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may 2013 | Section A

Honey, eggs, and brood can be seen on the frame of a bee hive.


Life for Mark and Tracy Smith is as sweet as honey


Mark Smith of Smith's Beekeeping

undreds of bees swirl in the early spring afternoon, starting their search for pollen. The pitch of their buzzing increases in intensity as Edinburgh resident Mark Smith opens the top of the hive, exposing row after row of honeycombs. As he checks each comb for bees, eggs and other indicators of health, an increasing swarm flies around his head. But he doesn’t even flinch. Protected by a thick beekeeping suit and hooded veil, he knows that an occasional sting comes with the job. “I don’t get stung as much as I used to,” he says. “As you get to know your hives better, you can tell by how they’re reacting, how they’re flying, even by smell what kind of mood they’ll be in.” When most people see a bee flying at them, they have a common response — swat it away, run and do anything to avoid getting stung. But Smith isn’t fazed. He keeps thousands of the insects in hives at a local farmer’s fields. Throughout the year, Smith plays an integral role

in the health of local agriculture. He sets up hives in area orchards, gardens and fields to pollinate the plants. Without the bees, many of the products that Indiana residents enjoy in the summer, such as apples, sweet corn and melons, wouldn’t grow. “Without them, you wouldn’t be able to grow anything,” he says. Smith understands his role in the agricultural process and enjoys helping Johnson County produce its annual bounty of crops. He keeps 20 hives on a farm just south of Edinburgh owned by Tom and Lisa Burns. From those 20 hives, Smith was able to pull close to 2,000 pounds of honey in 2012. “Even though there was a drought, the bees work even harder to get out and find more nectar to bring to the hives,” he explains. “They get more active when it’s dry like that.” Honey and pollination go hand-in-hand for local beekeepers. Honey is made from nectar, the sugary water found in flowers such as clovers, dandelions and fruit See bees on A2

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Mark Smith of Smith's Beekeeping tends to his hive.

Farm Indiana // may 2013

bees // cont. from A1 tree blossoms. Bees transport the nectar in their bodies back to the hive and then store it for food. While getting nectar, the bees spread pollen, which is the only way many plants can reproduce. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the value of honey bees to commercial agriculture is $15 billion to $20 billion annually. In April, Smith started shipping some of his hives to apple orchards all over central Indiana for pollination. The hives will eventually be placed in watermelon fields and pumpkin patches before returning to Edinburgh in the fall. “Then I get them ready for winter, and then I sit back and relax,” he says. The Burns family grows pumpkins, broccoli, Swiss chard and peppers on their organic farm, and they agreed to let Smith keep his hives on the farm yearround. Having the bees on the grounds means that the farm has a reliable way to pollinate their crops throughout the year, and the family doesn’t have to hire other beekeepers to be on site, Tom Burns says.  “We learn a lot about bees just by seeing them out there,” he says. “It helps what we get (harvest), because you see them out there all over the place.”

A Growing Interest

Smith’s interest in honeybees started with a seemingly innocuous conversation with a family friend. The friend had kept hives, and the more they talked, the more Smith became intrigued by starting his own. In 2003, he began working with Hunter’s Honey Farm in Martinsville. The fourth-generation honey operation keeps several hundred hives available to farmers to help pollinate their fields. Smith worked on the farm for three summers to learn the characteristics of bees, as well as how to properly care for them. He developed a system of checking on the insects, how to inspect the hives to look for healthy bees and how to get the honey from the hives. See bees on A4


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Farm Indiana // may 2013

May 2013 Farm Indiana

A1 A5 A6 A8 A9 A11 A13 A14

Smith’s Beekeeping Editor’s Note Honey Bee Population Concerns Seeing Double The Ortman Family The Kerkhof Family Nathan and Gwen Newkirk Field Day

B1 B5 B6 B8 B10 B12-13 B15

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Farm Indiana // may 2013

bees // cont. from A2 He learned to read the warning signs of an aggressive, angry hive. The insects’ buzzing becomes more frantic, and the bees are more active. One of the best warning signs, he explains, is if he smells an odor similar to the peony bush. Most times, he’ll only wear the hood for protection, though he dons his suit if he’s unsure what the behavior of the bees will be. “Always move slow and deliberate,” he says. “Don’t get in a hurry; people that get in a hurry get stung.” Soon after working at Hunter’s, he established his own hives. At first, Smith says, he anticipated keeping bees simply as a hobby and possible side business, selling honey and other products at local farmers markets. Now he and his wife, Tracy, spend summer weekends selling extracted, comb, creamed and chunk honey. They also sell beeswax by the pound or in candle form. Caring for the hive requires five to 10 hours each week. He checks for hive strength, counting the number of bees and moving some from a strong hive to one that may be weaker. He looks for an egg-laying queen, seeing if there are eggs. When it’s time to collect honey, Smith takes individual rows of the hive to his extraction equipment. Extracting the honey requires a centrifuge-type machine, which spins frames filled with honey cells and pulls the liquid out using centripetal force. The honey collects in a stainless steel tank and is then strained to prevent any bees, honeycomb or other remnants from the hive from sullying the final product. “The force pushes the honey to the outside walls of that extractor, and it runs down to the bottom and collects. Then you have a honey gate that filters everything out,” he says. Spring through fall is the beekeeper’s busy season, between tending to the hives, collecting honey and delivering hives to pollinate fields. Smith also helps the agricultural development teams from the Indiana National Guard learn how to keep bees, showing them how to check for hive health and how to extract honey,

Smith lights his smoker, used to calm the bees when he's working inside the hive.

and telling them about the importance of bees to agriculture. During the winter months, he says, he tries to leave some honey on the combs to give the bees something to survive on. Though the winters take a toll on the bees, Smith is able to make enough money through sales at the farmers markets and pollination contracts to replace those he loses. Smith says he would like to see his business grow to a full-time operation, but for now he is content. “This is the Lord’s business,” Smith says. “I’m just trying to stay out of the way.” *FI

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Smith’s Beekeeping Owners: Mark and Tracy Smith Where: Edinburgh Founded: 2007

The World Has Gone Mad

What: Sells all natural honey products, such as extracted, comb, creamed and chunk honey. Smith’s also sells beeswax by the pound or in candle form. Pollination services are available for farms, orchards, gardens, and melon and pumpkin patches.

It’s been said before. Songs and books have been written about it. Movies have illustrated it. Theories, prophecies, pointed questions and debate have all centered on it. And research, some experts say, has even proven it. This world is a seriously crazy place. And some days, like today, the proclamation seems so true. Our world is in every kind of crisis we can imagine. We hear about impending doom by way of problems with our economic system, employment, our environment, food security, international relations, our health and morality. Certainly our collective morale is in need of intensive care, too. Add to that the events of this particular week. As I write this editor’s note, news alerts flood my phone every 15 minutes or so with developments into the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings. This, on the heels of Sandy Hook. Add to that recipe the recent poison-laced letters found at the White House. And then, closer to home, an alert just came through about a suspicious package found on Purdue University’s campus. Some days, you want to throw up your hands and toss in the towel. At least I do. My husband once said to me: “Fix what you can control and forget about the rest.” It was sage advice for me, ever a worrier, and it was meant to help alleviate a few of my daily (and admittedly needless) worries. On a grander scale, when you think of events like the Boston Marathon bombings, you know you can’t control the actions of others thousands of miles away, but still you (read: I, in this instance) want to help. I’m a Type A personality. I’d like to fix what I can control, of course, but I’d

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love to fix what I can’t control, too. I’d love to make the tears dry up and the needless suffering dissipate. I’d like to give people jobs. I’d love to feed the hungry. I’d be ecstatic to end our wars, thwart sickness before it starts, kick cancer to the curb, teach people to eat well and care for their bodies, and set political unrest, poverty and environmental concerns squarely in our rearview mirrors. I’d be so happy to get everyone to smile, to say a kind word to one another, to teach each individual, one by one, to learn to be better — not bitter — despite the circumstances this life throws his or her way. I’d like everyone to see the light at the end of this increasingly dark tunnel. But, on days like today, I’m not even sure I can see that light. The best I can do is offer my own share of kind words and smiles to those of you I meet on the streets and, here, share with you a dozen or so stories. I offer to you these narratives, written about your friends and neighbors, and their triumphs, their successes, and their treasured insights for growing food, feeding the world and caring for the land. Some days, it’s good to remind ourselves that there are still people out there who know how to do things right. Enjoy.


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Farm Indiana // may 2013

Story by Kate Franzman


Recent decline in honey bee population poses a threat to our nation’s food production

e tend to think of them as annoying pests. They buzz by us, and we swat them away for fear we’ll meet their stingers head-on. But the fact is we should extend to honey bees our kindnesses and thanks, rather than meet them with animosity. And, according to Jeff Dittemore, board president of the Indiana State Beekeepers Association (ISBA), we should worry about keeping them safe. Honey bees are in danger, he says, and “no bees (equals) no food.” Apples, almonds, avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, coffee, chocolate and a variety of fruit trees need the help of these industrious insects, who fly from flower to flower, pollinating as they go. According to a 2013 Center for Food Safety report, one out of every three bites of food we eat is made possible by bees. Without these insects, it is widely reported that the United States could lose $15 billion worth of crops. But bees are disappearing in large numbers, and researchers and scientists aren’t exactly sure why. This kind of mass disappearance is often referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). It has been estimated that nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies in the country have vanished. CCD, often sudden and unexplained, is characterized by the disappearance of all adult honey bees in the hive. According to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, declines in honeybee colony health were exacerbated in the 1980s with the arrival of new pathogens and pests. Parasitic mites were also introduced to the United States during the 1990s, creating additional stress on the bee population. The ARS estimates the total number of managed honey bee colonies has decreased from 5 million in the

1940s to only 2.5 million today. People began seriously discussing CCD in 2006, when large numbers of seemingly healthy colonies began disappearing from their hives, never to return. “They were gone,” says Dittemore. “No dead bees on the ground; they just disappeared. We would see these hives, and they were alive and viable, and in a matter of a week or two, they’d be down to nothing.” CCD occurs when a colony suddenly loses its worker bee population. The queen and her brood (baby bees) remain, as well as an abundant honey supply. But without the worker bees, a hive cannot sustain itself and will eventually die.

Finding Answers There’s some speculation as to why the bees are disappearing. Researchers and those witnessing the effects of the disorder firsthand believe a combination of factors may be at work, including invasive parasitic mites, pesticide exposure, viruses and inadequate food supply. “No one is able to narrow it down to just one cause,” Dittemore says. More research is essential to determine the exact cause of the bees’ distress, he says. Fortville beekeeper Steve Doty, also a member of the Indiana Beekeepers Association, says he’s seen significant losses of hives throughout the state, especially last winter. The exact cause of these losses can be hard to identify, but Doty suspects chemicals have been taking a toll on his bees. Mites have also affected his colonies. Colony losses from CCD are a serious problem for beekeepers. Annual losses from the winters of 2006 to 2011 averaged about 33 percent each year, with a third of these losses attributed to CCD by beekeepers. The winter of 2011 to 2012 was an exception, when total losses dropped by only 22 percent, according to the ARS. At the same time, the call for hives to provide pollination ser-

Farm Indiana // may 2013

vices has continued to increase. This means honey bee colonies are being transported across longer distances than ever before to help pollinate gardens and farms. The USDA reported this spring that nearly 80 percent of the nation’s honey bees — that’s 1.2 million to 1.6 million colonies — were imported to California to pollinate the state’s almond groves. Dittemore, in addition to serving as ISBA board president, runs his own business servicing south-

Mark Smith of Smith's Beekeeping removes a frame from the bee hive to check on the colony. On the frame honey, eggs, and brood can be seen.

ern Indiana and Indianapolis. Bee Friendly Beekeeping offers hive management and small-scale pollination services, helping local CSAs and orchards increase pollination, and therefore produce more fresh food. He says the Indiana State Beekeepers Association is also working to implement ways to combat bee loss. “We have a statewide queen rearing project,” explains Dittemore, who manages more than 100 hives throughout the

state. “We’re genetically selecting traits of honey bees and propagating those to fight Varroa mites.” With the same goal, Doty is implementing his own approaches. “We are trying several things,” he says. “We got a $15,000 grant from Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) to start nucs (starter hives) in July last year, with 100 different beekeepers using special Indiana-raised queens in hopes that they would better survive the winter.”


An Urban Shift The rise of urban and backyard beekeeping is another approach to combating CCD and colony losses. Backyard beekeepers like Mark Partridge, member of the 10 O’clock Bee Line Beekeepers Club based in Brown County, has been keeping bees with his family for nine years. “If we don’t act now to save the honey bee, it might be too late,” Partridge says. “And no honey bees will mean no more of your favorite fruits and vegetables.” From his perspective, CCD has been a blessing in disguise, placing bees at the forefront of concern and sparking a surge of hobby beekeepers. Partridge has seen a growing interest in backyard and urban beekeeping. “People want to try to get back to nature, a little bit closer to their food supply,” he says. “With keeping bees, people think, ‘I could do that. I could keep a couple hives in my back yard.’” On a personal level, Partridge says keeping bees has affected him in ways he never anticipated. “I’m very much aware of when the tulip trees are going to bloom, when the black locusts are going to bloom, when the sumac’s going to bloom,” Partridge says. “You become more connected to the world around you.” *FI

PHOto by josh marshall

“If we don’t act now to save the honey bee, it might be too late. And no honey bees will mean no more of your favorite fruits and vegetables.” —Mark partridge, 10 O'clock Bee Line Beekeepers Club

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Farm Indiana // may 2013


Alison Ortman, left, and Lesa Kerkhof, far right, with their children.

Stories by Sharon Mangas Photos by Josh Marshall


dentical twins Alison Kirchner Ortman and Lesa Kirchner Kerkhof, 29, daughters of Steve and Karen Kirchner, not only look alike, but their lives have mirrored each other’s in countless ways. They’re both married to grain and cattle farmers: Alison to Jed Ortman, 33, from Decatur County, and Lesa to Bill Kerkhof, 34, of Bartholomew County. For friends and family who know the twins well, it’s hardly a surprise that the women married men with the same vocation. As the sixth and seventh of her eight children, mom Karen was aware of the twins’ close bond from the beginning. “When I was carrying the girls, during a routine

ultrasound I watched as Lesa raised her head and laid it on Alison’s chest.” After they were born, says Karen, “they would lie side by side and suck each others’ fingers. When it was time for potty training, “If one needed her pants changed, the other one wanted her pants changed, too; they had to have matching pants on,” she adds. The twins shared similar interests growing up (singing, cheerleading, gymnastics), had the same first cars (Pontiac Sunfires), the same first job (certified nurse assistants) and attended the same colleges (IUPUI, Ivy Tech and IUPUC). Today they both work as registered nurses at Columbus Regional Hospital and have children the same ages. Older sister

Tara verifies the obvious: “They are each other’s best friend.” As luck would have it, their husbands are friends, too; they played on the same softball team when the two couples met in 2004. Bill and Lesa met first, and they introduced Alison to Jed. Bill and Jed are exactly one year and one day apart in age, and the couples married just two months apart in 2007. Oh, and just for good measure, twins run in Bill’s family, too. Enjoy their stories.

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Farm Indiana // may 2013

Jed Ortman surveys his farm land.

“We feed


“Just call this place ‘under construction,’” says Jed Ortman, 33, as he and his wife, Alison, 29, show their farm on County Road 750S in Decatur County. There are plenty of projects under way. As daughters Brooklyn, 4, and Brynklie, 2, play nearby with the family dogs, Jed points out a barn being rebuilt and a chicken coop in need of work, which weasels — in search of poultry — decimated last year. Repairing fences, tending sick animals, maintaining equipment, planting fields, hauling manure, doing paperwork … it’s all in a day’s work for Jed. Even the Ortman family is under construction this year. A baby brother is expected to join his sisters in June. The Ortman family has farmed in Decatur County since their ancestors settled the area in the late 19th century. “I believe I’m the sixth or seventh generation to farm here,” says Jed. He and his dad, Danny Ortman, currently farm 5,500 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Decatur, Jennings and Ripley counties. They also raise beef cattle on their farms. Between the two, they own 200 acres of land and lease the rest of the acreage they farm. Jed’s grandfather, Arthur Ortman, 96, farmed here, too, and he and Jed’s grandmother, Velma, 93, live just down the road. “Grandpa can’t drive a car anymore, but he still gets on his Gator (four-wheel drive utility vehicle) every day and drives through the fields,” says Alison. “He and Grandma can run circles around us.” “Both sides of my family are farmers,” says Jed. “Mom (Elaine Ortman) grew up on a dairy farm, and Dad grew up on a beef and grain farm. Alison and I purchased our property two-and-a-half years ago. This land and house had been in my mom’s family. I’d been farming this place since I was 14.” “Jed and I used to drive by here all the time, because his parents’ farm is right next door,” Alison adds. “Jed would tell me, ‘If that farm

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comes up for sale, we’re going to live there.’ When the owners were ready to retire, they were happy to sell to us because they knew Jed had taken good care of the land. They wanted someone who would keep it for farming and not develop it for other purposes.” Jed says he considered other careers from time to time, but “farming is all I knew, and all I really wanted to do,” he explains.” I started raising pigs when I was 6, and I earned spending money all the way through high school from doing that. I was an FFA Star Farmer finalist at South Decatur High School, and (I) was Indiana’s national representative, too. My mom kind of wanted me to explore something different, but now I think my parents are glad I didn’t.” Jed says his dad taught him everything he knows about farming. “My parents both taught me the ins and outs of handling money,” he adds. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be a success in farming. I give them all the credit. They taught all their kids well.” Jed’s brother, Benjie, raises organic beef on farms in Decatur and Jennings counties, and his brother, Joey, is an engineer for Caterpillar in Georgia.



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Farm Indiana // may 2013

Chicken pot pie

Recipe provided by Alison Kirchner Ortman 4 tablespoons butter 1½ cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 cup sugar 1¼ cups milk 1 egg 1 16-ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables 2 chicken breasts cut in small pieces 1 can cream of chicken soup, plus ½ soup can milk Melt the butter in a deep pie plate. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and sugar. Whisk together. Add the 1¼ cups of milk and the egg, and whisk again.

Alison grew up in a large family in Columbus. She had no experience with country life prior to marrying Jed, but she says she has grown to love it. She stays busy with their daughters. She also helps Jed with paperwork, works three days a week as a registered nurse at Columbus Regional Hospital and sells Mary Kay cosmetics on the side. “It’s a struggle for me, trying to balance work and home life,” she says. “In the old days, farm wives didn’t work. I would love not to work, but health insurance is so expensive for a self-employed person like Jed, especially when there are young kids at home.” Gardening brings her special joy and satisfaction. “I can’t wait to plant our garden in the spring,” she says. “We plant tons of stuff, and the garden keeps me busy all summer. I never buy vegetables at the store. I freeze and can everything.” Gardening is something Jed and Alison enjoy doing together. “On summer evenings, after he gets in, we have a family supper and then work in the garden together for a couple of hours while the kids play outside,” she says. When asked about changes to farming in the 21st century, Jed doesn’t hesitate to answer. “The number one change for this generation is technology,” he explains. “We use GPS field mapping now, and things like auto-steer for tractors. With

auto-steer you can sit at your kitchen table, hit a remote control and farm your field. Soil mapping helps you use just the right amount of fertilizer or chemicals you need on your fields. In the old days, farmers applied a flat rate of fertilizer or chemical on the whole field. That wasn’t efficient, and it was much more costly. “Our yields are higher every year, and equipment’s getting bigger,” he adds. “It’s important to keep up with changes in technology. If you get too far behind, you’re going to be out a lot of money trying to play catch-up.” As one of the larger farm operations in the area, Jed isn’t interested in expanding. “I don’t know if I want to grow much more,” he explains. “If anything, I might downsize the amount of grain farming I do. Farming this much land means a lot of time away from the family. Our kids are getting older, and it won’t be long before they’re involved in activities. I was fortunate that my mom and dad made time to attend my activities when I was growing up. Alison and I want to be there for our kids, too.” “I’m proud to be part of a farm family,” Alison says. “Being able to live out in the country and say I’m a farmer’s wife is an honor. The work we do is important. We feed America.” *FI

In a second bowl, mix the vegetables and chicken. Add the can of soup and the half soup can of milk to the chicken and vegetables, blending well. Put half of the flour mixture in the pie pan and pour the chicken mixture over it. Pour the remaining half of the flour mixture on the top of the vegetable/chicken mixture. Bake uncovered for one hour at 350 degrees.

Brynklie, Jed, Brooklyn, and Alison Ortman.

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Farm Indiana // may 2013

Bill, Lesa, Luke, 4, and Heidi, 2, and Malia Kerkhof, newborn.

Bill, 34, is the fifth generation of his family to farm in this remote and peaceful corner of Bartholomew County. His German ancestors settled here a century ago, migrating from Cincinnati to the property now on County Road 1050S. A vintage photo from 1917 shows a hardy, if somber, group of Kerkhof men, women and children, posing for posterity outside the first family homestead. Like most farm kids, Bill got his start by helping out on the farm during his early years, but he took over full respon-

sibility when his dad, Norm Kerkhof, retired in 2006.

Life on the Farm Bill and Lesa, 29, take a few minutes to watch their lively toddlers, Luke, 4, and Heidi, 2, play on their swing set. Bill boosts Heidi into a swing and shares his hopes for the future. “Our kids are the sixth generation to live in this house,” he explains. “I hope they’ll want to bring their families up here, too.” Lesa, who grew up a “town girl” in Co-

lumbus, agrees. “We really want to teach this lifestyle to our kids.” The young family, which now includes infant daughter Malia, stays busy. Bill grows corn and soybeans and raises beef cattle on the family’s original 50-acre tract, and he farms an additional 600 acres of corn and soybeans on land he leases in Bartholomew and Jackson counties. Lesa works part time as a registered nurse at Columbus Regional Hospital. “Most of what I farm is family ground,” says Bill. “I rent it off aunts and uncles,

though I do have one landlord in California and one in New Jersey. My dad farmed for all the same people. They have trust in us. I’d like to farm 1,000 to 1,200 acres someday. If I could buy more land that would be great, but leasing is probably more realistic. Right now farmland costs close to $10,000 an acre. We’ll see how it goes.” Bill currently has 100 head of beef cattle, but hopes to build the herd to 200 some day. At one time, he and his father bred cattle, but after straight line winds took out a barn and silo in 1997, Bill started buying calves at

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Farm Indiana // may 2013

Meat Balls

Recipe provided by Lesa Kirchner Kerkhof livestock sales. Today, he buys calves when they’re around 500 pounds and feeds them to 1,200 to 1,300 pounds before selling them to a processing plant. To supplement farm income, Bill runs Kerkhof Trucking, a company purchased from his father. The trucking firm is headquartered on the farm, and Bill’s drivers haul goods for Cummins and Celadon, among others. “To make it in farming today, you just about have to diversify,” Bill says. “Lesa helps me with the paperwork for the trucking business, and my parents help out if I need them.” Discussing 21st-century farm life at their kitchen table, Lesa and Bill agree that one big change in farming today is the wife’s role. “I’m the first wife who’s lived in this house that’s ever worked outside the home,” she says. Lesa is a busy mom. She works three

days a week as a nurse and helps Bill with farm chores as needed. “Anything that Bill needs, he can always call me,” she says. “I go on ‘parts runs’ for him, and I’ve done my share of chasing loose cattle. When he has long days, I bring meals out to the fields, and we all eat together.” “When my dad was my age, every farmer’s wife stayed home,” Bill says. “My mom (Karen Kerkhof) did the books for the trucking company, but she could do that from home.” When Lesa’s working, Karen baby-sits one day a week and a friend with an in-home day care watches the children the other two days. Like other young farm couples, access to affordable health care necessitates Lesa working outside the home. “Now that we have kids, I’d love for Lesa to be able to stay home,” continues Bill, “but since I’m selfemployed, we need the health insurance benefit she gets at her job.”

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A Look into the Future Juggling two careers creates challenges, but technology has made life easier for the current generation of farm families. “Bill’s more accessible than his dad was,” says Lesa. “He always has his cellphone with him; he can call or text me when he needs to, check the Internet for weather reports and check the grain markets anytime he needs to.” Bill nods. “The big changes in my generation are the use of technology and the quality of the seed that’s available today,” he adds. “GPS technology allows me to do field mapping so I know just how much fertilizer or chemicals are needed in any given part of a field. And I’m producing greater crop yields on a more consistent basis than either my dad or grandpa ever did. Seed companies are developing seed corn that has rootworm and corn borer resistance, and that helps our corn plants reach their full potential. If we didn’t have the seed traits that we have today — if we only had the type of seeds my dad planted — the drought last summer would have been a total disaster.” Contemplating the future, Bill cites some wisdom he gleaned from a farm journal. “I read that the two biggest things a farmer worries about are prices and the weather, but

since those things are out of your control, you should try not to worry about them,” he says. “It’s hard not to worry about them, but I try to keep focused on doing the best job I can with the things I can control, like preparing the ground, making good seed choices, deciding on seed placement, fertilizer choices, maintaining equipment and the like.” As most farmers do, Bill puts in long hours and days, especially during planting and harvest seasons. “It’s a 24-7 lifestyle,” says Lesa. Bill chuckles as he recalls one of his dad’s favorite sayings. “My dad always tells me, ‘There’s a lot of opportunity in farming, Bill.’” Despite their hectic schedules, the Kerkhofs find time for family togetherness. “The hardest thing for me is not having enough time to get everything done that needs to get done, but really, my first priority should be my family,” Bill says. The next generation of Kerkhof farmers is in development. Though Heidi and Malia are still too young to be actively involved, “Luke could be with me all the time,” says Bill. “He loves to be outside.” Lesa pulls Luke onto her lap. “Luke always tells Bill they’ll be best buddies forever,” she says. *FI

(from left) Audrey, 6, Maggie, 10, Vivian, 4, Gwen, Adam, 9, (in front) and Nathan Newkirk.

Farm Indiana // may 2013


LIVING off the LAND Nathan and Gwen Newkirk teach their children the farming way

Story and Photos by Marcia Walker


dam Newkirk takes a break from shoveling feed to the calves on his family’s farm in the northern Jackson County neighborhood known as Borchers. He dips his hand into the mixture and scoops up a fistful, then separates the ingredients with a finger as he explains the ratio of corn and protein supplement. “It’s kind of like chips and salsa,” he says. “You’ve got to have that salsa with the chips; the salsa gives you that veggie type stuff.” Adam Newkirk is 9 years old, but he speaks with the knowledge and wisdom of someone twice his age. By the time he was 6, Adam was driving a tractor; he now knows how to operate any piece of equipment on the farm and has a wealth of knowledge about the ins and outs of the family’s 900acre operation. In addition to feeding the calves each day, Adam has taken on the task of keeping grass mowed around the Newkirk home. And he often can be found in the cab of the tractor with his dad, Nathan. “It’s a team effort here,” his father says, referring not just to Adam but his wife, Gwen, and his daughters, Maggie, Audrey and Vivian, ages 10, 6 and 4, respectively. “It’s a necessity.” Those long tractor rides, Adam says, have helped him learn about farming. He described the rides as boring and explained that, to fill the time, he and his dad launch discussions on many topics. His older sister, Maggie, is the family’s computer guru. She is learning how to keep computerized records of each cow on the farm, using spreadsheets to track information that includes parentage, birth date and rate of weight gain. She is also learning how to keep similar records of the crops. Maggie is considering a career as a teacher or a veterinarian. But if you hear her mother, Gwen, tell it, Maggie has the brains to do anything she chooses. “She’s our farm accountant in training,” Gwen says. The farm, Newkirk Inc., is truly a family operation. Even the younger two Newkirk children help. Audrey sometimes tags along with her brother when he feeds the animals, and even Vivian is given jobs to do. All lend a hand with the family’s large garden. Gwen grew up in Seymour and says she


didn’t really become involved in farming until she met Nathan. But both her mother and grandmother kept a garden, and she is keeping that tradition going. “We can corn, green beans, salsa. … I cook all the time. I make our own bread and rolls,” Gwen says. “To me, that’s a big deal for my girls to know how to do that. That’s a dying art.” To Gwen, it’s important that her family is raised in this rural area, with rolling fields, patches of woods and a rock-studded creek that her children enjoy exploring. “I love that my kids can be out here in this,” she says. The children go to Cortland Elementary School; the family attends St. Paul Lutheran Church, located right across the road from their farm. Both Adam and Maggie are involved with 4-H. Adam is raising a pig, and Maggie, a bunny. Nathan grew up in the Borchers neighborhood; the farm where he and his family now live was purchased by his family in 1922. He is following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. “I farm now what they had,” Nathan says. “I have been able to pick up a little bit (more ground).” It is technology, Nathan says, that has brought about the biggest changes in agriculture over the years. The computerized records the Newkirks keep are one example of that. The Newkirks’ fields have been mapped

according to soil types. Nathan uses GPS to locate the ground that needs more fertilizer and where to go heavy or light on the seeds. He also recently invested in an irrigation system on land he farms near Brownstown. “Wherever you can get water, the best money is spent on irrigation,” he advises. They have 18 feeder calves, which they raise until they are about 500 pounds, then sell to someone else to fill out. They also have a herd of 60 Angus, which are sold as freezer beef directly to the consumer. “We use no hormones or antibiotics,” Nathan says. “It’s just hay, water, sunshine and a protein supplement.” Like most farmers in southern Indiana, the Newkirks raise corn, soybeans and winter wheat. But they have found a way to diversify, growing 50 acres of orchard grass alfalfa hay, premium top quality feed for people who own horses. Nathan also does custom planting and custom harvesting, a service he wants to expand. “I do any custom work that we have equipment for,” he says. He and Gwen also have a crop insurance business. Nathan says he started out under another agent but is now independent. Being both an agent and a farmer gives him an advantage, he explains, because he knows firsthand what his customers are experiencing. Insurance is what helped him and other farmers weather last year’s

Newkirk Inc. 400 acres of corn 400 acres of soybeans 250 acres of wheat 50 acres of orchard grass alfalfa hay 60 Angus 18 feeder calves

devastating drought. “I’m a farmer, but I’m a customer, too,” he says. “We buy a policy for our own farm.” The Newkirk children represent the fourth generation of the family to make a living from the land. Nathan hopes they will be able to farm full time if they choose to, but he admits it will be a challenge, between increasing costs and the difficulty in finding more land to farm. He hopes they might obtain an education in agronomy. If they can’t make a living from farming, Nathan theorizes, at least they will be able to find an occupation that involves agriculture. “There are a lot of opportunities in agriculture-related jobs even if they can’t farm full time.” *FI

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Farm Indiana // may 2013

Field Day Whether you’re an

omnivore or an herbivore, summer in Indiana is the perfect time to be a locavore. At area farmers markets, you’ll find everything from crisp apples and fresh sweet corn to prime cuts of meat and fiery salsas. To celebrate the season—and your food’s journey from farm to table—we asked three local farmers to share their stories. By Ashley Petry — Photography by Jennifer Cecil

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Kelsay Farms

n their blog, Two Maids a Milking, the women of Kelsay Farms share their stories of running a dairy. The two sisters-in-law—Amy Kelsay and Liz Kelsay—have many good days, when there’s time for baking banana pudding pie and chatting with the children who come to the farm for tours. They shared the story of a calf, named No. 41, who likes to interact with the children on tours — often by mooing just as the tour guide asks the children a question. Sometimes, though, there are bad days, such as when the muchanticipated birth of a calf goes awry. “If there is one thing you learn quickly on a farm, it is that life doesn’t always go as you plan,” Liz wrote at the time. Broken equipment, weather disasters and stillborn calves are all part of the reality of farm life. “We just try to relate to people and give them an idea of what it’s like to be here every day on the farm,” says Amy, who runs the farm with her husband, Joe Kelsay; Joe’s brother, Russ Kelsay; and Russ’ wife, Liz. Joe and Russ are the sixth generation of Kelsays on the farm, which was founded in 1837. It has about 2,000 acres and more than 500 milking cows. The milk produced here is sold to Dean Foods, so your grocery store milk or cottage cheese might come from just a few miles away. The Kelsays also raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat. Kelsay Farms is open for tours, which are popular with schools, youth groups and scout troops. In addition, the farm holds a festival every weekend in October, with a corn maze, hayrides, a pumpkin patch and other fall fun. Last year, about 18,000 people visited the farm, and the number is growing every year. “We give them a firsthand look at dairy farming and help them understand where milk is actually coming from,” Amy says. “More folks are wanting to make that connection back to the farm.” Despite the busy tour schedule, the Kelsays know their first priority is the cows, which require constant attention. Milking takes place three times a day, at 1 a.m., 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. In between the milking sessions, farm workers have just enough time to clean the facility and feed the cows before starting the process over again. With such a rigorous schedule, there’s no such thing as going on vacation or taking a sick day. Yet the Kelsay family sticks with it, hoping to one day pass the farm along to a seventh generation of farmers. “It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to farm the same ground our family has farmed for so many years,” Amy says. “We have three children of our own, and looking at the future, to provide them with this opportunity will be amazing, if any of them choose to come back and farm.” 6848 N. Road 250E, Whiteland, (317) 535-4136, www.kelsayfarms. com,

Above | Liz Kelsay holds a calf while it’s

being fed. Right | Liz and Amy Kelsay. below | Josie and Jenna Kelsay.

Farm Indiana // may 2013

Copeland Family Farm and Market


hen Elaine Copeland Wall was a child, she and her four siblings sold sweet corn from a table in the front yard. Her profits, combined with income from raising livestock in 4-H, paid her way through college — and paved the way for her current job managing the family’s on-site farm market. Copeland Family Farm was homesteaded in 1851, and Elaine’s mother, Donna Copeland Laker, runs the farm today. The on-site market was opened in 1979, and its specialties include annual and perennial flowers and a variety of produce, including one crop that is often elusive. “Early in the spring, we have morel mushrooms when they’re available,” Elaine says. “They’re the kind that only God can grow, so we get them from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska.” Other specialties include sweet corn, green beans, peas and tomatoes. The family also stocks cantaloupes and watermelons from the Vincennes area. In addition to running the on-site market, she staffs a booth at the Greenwood Farmers Market. For those who want to learn about the farm in more depth, she also offers tours by appointment. On a typical day, Elaine is at work by 7 a.m., picking the vegetables that will be sold in the market that day. She also has to water in the greenhouses daily, a task that takes two to three hours, and weed and water about 15 acres of vegetables. “It’s a lot of work, and you just never know,” she says. “My father always said, farmers are the biggest gamblers there are, because you have to gamble against the weather.” Fortunately, Elaine has the help of her husband, Leonard Wall, and their teenage children, Damon and Crysta. They jokingly refer to themselves as “the four Walls,” and she believes the family atmosphere is what keeps customers coming back to the farm. “Some people say we’re the best-kept secret on the southside,” she says. “When people come here, they come on purpose, because we’re not on any major road. Word-of-mouth is the best way to get people here, and once they come, they tell other people, and they come back.” In her spare time, Elaine creates special-order custom artwork, such as acrylic paintings, pencil drawings and pen-and-ink drawings. She also paints ceramics and holiday ornaments, creating everything from simple winter scenes to elaborate paintings of clients’ homes and churches. After all these years, though, the sweet corn she once sold in the front yard is still the farm’s best-seller — and her favorite thing to eat in her own kitchen. To eat it the Wall way, drop the ears into boiling water for about 10 minutes, then top with butter, salt and pepper. “That’s the best way to do it,” she says. 7312 Copeland Road, Indianapolis, (317) 862-1393,

Elaine Copeland Wall at the market and on the farm. left | Fresh morel mushrooms and tomatoes at the Copeland market store.

Dougherty Farm Fresh Beef


ike many teenagers in rural Indiana, Abby Dougherty Nichols grew up showing steers in 4-H and eagerly anticipating the Indiana State Fair. Now, she is helping to run Dougherty Farm Fresh Beef, a third-generation cattle farm in Franklin. The farm was founded in 1961 by her grandparents, Floyd Dougherty and Florence “Susie” Wagner, after years of farming rented pastures. The farm was originally a dairy operation, but in 1968 the Dougherty family transitioned to raising beef steers—a specialty that continues to this day. Along the way, the couple had two sons and one daughter. The sons, David and Bruce, continue to work on the farm, with the help of David’s daughter, Abby, and Bruce’s son, Zach. Dougherty Farm Fresh Beef has about 2,000 acres, mostly planted in corn and soybeans, and about 80 head of cattle. The specialty here is freezer beef: individual cuts like sirloins and filets, but also whole, half and quarter steers. The average half steer — approximately 400 pounds of beef — costs about $700, plus another $200 for processing. Last year, about 40 steers were purchased in this way. “It is just such a big convenience factor,” Abby says. “They get it, and it lasts them all year.” The Dougherty family is also known for its ground beef, which is trimmed of excess fat and dry aged — and therefore more tender and flavorful than typical ground beef. To meet consumer demand for organic, natural foods, the Dougherty family raises its herd of grain-fed Black Angus cattle without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. “We’re very proud of the life we provide for them,” Abby says. “They always have access to a barn, clean water and clean food, and they can always be outside, either on a lot or out in the pasture.” On a typical day, Abby meets with her father, uncle and cousin early in the morning to discuss the agenda for the day. The cattle are fed twice a day, and the family also conducts farm tours by appointment. In her spare time, Abby raises her own produce. A few years ago, she planted 25 blackberry plants, not realizing they would yield hundreds of quarts of fresh berries. Looking for a way to sell the berries, Abby signed up for a booth at the Greenwood Farmers Market, where she soon realized she could sell cuts of frozen beef, too. Since then, working at the market has become a fun social activity for her — and a chance to educate consumers about life on the farm. “I just want people to understand how much farmers really care about producing safe and wholesome food,” she says. 5895 E. Road 700N, Franklin, (317) 535-8505,

Above | Abby Nichols right | The farm’s “hardest worker,” shorthaired border collie Pandie, races through a field.


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Farm Indiana // may 2013


may 2013 | Section B

Spinning their Wheels


From animals in the pasture to yarn on the shelves, Sheep Street Fibers does it all

Story by Kate Franzman Photos by Josh Marshall Pat and Nancy de Caprariis with their Shetland sheep.

Rolling pastures, specked with white balls of fluff, surround a quaint barn near Morgantown. At the other end of those pastures, a pole barn houses a 2,800-square-foot yarn shop. Wearing matching fern-colored sweaters, Nancy de Caprariis and her husband, Pat, emerge from the back of the shop, where a gray, one-eyed shop cat named Pirate greets them with outstretched paw. “He leaves the yarn alone,” Nancy says. “It would take me months to straighten up if he played with it. The worst he might do is lay on someone’s sweater.” See sheep on b2


Farm Indiana // may 2013

sheep // cont. from B1

An Unexpected Turn

Nancy never thought she’d be leading the farm life. She was a systems analyst when a merger quickly cut her corporate career short. Rather than head back out into the workforce, the entrepreneurial knitter saw it as an opportunity to turn her passion into a business. “The yarn shop was an idea that was always in the back of my mind,” she explains. “I’m a knitter and a spinner.” Nancy opened Sheep Street Fibers Inc. in 1999. A few years into her new business venture, she met sheep farmer Tim Ackerman, who offered to sell his supply of wool. Tim, who has raised sheep for more than 30 years, is also a fiber artist and teaches spinning and weaving.  Enchanted with his talents, and with wool and the animals that produce it, Nancy and Pat started helping Tim with his sheep. Eventually the three decided to become business partners. In 2004, they moved the operation to a 20-acre property in Martinsville, just two-and-a-half miles outside Morgantown. Pat and Nancy live in a house on the property. Tim lives in an apartment above the shop. “This was one big room with a dirt floor when we got here,” Nancy says of the shop, motioning toward the window, which looks out onto the farm. “That barn didn’t even exist.” Inside the shop, a rainbow of yarns, roving and fleeces lines the walls. A cluster of spinning wheels and looms used for on-site classes takes up the center. Sheep Street supplies customers with almost any item a knitting enthusiast could need, along with its own brand of yarn and roving from the Shetland sheep just outside the back door. The farm offers the total “sheep-toshawl” experience.

Counting Sheep

The Shetland sheep, a British breed, are kept for their fine wool. Although Shetlands are small and slow-growing compared to commercial breeds, they

are hardy, with wool in many colors and patterns. Nancy also hand-paints and dyes some of the wool she sells. She stuffs her pockets full of Triscuits before heading out the back door. From across the pasture, two Shetland rams thunder toward her. “This is Clayton and Calamari,” explains Nancy, who knows all of the 90 sheep that live on the farm by name. Sheep Street, at its largest, had more than 100 Shetland sheep, with two alpacas and a few chickens. Four snowy white Great Pyrenees dogs stand guard in the flock to keep coyotes and other predators at bay. “We heard them out there last night,” Pat says. The pasture is divided in two, one for the young flock and one for the older sheep. “We call that the ‘assisted living’

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Nancy de Caprariis uses an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel to spin wool.

Farm Indiana // may 2013


pasture,” Pat explains. “They don’t have to compete with the youngsters for their food, and they have their own guard dog.” The animals at Sheep Street will spend their 14 or so years here on the farm — and won’t be taken to market. “They give us their wool, we let them live out their lives here,” Nancy says. Inside, she unfurls mounds of roving and fleece onto a long wooden table. The average Shetland yields about five pounds of wool, which, once cleaned and processed, comes out to approximately three and a half pounds, or enough yarn to knit one sweater. Shearing day is a big deal at Sheep Street. Each year, a professional sheep shearer visits the farm. The sheep are caught, sheared and inoculated, and their nails are trimmed. “It’s like spa day for the sheep,” says Nancy.

An Intimate Setting

In the last eight years, Nancy, Pat and Tim have built a shop where patrons can purchase equipment and materials, as well as a place to meet other knitters and take classes in an intimate setting. Sheep Street offers more than 20 courses, which cover knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving and dyeing. Basic knitting is a four-week (two

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Pat de Caprariis in front of the Sheep Street barn.

Farm Indiana // may 2013

The sheep spend their whole lives on the farm, without being taken to market:

“They give us their wool, we let them live out their lives here,” Nancy says.

hours per week) class, which costs $55 plus materials. For those who already know their way around a pair of knitting needles, free knitting meet-ups take place at the shop, but the owners do ask that the yarn come from Sheep Street. Students can pursue any project they wish. Nancy, Pat and Tim are on hand to answer questions and help with new techniques.  “Knitting is a unifying hobby,” Nancy explains, “people from all walks of life, all professions. It’s ubiquitous.” Even though she’s busy with the shop and the sheep, Nancy still knits every chance she can get. “I had to go to a fancy event, and my friends told me that I couldn’t knit. So I hid tiny needles in my clutch purse and knitted a sock this

big,” she said, holding up her fingers no more than an inch apart. Nancy learned to knit when she was just 9 years old. Pat, not until he was 67. He joined the business in 2002, after retiring from teaching at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis. He says he learned to knit so he could chat with the customers. “If I can teach my husband to knit, I can teach anybody to knit,” Nancy says. She teaches spinning, too. With the renewed interest in fiber crafts, even historic arts like spinning are experiencing a comeback. Nancy doesn’t see spinning as a relic, though, but rather as a modern craft that allows people to customize their yarn and get as

close to the source as possible. Sheep Street has dozens of spinning wheels, both historic models and modern ones, and looms for weaving. The introductory weaving class takes a full day, and students are given three weeks to return to the studio as needed to finish their projects with guidance from Nancy and Tim.  Between running the shop, teaching classes and tending to the flock, Nancy still finds time for other hobbies. She plays French horn in a band alongside a local alpaca farmer. Her true passion, however, is working with fibers. “We’re fiber people,” she says. But as for those matching green sweaters? “Mine’s from L.L. Bean,” says Pat, with a wry smile. *FI



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Chris Baggott pauses for an early morning call to discuss livestock before starting his work on the farm. BELOW: Chris, center, with his son, and Mark Farrell, right.

Farm Indiana // may 2013


To Market, To Market

Agriculture leaders use the Web to help farmers reach consumers story By sherri dugger | photos by josh marshall


ay 1 is the projected launch date for the Hoosier Harvest Market Inc., formerly known as the Central Indiana Food Hub, which Hancock County ag leaders have created to bring farmers and consumers together to conduct business online. The Hoosier Harvest Market, an online marketing system that coordinates the weekly sale and delivery of local farm food, is “organized with both the farmer and the consumer in mind as a means of conveniently connecting the Indiana shopper with the very best that Indiana farmers can produce,” said Roy Ballard, Purdue Extension agricultural and natural resources educator in Hancock County, in a press release. “The Hoosier Harvest Market is really an exciting initiative,” said Chris Baggott, owner of Tyner Pond

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Farm in Hancock County and board member for the market. “We’re really excited to be a part of it.” Like other food hubs, Hoosier Harvest Market, which is a farmer mutual benefit cooperative, will increase consumer access to fresh and healthy locally produced foods, including those in underserved areas, while providing wider access to institutional and retail markets for small to mid-sized producers, a press release about the market stated. Through the system, consumers will find a list of vendors similar to what they would find at a traditional farmers market. Participating farmers will use the market to provide their weekly inventory and prices online. Individual shoppers and restaurants alike can then choose from the options listed to purchase their products. Farmers will deliver the goods to an aggregation point, where the products will be sorted into customer baskets and delivered to selected drop-off points for customer pickup. “The big problem in the universe it’s going to help solve,” Baggott says, “is how to close the gap between consumer and farmer, and more specifically between farmers and commercial buyers. “It’s hard for a commercial buyer to buy from a small farm,” Baggott explains. “If someone wants to buy 2,000 pounds of green beans, I (as one farmer) can’t do it all for them. This allows them to go to one place and buy everything they need. It’s one collective place where

they can place orders for large volumes to be consolidated and then delivered or picked up.” Produce featured through the market will be “limited to Indiana only,” said Ballard, who has championed the initiative. “We think farmers will come from within an hour’s drive” to deliver their goods. At press time, details for the Hoosier Harvest Market, which is funded in part through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, administered through the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, were still being finalized.

Brick-and-Mortar Markets

Another Hancock initiative that helps farmers across the country is Baggott’s software services company,, where farmers can go to sign up to use his farmers market management software. “So far, we have about 183 or so users across the country who have signed up to use the software,” Baggott says. The Web-based management software, called Husk, is free for use and helps market organizers better manage their traditional indoor and outdoor events. The package helps organizers communicate with vendors and keep customers informed and “helps them manage vendors that are coming and map out spaces,” Baggott says. “It’s an internal tool to replace a lot of spreadsheets and handwritten notes and confusion. If you think about it, farmers markets have a lot of turnover. Vendors change. Most people are volunteers. This gives them a consistent system to use every year.” And Baggott should know. He is not only the founder of the company, but he is also a customer. He has worked to organize the fledgling Greenfield Farmers Market through the use of his company’s management software. *FI

> > For more information on the Hoosier Harvest Market, visit or the Hoosier Harvest Market Facebook page. For more information on Baggott’s market software company, visit

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Farm Indiana // may 2013


TO TILL Farmers continue to question the best methods for preparing their fields Story By Jim Mayfield


n the aftermath of last summer’s drought and facing continually rising fuel, equipment and input costs, farmers are thinking harder than ever this season on how to work efficiently. One method that continues to gain traction economically and environmentally is no till or minimal till farming. Though it is steeped in tradition, experts now say heavy tilling is not only an unnecessary method of preparing fields for seed, but in the long term the process can also be costly in terms of overall soil health. In its simplest form, no till leaves crop residue from the prior season on top of the soil rather than turning it under with tillage. The process increases the amount of water going into the soil and reduces water runoff, the major contributor to soil erosion. The residue also improves the biological and microbial conditions in the field. Moreover, by not running the tractor and tilling equipment over the field, farmers save fuel and labor costs, says Barry Fisher, soil and health

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Farm Indiana // may 2013

specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Indianapolis. As any farmer will tell you, there are more variables than constants in agriculture, and though there are many considerations to think through before deciding on a no till system, Fisher says the process can work universally. “No till is appropriate for almost any type of application,” he says. “We have producers with 20,000 acres using it all the way down to farmers with small vegetable gardens.” The key is to understand that no till and minimal till are managed systems, Fisher says. “It’s not just about tilling or not tilling the soil,” he says. “You need to integrate a system of cover crops and nutrient management, perhaps changing the time and product that you apply and use. Absence of tillage alone is not the answer.” Roy Ballard, Purdue extension educator for Hancock County, agrees. “It’s definitely not a one plus one equals two equation,” he says. “It’s more like one plus one equals five.” No till can be particularly appropriate in the hilly farm regions of southern Indiana where soils are more susceptible to runoff after a heavy rain, Ballard says. There are alternatives to complete no till. Strip tilling, where only the planting rows are turned, and shallow vertical tilling, where implements cut through the soil vertically to a depth of two to four inches, slicing and anchoring residue into the soil, can have similar results for difficult situations. Will Shackel, program assistant at Purdue’s Rush County extension office, says weed control is a particular problem that sometimes requires more cultivation than that provided by no till. Marestail, also known as horseweed, has become resistant to some weed control products and needs to be turned under, Shackel says. Additionally, trees can be a problem. “Sometimes you get trees that begin to grow in the field, and you’d be surprised at how much growth cycle you can get in a season,” he says. “If the sickle bar on the combine hits one of those, you know it.” Still, despite the decreased labor and input costs and in the face of the method’s benefits, the number of farmers using no till is relatively low in Indiana. Estimates show about 24 percent of the state’s corn producers and some 64 percent of bean producers use the no till method. Tradition and risk are big factors. “You have a situation where farmers have to invest a lot of input costs upfront each year,” Fisher says. “With that much money on the table, farmers are likely to do it the way they did last year, or do it the way their father did it to get an expected outcome. There’s comfort there. Most of us are adverse to change.”

Some of the push-back might also be related to early attempts at the method that didn’t meet farmers’ expectations as well. “Everyone can remember a time when they or others had a bad experience with no till in the ’70s, ’80s or even the ’90s,” Fisher says. “But now we have better knowledge and better technology.” Advances in precision farming equipment for precise seed placement in terms of depth and spacing, better genetics and improved chemistry for treatment and nourishment have all contributed to improvement of the system, Fisher says. Now is the time to move forward, he says. Not only will farmers produce more efficiently, over time, they will improve the long-term health of their fields, which is a factor equally as important in the long view. “Now that we have a relatively stable agriculture economy, this is the time to find new efficiencies and new and better ways to grow crops,” Fisher says. “Not when we’re forced to.” For more information about no till and minimal till systems and farming practices, visit

“No till is appropriate for almost any type of application. We have producers with 20,000 acres using it all the way down to farmers with small vegetable gardens.” — Barry Fisher soil and health specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

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Farm Indiana // may 2013

The ag industry can be a tough — and dangerous — business story By ed wenck


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Farm Indiana // may 2013


sk anyone raising corn or cattle, and they’re probably aware that farming is a dangerous undertaking. The U.S. government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks agribusiness third when it comes to workplace fatalities. In recent years, though, the number of deaths in agricultural production has been declining steadily. In fact, the bureau notes that “Fatalities in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting were down by 10 percent to 557 in 2011 from 621 in 2010, led by a sharp drop in crop production fatalities.” That nationwide trend is mirrored in Indiana. According to the most recent report issued by Purdue’s Indiana Rural Safety and Health Council, 2011 saw the second-lowest total for deadly accidents in the past two decades. Sixteen Hoosiers lost their lives while working in the ag business, down from 23 in 2010. (The safest year for Indiana farms was 2006, when eight people died.) So what’s making farming safer?

work on the farm, but there’s less exposure to risk.” And what’s the most dangerous activity on the farm? Riding the John Deere. “Over half of all of our farm deaths involve tractors. If you add machinery to that, it’s somewhere around 70 percent,” he says. As far as tractors go, “the overturned or the rollover fatality is most common on Indiana farms — and that’s true throughout the Midwest — and number two is those that fall off machinery and are run over. There’s where you’d see young people involved in an incident: Two people riding on a tractor, hit a bump; someone rolls off and is either run over by the tractor or the trailing implement.” As far as non-fatal injuries go, “Falls are number one,” says Field. “Falls from silos, grain bins — they account for some long-term disabling injuries.” Farm fatality in 2011 was an all-male syndrome, and most prevalent among older workers: The average age of a

scribed as more of a “boutique” operation. He provides a wide variety of produce for farm markets and restaurants, including high-end eateries like the Story Inn. Manuel grew up around farms and their equipment, but his first safety instructor was his wife. “She was working on her dad’s farm before we were married, and I’d ride along,” he explains. When it comes to the gear itself, Manuel notes that roll cages and bars are the biggest safety improvement he’s seen. Manuel supplemented the knowledge that had been passed to him with an eight-week course at Purdue before he’d graduated from high school. Low has also availed himself of Purdue’s resources. “Purdue has one of the longestrunning farm safety programs in the country,” Field says. “It dates back over 60 years. We are very involved in public awareness. We’re at all the major events. If you went to the Indiana State Fair last year, you saw three or four key displays and demonstrations that reached out to tens of thousands of people. If you visit

> > In 2011, the average age of a farm accident victim was 53, and 50 percent of those who died were over 60.

While the number of farms required to be OSHA-compliant in Indiana has grown by over 800 percent, the number of deaths and injuries has dropped significantly since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed by Congress in 1970. However, Bill Field, a Purdue professor and co-author of the 2011 Indiana Farm Fatality Summary, doesn’t necessarily see a causal relationship. “I’m sure that OSHA would like to take credit for some of this, but the true issue is that OSHA has very little jurisdiction in agricultural worksites — almost all of them that have fewer than 10 employees are exempt from OSHA’s standards,” he says. “I think what we really are seeing are a number of things — one, there’s a declining number of people involved in agriculture; secondly, the technology and work practices that we use are safer than they’ve ever been in our history, and that’s evidenced by the fact that when I first came to Purdue, about a third of all farm deaths were children; and we’ve had a few years where no children have died as far as farm work is concerned.” There’s a change in attitudes under way — farming is considered more of a profession and less of a “family operation,” according to Field. “There was historically a high expectation for children to be involved in the process, and now the expectation is that kids [should be] more involved in off-farm activities,” he explains. “There are still lots of kids that

victim was 53, and 50 percent of those who perished were over the age of 60. “That’s the changing face of Indiana agriculture,” according to Field. “If you look at the census data, the average age is 57 — in reality, it’s probably even a little older than that if you include those who claim that they’re retired — drawing Social Security benefits — but are still actively engaged in the farm’s operations. We’ve had farmers in their 90s that have died in farm accidents.” Tom Low, who’s been raising corn on T&S Farms in North Vernon since he incorporated in 1990, says he learned safe farming practices from previous generations, but technology is helping make his job safer. “I like the auto-steer (function on equipment),” he says. “It clears your head — gives you more time to think.” But a tractor was nonetheless responsible for Low’s most recent injuries. In June an engine fire spread to a shed, and Tom says he “got burnt on the forehead, and my wife got some skinned knees out of the deal,” Dean Manuel owns Manuel Farms in Brown County and has what could be de-

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all the farm shows in the state, we’ll be there with a display; it’s a very costeffective way of reaching a lot of people.” Purdue instructors have also been focusing on publications that can reach the local farmer. A recent grain-bin safety tract saw a circulation of over 15,000. Additionally, Field has been developing AV products for vocational programs at the high school level. The biggest challenge for Field and his colleagues when it comes to this issue of farm safety? “It needs to be constantly worked at,” he says. “It can’t just be a one time shot. It’s like raising children. … It takes a regular investment of energy to communicate these important messages.” *FI



Farm Indiana // may 2013


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Farm Indiana // may 2013


Much can be said about the beauty of Brown County in southern Indiana, but if you ask Brad Schneck, the views and vistas to be found in Jackson-Washington State Forest and Starve-Hollow State Recreation Area rival the often-touted hills and hollers of Brown. And—even better, says the property manager for the forest and recreation area—Jackson-Washington’s offerings are hidden treasures. Not many people know the beauty of what they’ll find until they get there, he explains. Please forgive us, then, while we spoil the surprise. Jackson-Washington State Forest There’s a lot of ground to cover at Jackson-Washington State Forest, what with the nearly 18,000 acres of it. With breathtaking views and unique topography, known as “knobs,” the forest offers visitors a variety of things to do and see. Five forest lakes (stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish and channel catfish) offer fishing. Washington County has 12-acre Spurgeon Hollow Lake, 10-acre Potter Lake and 8-acre Plattsburg Pond; Jackson County offers 7-acre Knob Lake and 1-acre Cypress Pond. Boat ramps (bring your annual lake use permit if you’re using a boat) are located on Knob Lake and Spurgeon Hollow Lake. Plattsburg Pond and Potter Lake are walk-in lakes. If horseback riding is more your thing, saddle up (and bring your bridle tag) to enjoy the two trail systems for horseback riding. Though people do occasionally hike and mountain bike on these trails, Schneck says, the majority of users enjoy leisurely rides along the nine miles of trails off Skyline Drive and the five miles of trails off State Road 250. The forest also offers a total of nine trails that are free to use and that connect with one another for hikers and mountain bikers, Schneck says. “The trails go from rugged to easy to moderate,” he adds. “There are a variety of op-

tions. Some are short as a quarter of a mile and some are as long as five-and-a-half miles.” If you plan on staying overnight in the forest, you have 50-plus campsites (some are waterfront sites on Knob Lake; others sit among hardwoods or towering eastern white pines) to choose from, Schneck says. The primitive sites offer no electricity, and there are “water points throughout the property for campers to use,” he explains. It costs $10 to camp overnight, and firewood is available for purchase at the forest office for $5. Find a map of the forest, as well as information on all of the available activities, at the main office, which is located 2.5 miles southeast of Brownstown on State Road 250.

Starve-Hollow State Recreation Area With 280 acres of its own, Starve-Hollow State Recreation Area is considered its own entity, though it’s carved out of Jackson-Washington State Forest. Guests to the area will find a regularly stocked 145-acre lake, a sandy beach, and a fully staffed Nature Center that’s open on the weekends from May through November. Shelters (which, as of this year, can now be reserved in advance) and playgrounds are available for family reunions and picnics. Hiking and mountain biking trails are available, as well as a number of

options for camping. “Starve-Hollow is a modern recreational facility,” Schneck says. The area offers “90 electric campsites, as well as 55 full hook-up campsites” that have electric, water and sewer lines available. There are also 10 non-electric campsites, which have comfort stations where visitors can take warm showers. For the first time this year, cabins are also available for rent. “They will have electric, ceiling fans, a double bed, and a single bunk bed,” Schneck says, but with the loft and space throughout the cabin, there are “a lot of sleeping options in the cabins to sleep approximately six.” Some of the cabins are lakefront sites, and all offer electricity, but no running water, he adds. Prices for the various camping options vary, depending on the weekends, holidays and amenities, and guests to the area can also take advantage of boat and canoe rentals, a concession stand and more. Call the Starve-Hollow office at (812) 358-3464 for more information. From May to November, StarveHollow is gated and costs $5 to enter, Schneck says. “It’s a security thing,” he explains. If you purchase an annual Indiana State Park entrance permit, the permits will allow you to enter for free, he adds. *FI


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Farm Indiana // may 2013 PHOtos by andrew laker

One Columbus woman turned her love of baking into a business story By caroline mosey

SWEET ROSE BAKEHOUSE 1604 Home Ave., Columbus, (812) 376-7673,

Rose Wright.

PHOto by carla clark


wo years ago, Rose Wright decided to put her baking skills to public use and opened her first restaurant, Sweet Rose Bakehouse, with her husband, Jerry. Since, the Columbus bakery and lunch spot has earned a loyal following of pastry-lovers who arrive looking to fill their bellies (and coffee cups) each morning and afternoon. The bakery occupies a historic, century-old building on Columbus’ Home Avenue. Inside, exposed brick walls and wood furniture make

up the quaint space. “We have seating for about 12 to 14 inside, and in the warmer months we have some extra seating outdoors,” Wright says. The idea for a bakery, stemming from Wright’s affection for baking, was born over time. “I’ve always enjoyed baking at home, and for friends and our church,” she explains. “I learned how to bake well from my mom and also my mother-in-law.” At Sweet Rose Bakehouse, the main attraction remains the pastry display case, which stays stocked with as assortment of cinnamon rolls, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, scones and muffins. “Our best seller is our sweet rolls that

we make every day by hand, from scratch,” Wright says. “We also make several different types of cookies, and customers love our version we call ‘George’s Cookie’ and one we call ‘Jenny K.’” Named for friends and those who have passed along secret recipes, George’s is an oatmeal cookie mixed with cranberries, almonds and white chocolate, and the Jenny K features shortbread with pecans and coconut. Open through the lunch hour, the bakehouse maintains a short and sweet selection of homemade soups and sandwiches. “We make everything here from scratch,” Wright emphasizes. “We don’t use prepared items.

We make the pie crusts, the breads, the soups, salad dressings — all of it.” Guests can pick up box lunches that include main dishes like quiche or chicken salad, a side salad and a freshly made cookie, or opt for vegetarian wraps or bakehouse sandwiches. After two years in business, Wright is feeling settled in her role as bakehouse owner. Her focus remains on serving her customers and giving them a quality dining experience, from the warm atmosphere to the goodness found in every bite. As for the future of Sweet Rose Bakehouse? “I just want to keep doing a good job right where I am,” she says. *FI

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Farm Indiana // may 2013


Herbal magic Beautiful, fresh herbs can liven up almost any dish, lending a healthy burst of flavor to everything they touch. At Smith’s Row Food and Spirits in Columbus, herbs are mixed into sauces, marinades and salsas, like this mouth-watering mango and mint version. “We use it on grilled salmon,” says owner Mary Arnholt. “It’s also good as a topping for grilled chicken, pork chops, seasoned rice or simply used as a dip with chips.” Thinkstock

smith's row mango salsa 1 cup mango, medium diced ¼ pineapple, finely diced and caramelized in skillet ¼ red pepper, finely diced ¼ red onion, finely diced 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped Cumin, a dash to taste Cayenne pepper, a dash to taste Mix all ingredients together thoroughly in large mixing bowl and allow to sit for several hours for flavors to intermingle. Keep refrigerated in a sealed container.

Superb Herbs

Recipe courtesy of > > Smith's Row Food and Spirits 418 Fourth St., Columbus (812) 373-9382,

Growing your own herbs can be fun, easy and rewarding — that is, if you know a few tricks of the trade. Elizabeth Manning of Stream Cliff Farm in Commiskey shares some important tips when it comes to managing your home herb garden.


Herbs grow best in full sun or at least six hours of sunshine, so map out your garden space accordingly.


Good drainage is essential for growing lavender, rosemary and thyme properly.


A culinary herb garden is more useful if planted near a back door for convenient use. Easy access is key.


Organic matter is beneficial to growing herbs. Look for organic compost material or worm castings for your home garden.


Mint is best grown in a large pot placed on a table to avoid sending runners throughout your garden and choking out other plants.

Stream Cliff Farm, 8225 S. County Road 90W, Commiskey, (812) 346-5859 —Compiled by Caroline Mosey


333 Second St., Columbus | (812) 379-5600



333 Second St., Columbus (812) 379-5600

Farm Indiana // may 2013


> > SUBMIT YOUR Conservation Reserve Program The Price of Land According to a recent press release, a Purdue University survey indicates that Indiana farmland values are continuing to rise despite the severe drought last summer, and farm managers and rural appraisers expect the trend to continue. The survey, conducted at a meeting of the Indiana Chapter of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, should serve as a warning to potential farmland buyers, Purdue Extension agricultural economist Craig Dobbins said in the release. Buyers borrowing large sums of money for high-priced land might not be able to recoup their investments, especially if commodity prices fall, he warns.

New Communications Director Robert Ziegler was recently named the new director of communications for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA). According to a press release on the announcement, Ziegler will help develop and lead communication efforts necessary to support and share the ISDA mission. “I am happy that Robert will be joining us and using his diverse experience to help us serve the agricultural community in Indiana,” said Gina Sheets, ISDA director. Ziegler brings 10 years of experience as managing editor of an online sports publication, which he founded, to the position, as well as previous experience doing legislative and media work on Capitol Hill. The ISDA’s mission is to support growth of Indiana agriculture by serving as an advocate and partner at local, state, federal and global levels, the press release states.

FARM NEWS TO US! Email briefs to farmindiana

A general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program begins on May 20 and ends on June 14, according to a press release. The program addresses and protects the state’s most critical natural resource issues during events such as the 2012 drought. “CRP protected environmentally sensitive lands from washing or blowing away,” said Julia A. Wickard, state executive director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Indiana. “It gave producers extra grazing land when they needed it. I expect there will be strong competition to enroll or re-enroll acres into CRP, so I urge Indiana’s producers to maximize their environmental benefits and make sure their offers are cost-effective.” Currently, about 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP nationwide, 264,142 acres in Indiana, the release states. CRP is a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them safeguard environmentally sensitive land. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term conservation covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. For more information on CRP and other FSA programs, visit your local FSA county office or

Safety First Cherry Brother Designs was recently announced as the newest corporate sponsor of the Certified Livestock Producer Program. The Indiana State Department of Agriculture program promotes farming practices that go above and beyond in commitment to the environment, animal well-being, food safety, emergency planning, bio-security and being a good neighbor in their community, according to a recent press release. As a sponsor, Cherry Brother Designs is offering CLPP-recognized producers a 10 percent discount on the company’s Farm Source System, a pre-planning information system that was developed with safety first in mind for farmers and emergency personnel in case of an emergency need with the farm operation. The Shelbyvillebased company’s system assists farmers in preparing a farm safety plan for potential emergencies. The CLPP was launched in 2008 and currently has 82 members from all across the state.


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May 2013 Farm Indiana - South Central Issue  

May 2013 Farm Indiana - South Central Issue

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