June 2013 | Section A
Ron and Alma Myers reap the rewards of keeping their honeybees healthy
sweet Life is
By Ed Wenck photos by Josh marshall
Ron Myers checks on his bees at his home in Greenfield. Right: The rewards of beekeeping, Myers' honey.
The sign’s almost impossible to see — a tiny black-and-yellow placard that reads “Honey For Sale.” In fact, it’s less prominent than the “RV For Sale” sign that marks the front yard of Ronald and Alma Myers, the source of some of the most renowned honey around Greenfield. While Alma handles a small bit of the process, it’s primarily Ron who tends to the insects. A quarter-century ago when he was working as a lab tech, a co-worker handed him a frame of honey, the wooden structure upon which the combs are built, and Ron admired it so much “I went out and purchased two hives from the same beekeeper,” he says. Ron’s speech is measured. He has the demeanor of a scientist: quiet, inquisitive, a man who cherishes precision. He is clearly an Indiana farm boy by birth, however, completely comfortable in work boots and a Carhartt jacket. Ron’s bees are, according to him, “mostly mongrels … you can start out with a pure line, but as it mates, it becomes a mongrel.” And for those mongrel bees, the Hoosier heartland is prime honey-making country. As far as Indiana pollen goes, Ron says that “all (sources of pollen) are good, and the bees will choose the flower that has the best nectar.” So it seems there’s nothing to it: Build a hive near a field of blooming clover, let the bees buzz off and collect their nectar, then wait. A simple process, correct? “It would be,” cautions Ron, “if our bees weren’t like pigs and chickens and other farm animals. You must keep them strong and healthy.” And how does one tend to the health of a bee? Keep the colony thriving through proper reproductive practices. “In this day and age, you must help your bees reproduce or they’ll die out,” he explains. Ron makes sure that a portion of his bees winter in warmer climes. Last year he kept half his
bees here and let the balance ride out the shorter days in South Carolina. (His bee population drops by a third when exposed to an Indiana winter; numbers in the Carolina colony only drop by about 10 percent.) In winter, a bee’s life span is six months, says Ron, but in the summer that expectancy drops to six weeks. Bees will, quite literally, work themselves to death. So overexertion and cold can shorten the lives of these insects, but there’s a darker issue concerning not just beekeepers but anyone who needs bees for pollination. It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder, the sudden disappearance of a colony of honeybees. (See related story on pg. A2.) While the reasons for large die-offs are certainly complex and varied, Ron has been closely following research from Greg Hunt, an entomologist at Purdue University. Hunt thinks that a
Left: Ron and Alma Myers at their Greenfield home and honey farm. Inset: Some of their 50,000 to 60,000 bees. Above: They rely on an honor box to collect money for their jars of honey that they sell from the front porch of their Greenfield home.
specific kind of seed coating used to protect crops from pests may be having a deleterious effect on some bee populations, and the symptoms described by Hunt match up with some of what Myers has been seeing over the last few years. “What we see is a farmer within a quarter-, half-mile planting his corn, and on that day, or a couple of days after, we’ll see dead bees outside the hive.” While the colony can recover, there’s concern that the treatments might work their way into pollen fed to baby bees over the winter, poisoning the young in a way that can ultimately lead to disaster for a particular colony. When all’s going well, however, there are normally 20 to 30 frames in a hive in the peak of summer housing 50,000 to 60,000 bees. That’s when the hives are most efficient. Those white boxes need to have their frames replaced every four or five years, though; pesticides from other ag operations and suburban lawns can build up inside the structure and pollute the comb, harming the colony. see Myers on page A2
Farm Indiana // June 2013
Recent increasing losses in honeybee populations pose a threat to our nation’s food production By Kate Franzman
W Myers continued from page A1
A walk down the hill behind the Myers home leads to a mirror-still pond, where the majority of the hives are lined up in rows. A few smaller hives are arranged in a semi-circle around a large tree. Ron explains that this was an experiment. “We wanted to see if a nuc (or colony of bees, pronounced ‘nuke’) could over-winter in Indiana even if it was started in late July.” Half of the nucs survived. Some bees, however, are destined to perish despite the weather. They’re the queens who pass their more aggressive genes to the colony. A beekeeper can quickly determine if a colony needs a calmer genetic leader, and the nasty bee is removed and replaced with a kinder, gentler version. When it’s time to pull a frame not for replacement but for the actual production of honey, the process is elegant and simple. Ron runs a knife along the cells in the comb to open them. The frames are then placed within an extractor, a stainless steel tank about two-thirds the size of a 55-gallon drum. The extractor is a centrifuge, spinning the frames so that the honey is forced out toward the walls of the tank. The drippings from the extractor are then placed into a bottling drum, a two-walled contraption that heats the honey ever
Above: Myers opens a so slightly in order to bee hive to check on his reduce crystallization recently transplanted and lets it flow cleanly queen bees. He grafts 24- to 48-hour-old larvae and efficiently into the into a special device that jars that Ron sells. aids the nurse bees in He monitors the transforming a regular female bee into a queen bottling flow for any bee. Myers can tell if the foreign matter. He’s graft has been successful a one-man operation by the appearance of a honeycomb in the shape from production to of an upside down morel quality control. And he mushroom. In this case, says he charges a bit less he finds that nine of his 15 grafts were successful. than the going rate of $4 per pound for pure, unadulterated honey. This retiree isn’t getting rich off the 2,000 pounds of honey he puts out per summer, but he clearly enjoys the process and the little extra cash it brings in. Ron and Alma don’t trek to farmers markets to sell their honey. In fact, every transaction is done right through their front door. They have regulars who have been coming to their place to buy honey for decades. It’s raw, they know the source, and Ron’s convinced that Indiana flora yields the best honey anywhere. He notes that sometimes a bit of honey will have traces of an unexpected aftertaste. Ron’s come across mint, sometimes basswood. But according to the Hancock County beekeeper, a perfect jar of honey has a single, overall flavor: “just sweetness.” FI
To purchase honey from Ron and Alma Myers, call (317) 462-7380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 honeybees 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. Honeybees 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 honeybee 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 honeybee 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.
To protect the population, it’s important these swarms not be killed, but instead collected by an experienced beekeeper. 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 winter of 2006 to the winter of 2011 averaged about 33 percent each year, with a third of these losses attributed to CCD by beekeepers. The winter of 2011-2012 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 services has continued to increase. This means
Farm Indiana // June 2013
EDITOR’S NOTE June 2013
Planting a Seed
A4 J & T Honey Farm A5 Genetically modified seeds A6 Preparing for the fair A8 Gene Boring and family B1 Bass Farms B3 Marlin’s Plant Kingdon B4 Circle L Bison Farm B5 Greenfield Farmers Market B5 Fermenti Artisan B6 Fred Linville B7 Animal Protection League B8 Farm briefs
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honeybee 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 honeybees — 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 southern 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 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 honeybees and propagating those to fight Varroa mites.”
» It’s Monday morning as I write. I’m in the office, after having spent the past weekend where my husband and I have spent every weekend since last November: in the country. There, my husband and I are restoring the old farmhouse we purchased last fall. I’ve spent hours painting every wall and ceiling in the place (I’m almost done), while he has toiled for hours, replacing plumbing and restoring old farmhouse sinks and claw-foot tubs. The restoration job seems a little never-ending (it probably, literally, is), and we haven’t even really started working on the outside of the house yet. What we have done outdoors is plant dozens of perennial bulbs, lilac plants, butterfly bushes and trees upon glorious trees for our future enjoyment (and for the bees). Now that winter temperatures are finally behind us, I’m so happy to spend my days outdoors, feel-
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 beekeeper Jim Carrier keeps five hives on his tree farm in Rush County for that reason. “I believe it’s important to try to save our wild bees and have genetic diversity,” he says. Some beekeepers like Carrier have their contact information available on swarm call lists (available at www.in.gov/dnr/entomolo/5755.htm) to be notified
ing the rush of wind on my face, watching as rabbits hop by and buzzards circle overhead, listening to the cows and birds sing, and pulling weeds. For me, playing in the dirt — and caring for the land — is part of a personal spiritual quest. And it’s a respite from the craziness of this world. In the country, we still have no Internet service and no cable TV. There, we only have a garden to plan, some heavy lifting to do, some furnishing and refinishing to complete, and a great big dream. As I worked this weekend, tractors marched back and forth over the acres surrounding our home. The land had finally dried (and the rain stopped for long enough) for farmers to plant this season’s crops. From what I could see, approximately six men were out in those fields all weekend long, spreading fertilizer and seed and following their own big dreams. In some small way, though I don’t know them nor do they know me, I felt connected to the men working there. Because of my job here, editing the pages of Farm Indiana, and due to my own aspirations to someday keep livestock and bees and to grow most of our food, I felt like I better understood them. As I quietly planted my bulbs and they planted their seeds, I felt I could relate. We may have nothing else in common in this life, those farmers and I, but we were, at least for the weekend, united in one very basic plight. We depend on the land to feed and nurture us, and the land needs each of us — in our respective ways — to plant the seed, to tend the soil and maybe even to pray a little for good things to grow.
when a swarm of bees forms on a tree, building or even inside someone’s residence. To protect the population, it’s important these swarms not be killed, but instead collected by an experienced beekeeper. A beekeeper who has lost a colony to CCD or other causes can replenish his or her hive this way by “rescuing” bees. “I lost one (hive) over this last winter and just got one from a shed from a neighbor about seven miles from us,” says Carrier. From many beekeepers’ perspectives, CCD has been a blessing in disguise, placing bees at the forefront of concern and sparking a surge of hobby beekeepers. “Backyard beekeepers help educate others about the importance of honeybees,” says Kenny Schneider, president of the Indiana Beekeepers’ Association. “Gardens with flowering plants are important food sources for honeybees. Urban gardens, community plots or green rooftops create a new habitat for honeybees to thrive in.” FI
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Farm Indiana // June 2013
For the love of Jeremiah and Terri Priest keep bees in Henry County
By Ed Wenck photos by Josh marshall
Head east on State Road 38 outside Pendleton, past the big curve and the horse ranch for sale, and soon you’re in Indiana table-top country. There are intersections where you half expect to see Cary Grant running from a biplane. This is classic Midwestern flatland. Tiny towns with names like Markleville and Honey Creek are as common as a red Hoosier barn with a basketball hoop nailed above the doors. When you get to Shirley, just on the eastern side of the Henry County line, hang a left north along a road pockmarked and rutted by too many winters. Up that road, about three-quarters of a mile or so, you’ll see J & T Honey Farm. The ‘J’ in J & T is Jeremiah Priest (‘T’ is wife Terri). Jeremiah is a hefty and utterly affable red-haired gentleman who is quick to invite you in to his home to get warm. On a cold day in mid-April, few things are more welcome than a blazing pellet stove and good company, and the Priests provide both. The house is a modest affair that sits on five acres of land where the Priests are raising chickens, strawberries, some vegetables … and bees. Jars and lids have taken over part of the kitchen and a shelf by the front door, all part of the process that takes honey from the hive and bottles it for the next farmers market. On the wall above the stove, the heads of two fine whitetail bucks stare nobly out across the vaulted ceiling. Those deer fed the family — the larger clocked in at about 180 pounds, the other well over 140 — and one gets the sense that the Priests are proud that they consume what they harvest, whether it’s venison, eggs, asparagus or honey. “The love of honey and the love of sharing our product with friends and neighbors — that’s why we got into it,” says Jeremiah. Although the Priests had been beekeeping for 14 years, they just started producing honey five years ago. “We manage our honey production for mass quantities, but you can also keep bees just for pollination — working your garden plants,” he says. Like many other beekeepers, their pollination services are for sale: “We do take pollination orders for apples, pumpkins, cherries and things like that.” Although the pollination runs don’t take their bees far afield — most orders are filled within a 50-mile radius of J & T Farm — the hives themselves are spread across several counties. “We’re pushing about 30 on our property, but we’ve got … just about a hundred total. We’re in Randolph, Wayne, Madison, and, of course, right here in Henry County.” Unlike some other keepers, the Priests don’t ship the hives south for the winter, and attrition rates run roughly at 30 percent. Those numbers rebound quickly when the Indiana heat finally arrives in May and June. Still, other factors than just the cold can reduce the populations: “There’s just so many problems with mites these days … (and) viruses are the new big thing that’s killing them,” Jeremi-
ah explains. “When we find out what’s wrong with a hive, it’s usually too late — the hive’s beyond saving.” When production is rolling, the Priests have had great success selling their products in New Castle at the Henry County farmers market, and they’ve also ventured to the Cumberland Market and the Greenfield Winter Market. Many of their honey customers were already J & T regulars. The Priests are known for producing organic eggs from the 70-some laying hens that are wandering the property. A half acre of their land is dedicated to corn, squash, cucumbers and some other veggies, and according to Jeremiah, “We’re going to try a little strawberry production.” (“Little” may be an understatement. The hens were busily tilling 2,200 square feet of soil beneath a wooden greenhouse frame that was being readied for the fruit.) Like everything else the Priests produce, their honey is pure. “We don’t process it,” Jeremiah says. “It’s unpasteurized; it’s all natural. We only heat it up very minimally to get it un-crystallized. We basically take it straight from the comb, extract it, spin it out and run it through just a small filter.” (The filter pulls out small bits of wax and the occasional worker bee’s leg that might befoul your tea.) The hives on the Priests’ land run along a tree line at the back of the property. Getting there is a bit of a hike, but proximity to plant life reveals that honey, like real estate, is all about location, location, location. The white boxes of frames sit between the Priests’ lawn — essentially, a field of clover — and the neighbor’s alfalfa. The trees just behind the hives are black locust. These three forms of pollen yield natural, golden Midwestern sweetness, maybe 6,000 pounds per year on average. As he walks along the chambered boxes that contain the frames, Jeremiah notes that one of the hives needs some new construction. There’s a crowding of bees moving in and out of the opening at the bottom of a hive that’s only two stories deep. “The house gets crowded; it’s time to add on,” he explains. While the day is cool, at least it’s dry. Jeremiah’s property is marshy from the recent spring storms. That’s a big difference from the previous summer. The drought of 2012 affected output. Interestingly, though, the conditions of high heat and low humidity made for a better, if smaller batch of honey. “Lower moisture content, a little drier — (the drought gave the honey) a lot more of a full body (taste).” While Jeremiah handles a lot of the day-to-day maintenance of the hives, bottling, labeling and the like fall under Terri’s purview. There’s another Priest helping out: 4-year-old Gabriel Michael has his run of the farm, and while he’s not much involved in beekeeping, young Gabe is definitely giving the chickens a lot of exercise. He’s a talker and a runner, and henchasing looks like it’s a good cardio workout for both poultry and preschooler alike. When asked how often he’s been stung (despite wearing the protective suit, Jeremiah says 25 to 30 times a season), Gabe points to the back of his hand where a small red dot still lingers. “Stung me here,” he announces. He shoots his father a narrow-eyed glance. Jeremiah laughs. “Once, just once. He gets stung once, and Dad’ll never live it down.” FI
“We manage our honey production for mass quantities, but you can also keep bees just for pollination — working your garden plants.” —Jeremiah Priest
Above: Gabriel Priest, 4, demonstrates how he helps his dad with beekeeping duties. Below: Della Troxell buys honey and eggs from Priest at his honey farm in Shirley. Inset: The Priests make a variety of products, such as these candles, from the bees’ wax.
Farm Indiana // June 2013
Change from the ground up Among commodity crops, non-genetically altered seeds are a thing of the past By Jim Mayfield | photo by Tom Russo
When scientist Gregor Mendel began poring over his pea plants in the middle of the 19th century to determine what traits pass where and why, he could not possibly have imagined the day when genes could and would be modified to highlight specific characteristics. Nor could he have imagined that multinational corporations would one day be so invested in corn, soybeans and cotton seeds that company leaders would be willing to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to protect that investment. But the reality is this: On May 13, the high court agreed with Monsanto that Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman could not use the company’s genetically modified soybeans, which are protected by a patent, gathered at a grain elevator to later create new seeds unless he paid the company a fee. Genetically engineered seed and companies’ return on their high-end research and development investments are here to stay and now make up the bulk of what goes in the ground. The majority of the country’s four commodity crops — corn, canola, cotton and soybeans — are now genetically engineered. In the 1920s, the U.S. government began experimenting with cross-pollination, and a decade later inbreeding corn was in full bloom, transferring pollen to the silks of the same plant. Later, single crossing of two inbred lines and double crossing of single crossbreeds all moved toward making plants more durable, and that increased yield. The game changed, however, in the mid-’90s with the advent of genetic hybrids, when Monsanto and other biotechs began splicing and transferring traits at the genetic level. “About 30 years ago, there wasn’t that much available,” says Ray Kerkhof, agronomy department manager for Harvest Land Co-op in Hancock County. “Maybe one variety broken out six or seven times.”
Ray Kerkhof is seed manager of Harvest Land Co-Op in Greenfield.
Since that time, however, transgenetic hybrids now come in hundreds of varieties and flavors to address above-ground and below-ground stresses, such as drought, herbicide and pests, Kerkhof explains. “Unfortunately, there’s no one seed that’s a magic bullet,” he says. Additionally, farming conditions and crop stressors can vary from any of the state’s regions, so farmers are advised to look carefully and read labels when trying to decide which of the many varieties of seed to plant, says Bob Nielsen, professor of agronomy at Purdue University. “Every seed company has its own products, and they’ll sell one more than another,” Nielsen said. “Most of the time the farmers have a very close relationship with the seed company to determine what will yield well.” And increasing yield is the fuel driving the genetically engineered engine. “The return on the investment is the biggest thing,” Kerkhof says. Pest-resistant seed decreases a farmer’s input cost. Hardy, drought-resistant plants bring in more money after a dry growing season. For the non-genetically engineered operations, where input costs are increased by the necessity of herbicides and pesticides, farmers are paid a premium to offset the additional cost of doing business. “You’ve got to manage things differently,” Kerkhof says of the non-genetically modified crops. “If you’ve got to throw more chemicals at it, then you get a premium that makes it pretty close (to harvesting a genetically modified crop.)” However, Kerkhof says the prevalence of transgenetics and the lack of research and development in traditionally seeded crops could soon make non-genetically altered seed a thing of the past. “The key here is that there’s very little research going into non-GMO seed,” he said. “That area is not moving forward.” Though farmers can consider everything from soil type, structure and composition to weed and pest resilience in determining which variety of seed to sow these days, Nielson said one issue that may have been on the radar earlier this planting season may have dried up, literally, with the break in the early spring rains.
“Unfortunately, there’s no one seed that’s a magic bullet.” As the traditional mid-April to mid-May planting season opened to consistent and steady rains with more predicted in central Indiana, some farmers worried they might run out of time if the fields didn’t dry sufficiently. Early in May, a USDA farm report estimated that only about 8 percent of the state’s corn crop had been planted. One of the alternatives to increase yields would have been to opt away from the normal season maturity seed to a shorter maturity hybrid in the face of declining good growing days prior to the end of the season. However, Nielsen said the onset of a warmer, dry and breezy window in midMay may have kept farmers from making that move. “Not many are changing over yet,” he said, noting that farmers had until the end of the month to decide. “We’ve made pretty good progress over the last week or two.” As of May 13, 30 percent of the state’s corn crop was in compared to 92 percent last year, with 21 percent of the central region crop in the ground, according to the Indiana Field Office of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The report indicated that 3 percent of Hoosier corn had emerged compared to 71 percent this time last year. On the upside, Kerkhof says the late spring, though problematic for farmers, was helping area seed retailers who get the season’s latest product developments from Mexico and South America. “Most of our corn (seed) is starting to get bought in August and September, Kerkhof explains. “And it’s supply and demand. If something is a real yielder, farmers are going to say, ‘I want that,’ and right now, the high-yielding varieties are in short supply.” Large corporate seed producers generally don’t find out what hybrids and seed developments will pan out until fall, when the crop is harvested and then sent south for the growing season there to be shipped back to U.S. farmers in the spring. “Some of this stuff won’t get here until April,” he said. “So retailers are crossing their fingers.” FI
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Farm Indiana // June 2013
From June 21-28, thousands will converge on the Hancock County Fairgrounds to take in the sights and sounds of the annual county fair. But for some, the fair offers more than just giant corn dogs and Ferris wheels. Many students, like Scott Schleter and Olivia and Mitchell Scott, have spent months preparing to show their animals in the fair’s highly touted livestock shows. Here, we catch a glimpse into the lives of these 4-H students as they prepare for the big day. Photography by
Scott Schleter Four to five days a week, 17-year-old Scott Schleter works on Matt Ritter’s farm, where he cleans out pens and delivers medicine to Ritter’s animals as needed. Schleter owns 12 sheep of his own, which he boards at a neighboring Hancock County farm. Beyond the work he does for Ritter, Schleter also handles yard work at his neighbor’s farm in exchange for housing his sheep. Both a member of 4-H and FFA (he serves as vice president of his FFA chapter), Schleter will be showing his sheep and some of Ritter’s pigs at the Hancock County 4-H Fair this year. For dinner, Schleter regularly stops by Kinsey’s Italian Café in McCordsville, not only to eat but to also pay a visit to his girlfriend, Krista Berry, 17, who works there. Despite his busy evenings, Schleter still fits in time with friends. Brendan Box, below in blue, and Allen Whitehead, in gray, pay him a visit at Ritter’s farm, and Dutch Simunek goes for a swim with Schleter at evening’s end.
Farm Indiana // June 2013
Mitchell and Olivia Scott Grooming their goats, doing farm chores and finishing their homework are a regular part of Mitchell and Olivia Scott’s lives. Mitchell, 17, and Olivia, 14, attend Eastern Hancock High School and will be showing four goats each (out of the 33 that they currently own) at the Hancock County 4-H Fair. Olivia and Mitchell are employed by the family farm; their salaries are deposited into their checking accounts. They are responsible for managing their accounts, they say, as well as for paying breeding costs, feed and medicines for their animals. Olivia and Mitchell board their goats on the Scott family’s 10acre property, which includes a new barn that was built in 2010 after a fire destroyed the original wooden barn. The fire devastated the teens because several goats were lost. “But the kids were determined not to get out of (raising) goats,” says mother Jill Scott. “They wanted to rebuild and restock.”
Farm Indiana // June 2013
Deep Roots By Ashley Petry photos by Josh Marshall
The Boring family history in Shelby and Hancock counties dates back to the 1850s
At age 97, Morristown resident Gene Boring remembers farming with horses instead of tractors. He struggled through the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, he buried three wives and a daughter, and he lost his right hand in a combine accident. But Boring tries not to think about the hard times. Instead, he remembers this: During his lifetime, he grew the family’s original homestead of 75 acres into a sprawling, modern farm of more than 2,000 acres. One of his proudest accomplishments, he says, was winning the countywide corn-yield contest once in the 1960s. “Usually the same people won every year. They just had a knack for raising more corn than the rest of us,” Gene says. “But one year I had an especially rich piece of ground, and I guess I was just lucky. I planted it thick.” Today, Gene’s two sons carry on his farming legacy — although in very different ways. His older son, Phil Boring, runs the family’s Shelby County farm, growing crops such as corn, soybeans, tomatoes and popcorn. But Gene’s younger son, Gary Boring, knew he wasn’t cut out to be a farmer. “I’m not mechanical at all,” he says. “My brother can fix any-
thing. If I’m going to do a job at home that has to do with plumbing, I might as well just call the plumber at the beginning, because I’m going to end up calling him.” Gene and his wife, Bernice, were always supportive of Gary’s choice to do something different. Now Gary and his son, Mike Boring, own Boring+Boring, a New Palestine law firm that specializes in agricultural issues. Gary started practicing law in 1973, working for several years at Indiana Farm Bureau and serving more than 50 small agricultural co-ops statewide. When he opened his own practice a few years later, many of the local co-ops retained his services. Over the years, Gary has orchestrated countless mergers, drastically reducing the number of co-ops statewide. But the ones that remain keep him busy. “They are constantly buying and selling properties and joining other businesses in partnerships,” Gary says. “And occasionally they are sued or they have collections
that they need followed up on.” The full-service law firm also works with local farmers on legal issues such as wills and estates, divorces and lawsuits. The biggest issue facing farmers today, Gary says, is succession planning. “A family farm always struggles to determine how to fairly distribute their assets to children, especially where there’s one sibling that decides to farm and others who don’t,” Mike says. “So, how do you pass on the family farm and that legacy without being unfair?” Gary and Phil solved the problem years ago, when Phil bought out his brother’s interest in the farm. Phil’s three daughters aren’t interested in the day-to-day tasks of farming, so Phil is grooming an estate manager to eventually oversee the property on their behalf. Gary says he is better able to connect with his clients because of his farming background and experience with similar issues. “I think farmers and lawyers don’t naturally have a very close relationship. Mike and I … bridge that culture gap,” Gary says. “If farmers can see that you know a little bit about farming, it breaks down some of those natural barriers.” And, Gary says, he understands that farmers are emotionally tied to their land.
Phil with his father, Gene.
“All of our fields, as you drive through our farm, have a name,” Gary says. “It’s a mystery to a non-farmer, but if you’re out there working in the fields every day, it has deeper meaning than just a piece of property.” The Boring family has a long history in the United States. According to the family’s genealogical research, its ancestors immigrated in the late 1600s and gradually moved west. By the 1850s, both sides of Gary’s family were settled in Shelby and Hancock counties. Gary says he has fond memories of growing up with his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all living within 10 miles of his home. He remembers the peace and quiet of the farm, and the way farm life forced him to accept responsibility at a young age. Once, when Gary was about 10, Gene asked him to drive the family car to another part of the farm. Within minutes, a sheriff pulled up alongside the car. “Is that your
building a home on five acres of land purchased from the farm. It was the house where Mike and his two sisters grew up, with a stable full of horses to ride and a creek to play in. “We have a tagline, ‘firmly rooted,’ which stresses our connection to the community, that we’re here, that we’ve been here, and that we plan to stay here,” Mike says. The Boring+Boring law office is itself a demonstration of the family’s deep roots in the community. When they purchased it in 2006, the two attorneys had no idea that the building — originally a dairy barn — was built by Gary’s great-uncle. Gary and Mike have since invested more than $150,000 in renovations, creating five extra office suites that they lease to other businesses. It’s yet another example of the Boring family’s long-term investment in Shelby County. Mike, who grew up doing farm work during the summers, now
“A family farm always struggles to determine how to fairly distribute their assets to children, especially where there’s one sibling that decides to farm and others who don’t. So, how do you pass on the family farm and that legacy without being unfair?” —Mike Boring
Above: Phil Boring still works on the family farm. Right: Gary Boring and his son, Mike.
dad over there in the field?” Gary remembers the sheriff asking him. When Gary said yes, the sheriff said, “Well, be careful,” and went on his way. “It would be considered dangerous now, something that you wouldn’t recommend,” Gary says. “It was just something that was a reality back then. You worked hard and started at a young age.” Although Gary never farmed, he maintained close family ties by
lives in Indianapolis. But he is pondering a return to the farm, which he thinks would be good for his three sons, ages 6 to 10. “I have a pretty sentimental memory of growing up on the farm,” says Mike, who has farm images tattooed on his upper arm. “As a young kid, I played a lot out by the creek and had a lot of land to explore, and my kids don’t have that. There’s a part of me that does want to give that to them.” FI
June 2013 | Section B
Living the dream Jana Bass builds her beauty business in her backyard
As a child growing up on the edge of town in Whiteland, Jana Bass dreamed of a life in the country surrounded by animals. That passion was further fueled by 10 years in 4-H and trips to the Johnson County Fair, where Bass’ mother first taught her to stick her fingers into the wooly coats of sheep to feel the lanolin. Now, at the age of 39, Bass is living the dream. Surrounded by milk goats, barn cats and Great Pyrenees dogs on the farm she shares with husband, Brad, she’s awaiting arrival of her next flock of chickens and is contemplating another steer to raise for the family freezer.
By Robin Winzenread Fritz photos by Josh marshall
“Isn’t he pretty?” asks Bass, clutching a 2-week old Nubian buck in her arms while surveying her herd of milk goats. “I want to keep him. Figures he’d be a boy,” she says. But Bass isn’t just living the dream — she’s prospering from it, too. Demand for her homemade natural beauty products grows by the day — with interest coming from as far away as Disney World in Florida — prompting her to hire her first parttime employee at Bass Farms, located just southwest of Shelbyville. “She’s going to come, and she’s just going to package,” says Bass of her new hire. “I kind of hate doing
that,” she says of filling jars. “If I didn’t have to take time to do that, I could be doing other things.” For Bass, the road to successful self-employment began like so many of her beauty products — as an effort to fill a need. While a member of the Shelby County Farmers Market board, Bass tried to find a participant who sold homemade soap for the weekly Wednesday and Saturday farmers markets held from May through October on the square in downtown Shelbyville. When that effort proved to be unsuccessful, Bass decided to make and sell soap herself. While there was initial interest in her soap, Bass realized she needed a product people could try before purchasing. That led her to expand to lotions using milk from her dairy goats as a primary ingredient, and her natural-based product line has grown ever since. She now offers lotions, body butters, hand sanitizers, shampoo, soaps, sugar scrubs, massage oils and even pet products. Bass loves experimenting with natural see Bass FarmS on page B2
Above: Jana Bass of Bass Farms milks a goat to collect one of the key ingredients in her products. Left: The farm depends on the whole family to pitch in and help. The team consists of (from left): Jennifer Wampler, 20, and her son, Easton, Jessica Wampler, 16, Julie Wampler, 18, Brad Bass, Brandon Bass, 10, and Jana. Below: The products are packaged in a backyard building.
Farm Indiana // June 2013
continued from page B1
ingredients — such as a pumpkin-based sugar scrub — and is always looking for new products to create. “I feel like I’m rushed all the time,” she says. “I really want to do some new products; I know I shouldn’t, but I really want to.” As interest in her homemade products grew, Bass expanded her efforts to include other farmers markets, shows and festivals, such as the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival. Demand for her products soon led to the creation of a website where customers can now place orders online, and she also sells her products through shops throughout the state, with additional locations being added regularly. “I’ve picked up 21 shops just in the last six weeks,” she explains. Festivals and shows, however, remain a prime way to introduce people to her product line, and she credits events like the Power of the Past tractor and steam engine show in Decatur County as some of her best markets. “Those are my people,” says Bass. “They’re my customers.” As for her skill at creating beauty products, she admits to being self-taught. “It’s kind of like how I cook,” says Bass of her process to create new products. “You know how when you cook and you don’t use a recipe?” she asks. “I looked up recipes, and I would try things. I would be like, oh, I don’t really like this, and I would try something else.” That penchant for experimenting and her childhood memories of sheep’s wool at the county fair led Bass to create her most popular product, Baby Butt Butter. She turned to all-natural lanolin with its water-repelling properties as its base. “I was thinking about something to use for a baby’s butt and what would repel water,” says Bass. “On sheep, it (lanolin) locks in their moisture and locks out the outside moisture so they don’t dehydrate, but it keeps out the elements. “That’s my biggest thing,” she says, referring to the Baby Butt Butter. “Usually I make about four batches a day,” which amounts to approximately 100 tubs. While lanolin is the star of the Baby Butt Butter, goat milk is a predominant natural ingredient in
Jana heads out of her production studio to collect milk from her goats Above: Julie, Jessica and Brandon help package the beauty creams.
many of her products, and her dairy herd continues to grow as this year’s group of ewes gives birth. Even while attending shows as far away as Parke County, Bass will return home at night to milk her herd. A natural problem solver, she created her own line of products for her goats to keep pests at bay. She sprays her goats with a product featuring neem oil and lemon essential oil. “If I put it on the goats, it gets rid of any fleas, ticks or lice,” she says, “and goats are prone to lice. And I add the lemon because it makes them smell so much better.” She says some shops now carry her products for pets, too. Bass currently whips up her products in a small outbuilding in the backyard, which served as an apartment for her father before he passed away. Previously, she had created her products in the family
Bass uses various scents and oils to enhance her products. Inset: A barn kitten enjoys the goat’s milk.
kitchen, but for a blended family with six children, ranging in age from 10 to 24, space was a constant issue. Now happily mixing away in the backyard outbuilding, she realizes that soon even this space may prove to be too small for her growing business. “I need to stop giving away product for a while, so I can get some sleep,” says Bass, who often works until 11 at night packaging her products. But, as her eyes alight on another product and she picks up a bottle of scented oil, it’s clear: Despite the hectic pace, she is having too much fun — and success — to slow down now. FI
Farm Indiana // June 2013
Mum’s the Word
Success blooms perennially for Greenfield greenhouse By Richard Isenhour | photos by Tom russo
Ron Marlin of Marlin’s Plant Kingdom.
For Ron Marlin, “All life stems from the
plant kingdom,” is more than just flowery prose. The adage has served as a personal motto and guiding principle since he and his wife, Juanita, started selling mums and vegetables from a roadside stand more than 30 years ago and grew the business into a thriving greenhouse and nursery. Nestled along State Road 9, about halfway between U.S. 40 and U.S. 52 in rural Hancock County, Marlin’s Plant Kingdom boasts more than 21,000 square feet of enclosed plant space and an additional 40,000 square feet outside. Here, a wide variety of annuals, perennials and vegetable plants — mostly tomato plants — is grown from seed in one of 10 greenhouses, all built by Marlin. The year-round operation likewise cultivates all of its fall mums and winter poinsettias from cuttings also grown on site. Some 10,000 mums are sold each fall and more than 5,000 poinsettias each winter. “When Juanita and I bought this place, this was all a big garden,” Marlin recalls, as he stands in the shade of a mature black walnut tree in the back of his property. “So I gardened it and actually sold produce along State Road 9, long before it was fashionable like it is now.” This was during the mid-1970s, he adds, noting that his relationship with his wife actually was forged a couple of years earlier. “We met through a niece of mine,” Marlin explains. “She had married a farmer and their home wasn’t ready, so they moved into an apartment complex near here. Juanita was divorced and had moved up here from Kentucky to be close to her brother. She moved into the same complex, and, lo and behold, their doors opened to each other, and they became friends. “I was also divorced at the time, and my niece shoved us together and the rest is history.” As a boy growing up on the family farm in northern Johnson County, Marlin escaped the daily rigors of milking cows, minding the
pigs and tending the crops by dreaming about greenhouses. “I’ve been fascinated by greenhouses ever since I was a kid,” he says, “so I studied them and read as much as I could about them.” He was able to put the knowledge he gained to practical use in the early 1980s. “I built our first greenhouse over there to just play in and actually grow my own transplants in 1983,” he says. “It was 20 feet wide by 48 feet long and made from pipe and plastic. Word got out about the plants we were growing, and people started coming out wanting to buy stuff. I was working on farm equipment in this old building here at the time and had a good business. Juanita enjoyed going to the farmers market in Greenfield and selling our products. But this was more fascinating, so Juanita and I decided to work together, and in 1984 we started Marlin’s Plant Kingdom.” Buoyed by their success, the Marlins added another greenhouse in 1985, another in 1987 and one in 1989. “Things just kept progressing,” Marlin says, “and we wound up with about a half acre under plastic.” Marlin credits word of mouth for much of the early success of the operation. “We had a lot of regulars in those days,” he remembers. “We were on State Road 9, which gives you about 1,100 cars going by per hour during the day. We didn’t advertise much; we didn’t really have to. People would go home with flowers and show them to their neighbors, and their neighbors would show up to buy flowers.” Word of mouth still drives a large part of the business today, although Marlin says he has incorporated other forms of promotion. With help from a local banker, he was able to get the Greenfield community to enter and win the national America in Bloom competition several years ago, which in addition to bringing attention to the area, also focused the spotlight on the greenhouse.
Marlin’s Plant Kingdom also has a website (marlinplants.com) that lists the hundreds of varieties of annuals and perennials grown on site, and provides gardening tips and fun activities for kids. He also credits adherence to the Golden Rule as a key to the success of the business. “Our customers are happy with the personal service we give them,” Marlin says. “We try to treat people like we like to be treated. People also enjoy shopping in the greenhouse where their plants are grown rather than buying plants that have come off a semi.” One such customer, Jan Jarson of nearby New Palestine, has been buying plants at the Kingdom for more than 15 years. “Everything here is great and high quality,” Jarson says, as she examines a flat of seedlings in a greenhouse full of annuals. “I can always count on them having very beautiful and hardy flowers. Plus, it’s a family operation and being a small business person, I like to stay local when I can.” Janet and Marshall Hedrick, also of New Palestine, agree. “We’ve been coming here so many years I just can’t remember,” Janet Hedrick says as she and her husband load flats of flowers onto a little, red wagon. “I like buying locally, and their product is always good.” Despite the growing success the operation has reaped over the years, Marlin has no plans to get bigger. “I’m pretty well satisfied with what we do,” he says. “We could get bigger, but bigger is not always better in my mind. We’re just a small greenhouse operation. If you get too stretched out, your crop goes downhill; you lose your quality, as well as your business. I’ve seen that happen to other people, so I’d like to stay where we are.” Juanita Marlin passed away about a year ago. “She came up with a lung disease about five or six years ago,” Marlin says. “She was put on oxygen, but she still came to work in the greenhouses every day, carrying her tank around as she worked.” The business she helped create still thrives. Marlin employs three people part time and, for the past 14 years, has been assisted by the couple’s daughter, Pam, who sows all the flower seeds. She will take over the business someday, but Marlin is in no hurry for that day to come. “I feel really blessed. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years, and I still can’t believe someone would get up and get dressed and drive here to buy plants,” he says. “That just blows me away and tells me the Lord is still looking over me and helping me.” FI
Going green keeps nursery in the black With 21,000 square feet of space in 10 greenhouses, Ron Marlin of Marlin’s Plant Kingdom was looking a couple of years ago at an annual heating bill of between $30,000 and $40,000. And with the cost of the propane used to heat the greenhouses soaring, he had to do something. Area experts advised him that a geothermal system at a cost of about $350,000 was the only reasonable approach. As a small business operator, though, the advice was out of the question. So he looked to the sun. At a cost of about $39,000, Marlin insulated his greenhouses and designed his own solar system. It consists of two 2,300-gallon tanks filled with water that is circulated through eight solar panels, which heats it to about 110 degrees. At night, the flow to the solar panels is turned off, and the water is circulated through heat exchangers in the greenhouses. “The solar system is safe for the environment and supplements our traditional heating system,” Marlin says. “It also saves us about 10 to 20 percent on our heating costs each year.” He expects further savings, thanks to a recently installed boiler system that uses waste oil to heat water at night. “We try to go green wherever we can,” he insists. “We go with common products. For example, and most people are surprised when they hear this, we use hydrogen peroxide rather than harsh chemicals to treat plant fungus. I buy it by the barrel. We also use Epsom salts to keep a nice green color in some of our plants. “You have to use insecticide in a business like this, but we try to use the ones that are not so harsh.”
Farm Indiana // June 2013
A Farm’s Purpose
For one Shelby County couple, it’s raising bison By Robin Winzenread | photos by Josh marshall
Sitting in the living room of Floyd Lyster’s and Jill
Crohan’s ranch home, surrounded by tanned hides, mounted animal skulls, stuffed coyotes and bronze statues of American Indians on horseback, it’s easy to imagine a life out West. And glancing out a window at a herd of grazing North American bison only adds to the imagery. But for Lyster and Crohan, home is actually a 20-acre farm on the outskirts of Waldron in Shelby County. And the bison aren’t for show — they’re both a way of life and a source of income. Lyster and Crohan raise their bison for market at Circle L Bison Farm. At last count, their herd stood 27 strong, led by Harry the bull, but that number changes weekly as newborn calves join the herd. “They’re really just kind of a different animal,” says Crohan, as she watches newborn bison calves chasing each other in the pasture. “They’re very, very intelligent,” she adds. “When one is having a calf, you see the herd standing close by. They’re very herd-oriented.” While Americans use the terms bison and buffalo interchangeably, they are, in fact, two separate species of animal. Three subspecies of bison exist — the Plains bison raised by Circle L Bison Farm and common to the U.S., the Wood
bison found predominantly in Canada and the Wisent or European bison. Genetically speaking, however, bison stand apart from true buffalo, of which two subspecies exist — African Cape buffalo and Asian water buffalo. Lyster and Crohan refer to their animals as bison, but they market their meat as buffalo since that is the terminology many customers recognize. Crohan added, however, that the term bison is growing in awareness among American consumers, driven in part by the rising popularity of the meat due to the many healthy properties it has over beef. Pound per pound versus beef, buffalo meat is lower in calories, fat and cholesterol while higher in protein. Lyster and Crohan sell their meat frozen from the farm and at various markets throughout the summer. Additionally, the SoBro Café in Broad Ripple serves Circle L Bison meat, touting the locally raised, grass-fed nature of its bison burger on the dinner menu. Given their hardy nature, bison are also growing in popularity among livestock farmers. Bison are efficient feeders and need no grain supplement. Moreover, bison are gentler on pasture as they don’t clip grasses as close as beef cattle when grazing. They can withstand extreme cold and need no artificial structures such as barns to protect them from the elements. Additionally, bison cows calve in the field with little trouble and, on average, lead long, productive lives. Lyster added that a newborn bison may only weigh 25 to 35 pounds at birth — unlike a 75- to 100-pound newborn beef calf — but despite their small size, are ready to keep up with a moving herd in a matter of just hours. “They’ve got narrow hips,” says Lyster, pointing to a heifer with her first calf, “so the calves are smaller. “That’s why you could never breed a regular cow to a buffalo because they could never have the calf. They tried that out West,” Lyster added. “You can breed a buffalo bull to a cow, but not the other way around.” While raising bison is similar to raising cattle, there are differences, says Lyster. Unlike domesticated cattle, bison are wild animals with different personalities. They are not easily intimidated and will rarely back down when challenged. Moreover, bison remain wary of humans and are not easily tamed or trained. “They’re such a strong animal,” Crohan added. So strong are they, in fact, that Lyster sold his aluminum trailer after
one animal he was taking to market damaged the door so badly it would no longer shut. He replaced it with a steel trailer instead, noting that, as a welder, he can pretty much fix anything the large animals throw at it now. “I’ve seen aluminum trailers with holes all in the roof from where they’ve raised their heads and put their horns right through it,” he says. While Lyster has been working bison for roughly 30 years, they aren’t the only large animal he and Crohan have raised on the farm. Once herds of fallow deer, prized as gourmet venison in Europe, and elk grazed the pastures, too, requiring 8-foot high fences and inspections by the
A growing herd of 27 bison roams Circle L Bison Farm. Above: Floyd Lyster and Jill Crohan in their living room.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources. But a series of events, including their growing bison herd, limited acreage and small demand for fallow deer, eventually led them to concentrate on the bison alone. It was an attack by a bull elk that finally tipped the scales in favor of the bison. After a fight between a bull elk and a stag, Lyster brought the bull elk behind the barn for a tetanus shot and antibiotics. While working with the large animal, a friend stopped by — something that would normally cause Lyster to stop working with the animal — but in this instance, says Crohan, he didn’t. When the friend unwittingly picked up a stick, the bull elk attacked, aiming for Lyster. “It got him right up against the board fence,” Crohan says. “One horn pretty much cut his ear off. I’m in my truck and I pull in, and the kitchen light’s on. There’s Floyd standing there, and I thought something didn’t look right. He
Farm Indiana // June 2013
By Kate Franzman
Ripe for the picking Greenfield welcomes a downtown farmers market
Some of the meats available at Circle L Bison.
turns, and his entire shirt is just covered in blood, and his head is wrapped,” added Crohan, who works as a nurse at St. Francis Hospital. “The ER doctor, it took her over two hours to sew his ear back on. “I asked him, ‘Did it get you down?’ And he says, ‘Hell no! I stood there and took it like a man,’” recalls Crohan. “Floyd is 6-foot-4, 280 pounds. A smaller man would have probably been killed.” Lyster finally managed to give the bull elk the antibiotics it needed, but it later passed away, prompting him to sell their remaining six elk cows. “And we miss them,” adds Crohan, “just to hear them. We would have our windows open and hear the elk bugling.” Now entertainment for Lyster and Crohan comes from an active array of poultry, including turkeys, chickens, guineas and ducks, in addition to their nearly 30 head of bison. A large mirror stands in the poultry pasture, prompting a flurry of pecking, posturing and squawking from the large feathered brood. “The birds are just my entertainment,” says Crohan, with a smile. “For me, I lived in the city until I was 30,” adds the former Chicago native, “but Floyd’s always been out here. All his friends are here; he graduated from here,” she says of Lyster, a Waldron native, now living on the farm roughly five miles from his boyhood home. In addition to raising bison for meat sales, Lyster also works construction, but should that grow old, a career as a sculptor wouldn’t be a stretch for this creative man. A talented welder, he created a nearly full-scale sculpture of a bison out of scrap metal, naming it “Scrapalo.” The primitive art stands in the bison pasture next to the road, announcing the farm’s purpose with style. FI
Photos provided by chris baggoTt
depletion of natural resources and finances. Bonus history in making points if you can do so without the use of hormones locally grown food or antibiotics. available to Hancock “At the end of the day, sustainable food (has) a County residents, selling problem,” he explains. “A farmer chooses to Greenfield was sell corn and soybeans because they know they’ll fertile ground for a be able to sell it (due to high demand and available downtown farmers distribution methods). If we want a sustainable food market. And Tyner Pond supply, we’ve got to solve this problem.” Farm’s Chris Baggott — a Baggott believes the problem for sustainable food savvy businessman, first, and is mostly one of distribution, which is why he’s a farmer, second — knew he could get a market going. board member for the Hoosier Harvest Market online Baggott, who was profiled in the May edition of initiative (www.hoosierharvestmarket.com), which Farm Indiana, came to farming only three years ago brings together local food producers when he bought a 98-acre piece of Hancock County and consumers. land, where he raises grass-fed cattle, as It’s also why he kicked off the new well as pasture-fed pigs and chickens. farmers market — to put more sustainably Greenfield With his farm production now up and grown food into the hands — and mouths Farmers Market running, the next logical step for the — of consumers. The market opened When former corporate exec (he co-founded May 18 in a parking lot at the corner of Every Saturday, ExactTarget and software company State Road 9 and North Street. At press Through Oct. 26, Compendium) was to head to market — time, Baggott had vendors, such as Lawler 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and to tackle a few county-wide issues in Farms and Hidden Acres Fruit Farm, Where food distribution as he went. signed up to sell fresh fruit, produce, meat The corner of State Road 9 and North His latest online venture, and local products — everything grown Street, Greenfield farmersmarket.com, helps farmers more sustainably and locally. easily start and manage farmers markets At the market, “we’re really focused — tools that he himself is using to on the integrity (of the food),” Baggott organize the Greenfield Farmers Market. All of his farm says. “The consumer doesn’t always know (about efforts and market projects are to support and grow a the source of their food). When that trust is gone, it’s sustainable food system in Hancock County, he says. damaging to the whole movement. We want to be Sustainably growing food, according to Baggott, farmer-centric and support the farmer. We want to means stacking make sure the consumer knows that everything at streams of income this market is produced by the farmer.” (raising cows, pigs Baggott says the entire Greenfield community has and chickens, for been extremely supportive of his latest venture. “Here instance, which all in Hancock County, we’ve never had really much of mature and bring in a market,” he says. “There’s been a smallish market income at different at the fairgrounds with a few local producers, but times of the year) nothing downtown. The city was very motivated to while avoiding a have something.”
Mark Cox and Joshua Henson own and operate a two-acre urban farm just east of Indianapolis, as well as Fermenti Artisan, an Indy-based company that offers local artisan meats, cheeses, sandwiches, salads and soups, as well as the pair’s own line of fermented sauerkrauts and raw probiotic foods. They got into the business of fermentation, Cox explains, when they started doing more research on food. The pair already ate “organic, local produce and what’s in season,” Cox says. “Then we started studying nutrition. Fermented foods are the missing component. They help our bodies digest other foods. They improve the nutritional value (of other foods) and (help us) get the most out of them.” Salads, which can be prepared in an endless number of yummy combinations, can easily feature fermented vegetables. The key is to use as many varieties of fresh local, raw produce and fermented vegetables as you can. When you add protein — eggs, cheese or some roasted or cured meats — you have a full meal in minutes.
Farmers Market Salad 2 cups fresh greens from your local farmers market One heaping spoonful of Fermenti Garden Kraut or your favorite cultured vegetables 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil A pinch of salt (to taste)
Take fresh seasonal vegetables from the market and chop them for the top of the salad. Include radishes, carrots, turnips, tomato, cucumber, squash, zucchini or any other vegetable you choose. Add a hard-boiled egg or some protein to create a balanced, probiotic-based salad. To top off the salad, add raw milk cheese and crack some pepper over the mix.
Above: Floyd Lyster created this sculpture out of scrap metal on his farm and from a metal shop near his home. Below: Lyster feeds bread to his favorite bison, Harry, 6 years old, estimated at 1,400 pounds.
Find Fermenti Artisan at Indianapolis City Market, 222 E. Market St., Indianapolis. Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Fermenti Artisan products also can be purchased through Green Bean Delivery, Pogue’s Run Grocer, Good Earth Natural Market and Traders Point Creamery.
NEED HELP WITH A PROPERTY SOLUTION OR LOOKING TO BUY? Lifelong Farming Involvement - Associate Broker and Auctioneer with over 45 years of combined experience Works well with Estates and Attorneys - Can Market Property and/or Equipment My background as Farmer, Broker and Auctioneer will help give you more options to help you with Your Selling Needs. From a 3-pronged vantage point as a Broker, Auctioneer and Farm Operator, I am able to see beyond the bounds of a computer screen.
Committed to protecting the environment. Where you’re treated like family.
CALL FOR A FREE AND CONFIDENTIAL CONSULTATION
Steve Sanford Direct: (317) 716-8679 Office: (317) 462-5533 ext. 107
1797 N. State St. • Greenfield
STEVE SANFORD 16th page
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317-326-7031 Crossroads Family Farms
Farm Indiana // June 2013
J.C. Linville backs a tractor out of the barn at his home east of the Graham Road industrial park. Left: Fred Linville stands in front of one of the many tractors he and his son, J.C., collect.
In the fields Fred Linville looks back on a lifetime spent in farming By Jeff Tryon | photos by Josh marshall
n a long and successful farming career, 82-year-old Fred Linville has accumulated a lot, achieved much and acquired an overview of agriculture based on a lifetime spent on the farm. “Farms are getting bigger and bigger anymore,” he says. “It used to be that farmers made a living on 40 acres. They had a small dairy and farrowed a few sows and had chickens and everything. Now, I would say you actually need about 250 acres to make a decent living.” Linville has a great deal more than that. Over the years he has acquired land throughout Indiana. His family farms approximately 1,200 acres in Johnson and Shelby counties. He owns about 1,000 acres in Owen County, mostly in timber. He even has an expanse (80 acres) in the Hualapai Mountains in Arizona, where the Linvilles spend winters. The Farming Life Linville was born on a farm and has been involved in farming for most of his life. “My folks were just farm tenants, sharecroppers if you will, most of their lives,” he says. “They finally ended up with a little land, but they were tenant farmers.”
The farming path that his parents took led to an interesting quirk of history for Fred and his wife, the former Helen Ann Miller. They both spent parts of their childhoods on the same Shelby County farm. “My wife’s folks rented a farm on shares, and my wife was born in this farmhouse. They lived there until she was 7, then they moved away to another farm,” he explains. The Millers moved to a farm east of Edinburgh. “A few years later, my folks rented that farm, and we lived there while I went through most of my school years.” A few years ago, Fred and Helen, who eventually married in 1952, acquired enough money to buy the property, “so we own that farm now and the house,” he says. “When we first got married I just worked as a farm hand,” he says. “And then I had the opportunity to farm a farm with a fellow on thirds; in other words, he furnished everything, and I did all the work, and I got a third of the profit. “That’s basically how I got started.” From there, the couple acquired a grain
Below: The Linville Family: J.C., Fred, Wyatt (16), Michael (18), Maverick (14), Anna (12), Shannon, and Helen. Inset: J.C. Linville owns the first diesel tractor sold in Johnson County. Right : The paperwork that accompanied the purchase of the first diesel tractor in Johnson County shows the original recipient at the time of delivery in July 1936. Right bottom: Fred and J.C.’s collection of tractors.
elevator and a dairy operation, and eventually the two became a family of five, with 11 grandchildren. Last September, Fred and Helen celebrated their 60th anniversary. The Dairy Business It was the purchase of a dairy business that helped the family make enough money to acquire most of their land over the years. But, eventually, Linville says, he had a milk barn moment that led him out of the dairy business, with a little help from radio commentator Paul Harvey. “We milked at 4 o’clock in the morning and 4 in the evening, and I was down there one morning because the hired hand didn’t show up,” he explains. “I was listening to Paul Harvey on the radio, and he was talking about how short life was, and if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, now’s the time to change. And, by golly, that hit me just right, because I wasn’t enjoying that at all.” Within about three months, he says, “we had a sale and quit the dairy business.” There was a downside to leaving the dairy business behind, he now recalls. “I thought we would starve to death for a while there because we were used to getting that milk check every two weeks for years,” he explains. “Then when we got to grain farming,
you just had a harvest once a year. You had to get wise about not spending all your money at once.” The Linvilles did spend their money on occasion … to expand and grow their family business, as well as to help their community. They owned the K&L Grain Elevator in Franklin, where they bought and sold grain until just about 10 years ago. “As farmers got bigger, they got their own dryers, their own facilities, and we just closed down the grain elevator as such,” Linville says. “We just use it for our own use now.” About 15 years ago, Linville partnered with the city to develop about 200 acres he owns on the north edge of Franklin as an industrial park. The project includes a 50,000-square-foot spec building on Graham Road. “It’s kind of a joint operation with the city,” he says. “I don’t get paid until they get paid.” He can tell the project is bearing fruit because of the increased traffic congestion. “We’ve lived here about 45 years, and I’d say traffic is probably 10 times more than it was,” he explains. “I stand out at the end of the lane getting the mail and complain about all the cars, and then I think, ‘I caused that, with the industrial park.” Family Fun Today, Linville’s son, Jason Clay (J.C.) Linville, runs the day to-day operations on the family’s land in Johnson and Shelby coun-
Farm Indiana // June 2013
ties, where they grow equal parts soybeans and corn. Fred Linville’s grandsons, Michael, 18, and 16-year-old Wyatt, along with various neighbors and part-time helpers, also work on the farm. (Linville also mentions grandson, Maverick, 14, and granddaughter, Anna, 12.) His daughter, Charlotte Sullivan, does the bookkeeping. As for Linville, “I furnish the money and do the worrying,” he explains. “I still do a little,” he adds. “Not a whole lot, but I still drive a tractor some. I think sometimes they’d just as soon I went to the house.” Linville keeps a couple of horses for riding, but his hobby is collecting antique wagons and the eight-mule team that pulls them. “We’ve got some covered wagons and things we play with,” he says. “We do parades and that kind of stuff, mostly down in Owen County.” The Linvilles take the mules to Arizona with them each winter in January and February. “We’re about 25 miles up a dirt road in the mountains,” he says. “It’s pretty high in elevation, about 3,000 feet elevation. It gets pretty cool at night, but in the daytime in January and February it gets up to 60 or 65 degrees.” Linville says the changes he’s seen in farming over the years include much higher yields and the technology needed to produce them. “They have to be up on the chemicals and seed and insecticide and fertilization program more than I had to be when I was growing up,” he says. “That’s where I have really fallen away in the past few years since I haven’t been real active; I have no idea the chemicals that will be used for weed control and pesticide. It really changes fast.”
The grain elevator located near the Graham Road industrial park is now used solely by the Linville family but was once a large operation that dried and stored grain for farmers before closing 10 years ago. Bottom: Fred Linville and his grandsons, Maverick, Wyatt and Michael, and his son, J.C.
Linville says that while more farmland is being taken out of production each year, yields have increased dramatically. “When I first started farming, we were talking about 35 to 40 bushels per acre; but now, if you don’t get 150 or 160, you’re not in the ball game,” he says. He’s seen the financial side of farming change, too. “Like I tell my son, basically it’s just the same as it was, money-wise, you just add more zeros. You add another zero to the price of corn, and you add two more zeros to the price of equipment. The bottom line is about the same.” Linville contemplates a lifetime spent in fields and barns dealing with equipment and animals. “I don’t know any different,” he says. “You just do what needs to be done, and that’s it. I really don’t have any negatives about it. If I was starting over again, I would basically try to do the same thing that I have done in the past.” FI
Collaborative Care The Animal Protection League is dog’s best friend By Julie Young | photos by Tom Russo
On any given day, the Animal Protection League Inc. (APL) cares for 170 to 200 animals at its Anderson facility while placing another 100 throughout the community to be fostered. “For the most part, we get a lot of dogs and cats, but over the years I’ve seen pot-bellied pigs, ferrets, birds and guinea pigs come through the door,” says Maleah Stringer, director. Founded in 2003, the APL is a 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to raising awareness about the issues of animal care and cruelty. Eight years after its inception, the APL was hired by the city of Anderson to provide the care portion of the city’s Animal Care and Control division and, not long after, was contracted to do the same for Madison County. It was this contract that placed the APL at the center of one of the worst cases its director had seen in recent years. On April 9, the sheriff’s department responded to a call in Summitville that suggested there were a number of dead animals in a local barn. “There were over 200 dead bodies (animals), and those that were living were in cages and pens with no food or water,” Stringer recalls. “It was fairly overwhelming.” The APL is no stranger to handling an influx of animals. In recent months, the organization has received 27 cats and 24 roosters/hens, but the facility was illequipped to handle the 165 live animals rescued from the barn, which included ducks, chickens and geese. “We immediately reached out to our network over Facebook for help,” Stringer says. The community responded. Not only did donations of food and financial support pour into the facility, a number of foster families and animal rescue organizations stepped up, enabling the APL to get all the animals placed within a day. “I can’t say enough about the support of the community, especially the farmers of the area who dug deep and offered to help,” Stringer says. “We estimated that it would take about $300 a week to feed the animals, not including the vet care involved.” One of the organizations that answered the call for help was the Indiana House Rabbit Society (HRS). Chapter manager Dawn Sailer says one of the organization’s volunteers informed her of the situation and suggested the society help with the confiscated rabbits. Sailer says it was the first time she had worked with the APL, and she would gladly do it again. “While rabbits were a very small percentage of the total animals impacted by this confiscation, Indiana HRS volunteers were treated with respect during our time on-site,” Sailer says. “We were so impressed with the dedication of APL that we helped to capture ducks and geese as well.” Paul Moran, a volunteer with both the APL and the Indiana HRS, says that Stringer is no ordinary animal welfare person, but rather an animal evangelist who uses her network to promote the APL’s mission. “She spends a great deal of time recruiting help, assisting people with their connection to animals and
creating new programs,” Moran says. “She not only puts together a game plan on what the APL can do, but looks for other organizations with whom to partner.” Aaron Smiley, doctor of veterinary medicine at the Devonshire Veterinary Clinic, is an APL board member who sees the APL as a shining example of recycling at its best. He says that not only does the APL take care of unwanted animals, but it also gives those animals value so that they can become wanted members of a loving environment. In addition to the APL’s incredible response to the Summitville situation, Smiley says, he is impressed by the organization’s FIDO and Nine Lives program, which partners an animal with an incarcerated inmate. The program not only benefits the animal by offering it support and care, but it also helps inmate/handlers become productive members of society when they are released into the community. Smiley says that research indicates animals have positive effects on inmates who have been incarcerated for long periods of time by enabling them to learn to use nonviolent methods to solve problems. He says inmates who meet the criteria for animal companionship often find a sense of value and worth behind the prison walls, and over time, they become very protective of their furry companions. “It is really a beautiful group of ragamuffins and their inmate handlers that give each a sense of purpose and peace in an unloving environment,” Smiley says. “It brings joy to my heart that the APL has brought this program to the community.” Those who work with the APL say that Stringer has built an organization that is committed to providing a safe haven for animals in need and strives to match the animals in her care with the best human fit. Moran says that instead of adopting out animals to anyone who walks through the door, Stringer has instituted a qualification program to ensure that people are matched with the best animal for them. “Maleah is the type of advocate that these unwanted, uncared-for animals need,” he says. “If I were ever in need, I would want an advocate with Maleah’s credentials and commitment.” FI
Top: Margie, a female brindle pit bull with Maleah Stringer. Above: Rufus sits behind Stringer, executive director of the Animal Protection League.
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A New Recruit for ISDA Gina Sheets, Indiana State Department of Agriculture director, recently announced the appointment of Connie Neininger as the ISDA’s director of economic development and trade. Neininger’s broad background in facilitating job creation in rural and agribusiness communities was cited as one reason for her appointment. “Connie is passionate about Indiana and serving this great state,” Sheets said in a press release. “It will be a true joy to work alongside her as ISDA strives to drive the advancement of agronomic Connie Neininger, director of technologies and promote the sound stewardship of our landscape.” economic development and trade Neininger comes to ISDA from northern Indiana, where most recently she has been president of the Cass Logansport Economic Development Organization. Prior to that, she was the White County director of economic development. Among the economic development projects Neininger has been involved with are the $1.2 billion Meadow Lake wind farm, the BioTown USA Development Authority, the construction of two methane-conversion energy plants by Waste Management at Liberty Landfill, and a $350 million iron ore pellet plant, converted from an ethanol facility, in Reynolds, the press release states. She also organized the Western Indiana Sustainable Energy Resource group and chaired the Midwest Indiana Economic Development region, now known as Indiana’s Technology Corridor.
Farm Payments Resume Farm payments for the 2011 Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE), the Noninsured Crop Assistance Program (NAP) and the Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC), which had been temporarily suspended due to sequestration, were recently resumed, according to a press release sent by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). On March 4, FSA instituted a temporary suspension of FSA program payments in order to assess the impact of
sequestration and determine the leastdisruptive process possible for carrying out required budget cuts. Producers should be advised that program sign-up periods currently under way have the following enrollment deadlines: 2013 Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program, June 3; 2011 SURE, June 7; and the 2013 Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program, Aug. 2. Producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency office as soon as possible for appointments to enroll in these programs before the deadlines.
Conservation Cropping Initiative According to a recent press release, Indiana’s Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative for Soil Health and Productivity project is expanding to test conservation practices on typical soils across the state, mentor conservation-oriented farmers and inspire greater adoption of conservation systems by Indiana producers. Four regional hubs — at the Purdue University Diagnostic Center, Northeastern Purdue Agriculture Center/Wabash Farm, Southeast Purdue Agriculture Center and a farm at Vincennes University managed by the Dubois County Soil and Water Conservation District — will host the demonstration and study plots for this three-year project, the press release explained. Each regional hub represents soil types, climate and topography common to its area. The hubs will provide opportunities for hands-on learning, one-onone communication and long-term evaluation of the adoption of soil health systems. They also put these demonstration plots within easy reach of nearly every farmer in the state. The initiative will monitor and measure the impacts of various conservation systems on soil health, including nutrient cycling, soil water availability and plant growth. The prac-
tices that will be used and monitored include longterm continuous no-till/ strip-till methods, as well as the use of cover crops, precision technology, and nutrient and pest management practices.
In conjunction with the regional hubs, 12 farmers will host demonstration sites on their farms, comparing their current conservation systems with programs that introduce new practices. “We see great value in working with farmers to conduct trials in real time, in real conditions and on their own farms across the state,” said Mike Dunn, director of production and environment for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and Indiana Soybean Alliance. “The corn and soybean check-off programs support this project to help farmers collect localized data that can help them make informed decisions when implementing conservation practices in their fields.” For more information, visit www.ccsin.org.
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June issue of Farm Indiana — East Version