured.
3.1. Depending on the individual project, this step will vary.
3.2. In this project, the three crop circles were each identically laid out.
3.3. Use a protractor or geomagnetic compass to find the centers of the circles.  This part of the method will be extensively built out in the book.
4. Place a stake in the center of each circle.
5. Tie a piece of twine to each stake THEN cut the twine to the length of the radius of the circle to be measured.
6. PLEASE NOTE: After much trial and error, it was discovered that tying the twine to the stake and only then cutting it to size is more accurate, less time-consuming, and wastes less material on mistakes than cutting before tying.
7. Pull the twine tight between the stake and the end of the twine.
8. Revolve the twine around the stake at ground level.
9. The full area underneath the twine as it revolves is where the circle lays.
10. Place material, such as soil or mulch, either underneath the twine (within the circle) or not underneath the twine (outside of the circle).

The development of the Krantz revolution method was inspired by reading about how ancient Egyptians used knotted rope to create a right triangle with sides the lengths of 3, 4, and 5 units for reference. For example, for squaring corners of buildings. The 3-4-5 right triangle is also the basis of the Pythagorean theorem.

Participation Summary
1 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

40 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 On-farm demonstrations
15 Tours
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

20 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

In 2023 (Year 2), I plan to publish 2 books for this project:  1) a deep dive into what happened during Year 1 and 2) a method book for the Krantz revolution method of building circular plantings (developed from working on this project).  The books will be published digitally, hardcover, and paperback.  I think that books are better than field days and harvest celebrations at getting the information from this project out to the public and into the hands of farmers and of farmers-to-be who will be inspired by this simplified method of building circular crop formations.  The interest in the project is "high intensity but low density interest":  individuals who are interested are VERY interested but I don't come across them that often.  

The display garden in my front yard (Circle #1) was designed to serve as a spectacularly attractive advertisement for Jimmy Red Corn, the other plants, and for urban agriculture in general, and I think that my neighbors who go by on foot REALLY liked the Jimmy Red Corn, because about half to 3/5 of it is missing from the field.  See next figure: The Statistical Mystery of the Missing Jimmy Red Corn.

bar graph in blue

So even though attendance at Field Days was low (and the Harvest Festival was cancelled due to illness), obviously the front yard Circle #1 has served strongly to get the message out about urban agriculture with heirloom varieties and my neighbors liked what they ate.  I think they took the squash blossoms from Circle #1, too.  It wasn't the deer getting the corn, because the corn disappeared slowly and the deer ravaged the sunflowers all at once one night, as if they didn't normally go into the front yard (maybe due to the street light).  Nothing was damaged, though I did lose a digital calipers and had to buy another one.  Perhaps the corn loving people also took the calipers.

The 2 field days went well, in spite of low attendance.  The 3 sisters stew that we cooked at the 2nd field day in a cast iron Dutch oven was delicious.  Due to my disabilities, I cannot do more public events here at this time.  I am going to reach out to people via the written word instead of expecting them to come to me.  

I reached out to about 25 media and none of them wanted to cover the project.

Education/Outreach Materials:

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.