Drought DAMAGE LOOMS Immediate and substantial rain needed to prevent crop losses BY MARK WEBBER
Water poured over a seemingly spent wheat field is actually an essential ingredient for the success of young double-cropped soybeans pushing up, unseen, through the stubble. PHOTO BY ANGELA JACKSON
Indiana crop conditions continue to deteriorate daily as the drought worsens to a level not seen in half a century, according to a Purdue agricultural economist. Chris Hurt added that triple-digit temperatures and the driest June on record have also dried up pastures where cattle feed in summertime. The latest available U.S. Drought Monitor report showed nearly all of Indiana is in severe or extreme drought. Purdue experts like Hurt warn that if the drought continues through August, crop losses could be as great as they were in 1988. According to USDA research, corn and soybean production plummeted by about 30 percent that year. The yield loss caused the cost of food to jump by more than 5 percent in the fall of 1988. The following year, supermarket prices rose by nearly 6 percent. Hurt said soybean yields still may have the potential to recover if normal rainfall patterns return. “Soybean yields are significantly related to August temperatures and precipitation,” he said. “There is still a potential for yield recovery in soybeans up until late July and even into August.” Despite the record-breaking weather conditions in June, this may not be the worst agricultural conditions Hoosier farmers have endured. “I was told that in 1934, it didn’t rain in Greensburg from May until October,” said Decatur County extension educator Dan-
precipitation over several weeks would be iel Wilson. While the agricultural agent required to provide beneficial relief. The could not verify that information, he does irony is that it may take another devastatknow that well-established droughts are ing natural event to end this one. hard to break. “It usually takes a hurricane in the gulf “Vegetation creates vapor when the region to move the high pressure system plants transpire, which allows a cycle to north and give Indiana that type of rain,” happen that induces moisture into the said Wilson, who said he’d be clouds,” explained Wilson. content just to get a consis“Without the vegetation, you tent two- or three-day soaker have a lack of rainfall. So the “A break in the in south central Indiana. question is: Are the weath- drought and heat “If we got that three or er conditions causing this for the remainder four inches now, it would change in our ecosystem, or is of the season would certainly minimize limit the damage to vegit a cycle?” etation. It could help some The thunderstorms that further deterioration of the late-plant corn that crossed south central In- of the corn crop but would not hadn’t tasseled yet, help the diana during the fi rst days result in recovery ponds and bring grass back of July did little to help the to anywhere close to where the animals graze,” crops. Less than half of the to normal yields.” he said. normal amount of rain has Bob Nielsen But Wilson is worried. fallen across much of the PURDUE EXTENSION CORN SPECIALIST He’s heard from several state since the beginning of Decatur County families May. Purdue experts say the who say their wells are goparched conditions also were ing dry. And he said there should be no aggravated by a dry, mild winter. doubt that negative impact will extend “A break in the drought and heat for the much further than agricultural profits remainder of the season would certainly and higher food prices. minimize further deterioration of the “Less income for farmers mean fewer corn crop but would not result in recovery agricultural sales, which creates payto anywhere close to normal yields,” Bob checks for people who live here and sell Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist, equipment,” SEE DROUGHT ON PAGE 2 said. He believes that four to six inches of
Welcome to the first issue of Farm Indiana, a monthly publication of Home News Enterprises offering a local view on agriculture in southern Indiana. Our scope will be Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson, Jennings and Johnson counties, and Farm Indiana will be inserted the last Wednesday of each month in the Brown County Democrat and The (Seymour) Tribune and in certain delivery routes for the (Johnson County) Daily Journal and The (Columbus) Republic. We’ll have stories on area farms and the people behind them, articles about farm business as it pertains to those in southern Indiana, and features on new equipment, technological advances and more. We’ll hear from area representatives of Purdue Extension offices, Farm Service Agency and others. Those of us responsible for Farm Indiana want this to be your publication. We welcome your contributions, whether they be 4-H news, folks we should profile, upcoming events, FFA news, photos from events that have already occurred, story ideas or whatever. We hope you enjoy this premier issue and decide you want to be a part of Farm Indiana. Send your contributions, thoughts, suggestions, etc., to me at email@example.com, or call me at 812-379-5625 or visit us on Facebook at Facebook.com/farmindiana.
Congratulations to all 4-H Participants on all your hard work! 6672 East 650 South | Edinburgh, IN 46124 | 812-526-5574 | 800-284-2676
FARM INDIANA | August 2012
Fred Hamilton, left, and Farmers Mutual agent Kevin Carson examine the poor root system on a stalk of corn on Hamilton’s farm that straddles the Johnson/Shelby county line.
Just in case Crop insurance helps farmers weather difficult conditions BY MARK WEBBER PHOTOS BY MARK FREELAND
➡ If your job is to grow food, your farm is your livelihood. Most agribusiness experts wholeheartedly agree that insuring your farm simply makes good business sense. But as intense heat and drought continue to shrivel south central Indiana crops, one insurance agent estimates 30 percent to 40 percent of farmers in his district do not have any type of crop insurance. And there’s little, if anything, that can be done to help them now. “Climate insurance might have been something to consider last spring, but now, it’s become cost prohibitive,” said Kevin Carson, a Farmers Mutual representative for Shelby and Johnson counties. “If you bought it this minute, it would be 10 days before it goes into effect. If we go another week and a half into this drought and heat, what will that coverage be worth?” Carson said the only policies that still could be affordably purchased for this year’s harvest are either crop hail or field fire policies. Farmers did have plenty of choices before the March 15 industry-wide cutoff date for buying crop insurance. But Purdue agricultural risk management expert George Patrick acknowledged that nobody can predict an upcoming growing season one week before winter ends. “Just as you have to place your bet before the roulette wheel starts spinning, you have to place your bet and buy insurance before the spring weather happens,” said Patrick. Since it’s a certainty now that the fall harvest will be adversely affected by the drought and heat, Carson said, widespread claims will cause crop insurance premiums to go up for everyone next year. According to Patrick, the most basic forms of crop insurance are yield protection and actual production history. Based on at
least four years of past farm yield data, these two types of insurance pay growers for crop losses and cover 50 percent to 85 percent of the average yield. But after that, a farmer’s choices start to get complicated. “There are so many different types of crop insurance that can be tailored toward any individual farmer’s needs,” Carson said. Some farmers prefer to buy a Group Risk Plan or Group Risk Income Protection. Both are multiple peril insurance programs designed to help farmers protect their crops from disastrous losses. Others may buy a basic actual production history policy that makes payments when actual yield is below a yield guarantee. And then, there are those who pay extra for revenue protection policies. Farmers with this type of insurance will receive an indemnity check if their corn yield was below 81 percent of the actual production history yield and if their soybean yield was below 94 percent of the annual yield. According to Patrick, revenue protection policies guarantee a certain value of the commodity. “Rather than just talking bushels, it’s protecting what the crop is worth as opposed to the physical quantity,” Patrick said. “If there was a really big crop and the price decreased from spring to harvest time, it could trigger an indemnity or payment.” There are other forms of insurance farmers should consider to protect their assets. The most basic policy that every farmer is urged to purchase is property and casualty. It offers protection in the event of theft or vandalism, as well as for injuries suffered on the job by hired hands. The raising of livestock can be just as risky as growing corn, wheat and soybeans. Potential dangers include changes in mar-
ket prices, es, sickness or death off animals and a reduced yield in milk production for dairy farmers. So if you own livestock, experts agree it would be in your best interest to protect your investment. But with so many choices and potentially high premiums, it can be daunting to determine how much insurance you will need for a year. The good news is that you have good reasons to consider crop insurance, aside from the longevity of your livelihood. Government subsidies are often offered to farmers to offset a portion of the premiums. Also, there are increased coverage levels offered to those who grow several types of crops. Patrick encourages each farmer to examine his ability to tolerate risk. The more coverage you want, the more it will cost. And if you can assume some of the risk, you can save yourself some money on premiums. Can you afford a higher deductible? Can you afford a lower level of coverage? If the answer to either one of those questions is yes, this also will make your insurance more affordable. Patrick also encourages farmers to re-examine their insurance needs on an annual basis and to balance their costs against their need for cash flow in order to maintain their business. “Whatever coverage you have this year, it will be better than having nothing at all,” Carson said. “But one thing to always keep in mind: farm insurance is not designed for a farmer to make a profit. At the best, it is designed to keep you from going out of business or to try and make you whole again.”
DROUGHT CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
he said. “And in Decatur County, 66 percent of our generated tax dollars come from the farm. So that will have an effect on every taxpayer.” While the assessment of the damage immediately sent corn cash prices skyrocketing, the high prices might not be enough to compensate for the lost income. The effect on beef cattle could also last for an extended time. The weather and drought, along with the lack of feed supplies, could coul put an added stress on livestock. Ron Ro Lemenager, a Purdue animal sciences professor, is urging producers to take steps now to supplement feed and make sure prod their the animals are in healthy body condition in order to protect the th future of their operations. “If we’re short on forage, we have the option of sliding by. But if cows are thin going into the fall, fewer will be bred, calves will be lighter at weaning time this year, and fewer calves will be born next year,” Lemenager said. “Then, if cows are thin heading into next breeding season, fewer cows will be bred and h colostrum quality will be lower, meaning a lower calf survival co rate, rat which affects productivity in years two and three.” There may be one small blessing. Crop farmers are in a better fi nancial situation than they were during the drought of 1988. nan Hurt said farm incomes have been stronger in the past two H years, and that with land values at record-high levels, crop farmers have generally higher net worth. Crop insurance also could play a major role in helping farmers avoid devastation this year, he said. About 75 percent of Indiana crop acres are covered by some form of crop insurance. “But crop insurance generally does not provide for full recovery of losses,” he noted. “It is often used to help avoid catastrophic fi nancial losses.” Crop insurance commonly covers 65 percent to 85 percent of a crop’s overall estimated value, depending on the type and levels of coverage farmers select. Purdue Extension has compiled drought resources for grain and livestock farmers as well as consumers. Links to those resources are available at purdue.edu/drought. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.
Comments should be sent to Doug Showalter, Farm Indiana, 333 Second St., Columbus, IN 47201 or call 812-379-5625 or farmindiana@hnenewspapers. com. Advertising information: Call 812-379-5690. ©2012 by Home News Enterprises. All rights reserved. Reproduction of stories, photographs and advertisements without permission is prohibited.
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
Application deadline approaches for YF awards
Riders up Jackson County Rodeo returns BY AARON BREWINGTON
âžĄ â€œRAIN OR SHINE â€Ś ITâ€™S RODEO TIME!â€? read the Jackson County Rodeoâ€™s Facebook page in the days leading up to last yearâ€™s event. In a twist of fate, when the road into Plumer Arena, where the event was to be held, flooded, the rodeo was postponed. This year, Laura Plumer, who organizes the affair, will not incur the wrath of the rodeo gods by making such a claim â€” though the same rule still applies. The show must go on. The fifth annual Jackson County Rodeo will be Aug. 17 and 18 at Plumer hay farm, 2746 E. Road 800N, Seymour. Competition starts at 7:30 p.m. For the first time in the rodeoâ€™s five years, participants will be professional level competitors from the International Professional Rodeo Association and the Mid-States Rodeo Association circuits. In years past, the rodeo was an Indiana High School Rodeo Association sanctioned event. â€œWe decided to bring in a different level to show another side of (the sport),â€? Plumer said. â€œBut because we have also done high school, a lot of these kids have grown up and are now participating at the professional level.â€? The rodeo is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Societyâ€™s Relay For Life, hoping to spread cancer awareness and raise money for cancer research. The motto of the event is â€œThe Pinkest Show on Dirt,â€? which Plumer came up with after the rodeoâ€™s old mantra came into some controversy. â€œWe came up with the â€˜Pinkest Show on Dirtâ€™â€? Plumer said. â€œBefore that we were doing the â€˜Tough Enough to Wear Pinkâ€™ (a Wrangler registered trademark), but the company wanted money for us to use that logo. So I figured we could still raise the money just under a different banner. Now people say I should trademark ours.â€? This year the rodeo also has another cause it is supporting after the June death of Lance Cpl. Hunter Hogan in Afghanistan. Hogan, a graduate of Brownstown Central High School, was a former participant in the Jackson County Rodeo and got the Plumer family interested in the sport. â€œHe was my sonâ€™s (Chase Plumer) best friend, and if it wasnâ€™t for that boy meeting my kid on the bus in the third grade, we never would have gotten involved in rodeo,â€? Laura said. â€œNow the rodeo is taking a different turn, and we are dedicating it to Hunter. We are going to do something special in his memory, but if you want to see how we are going to honor him, you are just going to have to come to the rodeo.â€? The rodeo will feature seven events: bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, bull riding and an all-around. Cost for admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students, with children 5 and younger free. â€œWe just want people to come and have a good time,â€? Laura said. â€œWe want to introduce this experience to people; that is all we want.â€? For anyone who wishes to sponsor the rodeo, Laura can be reached at 812-569-4414. The rodeo is accepting monetary donations and items for a silent auction.
Aug. 1 is the application deadline for the Indiana Farm Bureau Young Farmer Excellence in Agriculture and Achievement awards. The Farm Bureau Excellence in Agriculture Award is an opportunity for recognition for young farmers (ages 18 to 35) who do not derive the majority of their income from an owned agricultural operation but who actively contribute and grow through their involvement in Farm Bureau and agriculture. Participants will be judged on their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability, involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations. The Farm Bureau Achievement Award recognizes and rewards outstanding young Farm Bureau members whose management and community commitment set a positive example for others. In order to be eligible, applicants must earn a majority of their income from production agriculture. The criteria are farm operation (25 percent), growth and financial progress of operation (35 percent), Farm Bureau leadership (25 percent) and other leadership (15 percent). To qualify for consideration for either award, applicants must fill out the application form, which can be found at www.in-
farmbureau.org under â€œProgramsâ€? and then â€œYoung Farmer Homepage.â€? There are separate applications for each award. Applications must be in the Indiana Farm Bureau office before midnight Aug. 1 to be considered for recognition and awards. You may email the application to meet the deadline and mail the signature pages to us. The winner of the achievement award will receive $6,000 from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, 250 hoursâ€™ use of an M-Series tractor courtesy of Kubota Tractor, the David L. Leising Memorial Award, and paid expenses to the national convention in Nashville, Tenn. The two runners-up will receive a $1,000 prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance. The excellence in agriculture winner will receive a John Deere Gator courtesy of Farm Credit Services, $3,000 from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, and expenses paid to the national convention. The two runners-up will get $1,000 from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance. Both state winners will be recognized at the IFB convention Dec. 7 and 8 and will compete in the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers contests. More information and the application forms are available on the IFB website, www. infarmbureau.org, or by calling 1-800-FARMBUR, ext. 7846. â€” Indiana Farm Bureau
2012 4-H livestock auction
2012 4-H Camp Twenty-one Decatur County 4-Hâ€™ers recently returned from a fun week at Southeastern 4-H Camp in Dearborn County. The theme of the 2012 camp was â€œ4-H Camp Pirate MMXII.â€? Kristy Hamilton was a junior director, while Ashley Hamilton and Elizabeth Moffett served as counselors. The adult staff was made up of Purdue Extension staff from Dearborn, Ripley, Jennings, Jackson, Ohio, Jefferson, Switzerland, Brown and Decatur counties. While there, the campers participated in classes, including such topics as recreation, captain cash, boat safety, wired for wind, fire safety, star lab and geocaching. Afternoon activities included basketball, crafts, games, volleyball and kickball. Special evening programs were Randy Ollis from Channel 8, two of the Indiana State FFA officers (one, Jacob Mattox, was a Decatur County 4-H 10-year member) and skits presented by 4-H campers. Fees for the Decatur County 4-H campers were provided in full by the Decatur County 4-H Council.
Jackson County 4-Hâ€™ers involved with beef, boer goats, dairy beef, sheep, and swine have a special opportunity July 28. Each 4-Hâ€™er in these projects will be offered the opportunity to sell one animal at the Jackson County Fair 4-H Livestock Auction. The sale will start at 1 p.m. in the Show Arena on the fairgrounds and is open to the public. The sale order will be beef, dairy beef, sheep, boer goat and swine. The auction format changed in 2011 and will continue to have buyers bid a total price (not by pound) for the animal. If the animal is sent to market, the buyer will pay the amount over the appraised price. If the animal is going to a locker (non-appraised market), or the buyer is taking the animal home, the buyer will then pay the total sale price. Buyers will have the choice of taking their purchased animals to a local locker and then home for consumption or sending the animals to market and only paying the premium to the 4-Hâ€™er. Traditionally, buyers have been area businesses and individuals who want to reward and encourage the hard work that is involved with raising and caring for 4-H livestock. Many of the 4-Hâ€™ers have spent months rising early for feeding and many late evenings feeding and walking animals in preparation for the 4-H Show. They have not only learned about good animal practices, but have also gained many life skills â€“ money management, planning, responsibility, time management, etc. More information: 812- 358-6101.
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
Animal FARM Abney family works to expand Red Barn Meats BY RYAN TRARES | PHOTOS BY MARK FREELAND
From left, Doug Jr., Doug, Allie and Angela Abney and Sherry FabinaAbney. At right: a variety of Red Barn Meats products.
“Until you do that work, you don’t think about the work that goes into food. It’s a lot more work than you think to get to the grocery store.” Dougie Abney 13 YEARS OLD
➡ Daybreak was still hours off on Saturday morning when activity started on the Abney farm. Frozen filet steaks, pork loins and lamb chops were loaded into a freezer in the back of a trailer. Eggs, ground goat and beef liver had to be packed into 150-quart coolers and covered in ice. Tents, tables and price lists needed to be accounted for and shoved into available space in their trucks and sport utility vehicles. In the pre-dawn darkness, all five family members would spread out to farmers markets throughout central Indiana. Before the day was over, they’d sell hundreds of dollars of meat. From the time his children were young, Doug Abney tried to instill the importance of agriculture. They were up before the sun to feed the family’s chickens, sheep, goats and 50 head of cattle. Even if they never took over the Union Township farm themselves, he hoped that they would respect the way that all of the country’s food is produced. But the teachings stuck. His 19-yearold daughter, Angela, started her own business last year. Red Barn Meats now sells the family’s hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, goat, lamb and eggs throughout the area. The business has emerged and helped the farm expand in a way that Doug never anticipated. “I wanted them to learn how to work and realize that everything takes effort and hard work. If you work hard enough, you get the benefit,” he said. “This is teaching them all about this.” Red Barn meat currently is sold in several area farmers markets. The family sets up a booth in Indianapolis, Franklin and Bloomington, plus sells twice each week in Greenwood. The business has blossomed into a family endeavor. Angela’s brother, 13-year-old Dougie, helps her sell at the weekly Greenwood Farmers Market. At the same time, her 17-year-old sister, Allie, and her mom, Sherry Fabina-Abney, sell meat in Franklin. Doug travels to Bloomington by himself with coolers loaded with meat to tap into that market.
Angela was a senior at Franklin Community High School when she founded Red Barn Meats. The business started as an FFA project called a Supervised Agricultural Experience, intended to teach her about sales, drawing up a budget and how to run an agricultural business. She approached her family about expanding their existing meat business. They had been selling whole, half and quarters of beef in the area but realized they could make more profit if it could be processed into smaller sections and cuts, Shelly said. A plan emerged. The Abneys would sell Angela cattle for a fixed cost, based on the poundage and the agricultural market rate for beef. She would pay for the processing, packaging and transportation. “We had the product she needed but didn’t have the time to market it properly,” Doug said. “She pays a fair price from us, pays for marketing, and we get our name out.” As she considered the proposal, Angela had one question — would she get her money back? Her parents were frank with their response, providing her with an important business lesson. “We told her, if you work hard, you might get it back. But you might work hard and not get it back. There’s no guarantee,” Doug said. Using her savings from past animal sales with 4-H, Angela purchased her first round of beef. The entire endeavor cost about $15,000, between buying the cattle and having it processed. Immediately, she was thrust directly into the business of agriculture. She was responsible for the bookkeeping and setting prices, something she learned took more than just putting a price to her product. Through market calculations and expectations of other small meat dealers, she developed her strategy. For every pound of meat, it cost her $2.63 to buy the animal, process it and pay for it to be hauled to the butcher and cut up the way she wants it. That’s her benchmark. She can run sales and specials on her items, but as long as she doesn’t sell for less than $3 per pound, she can make a profit. The animals are processed by an outside company, Dewig Meats in Haubstadt. Angela drives her animals three hours to be butchered, then returns later in the month to pick up the frozen, vacuum-sealed packages of meat. Each one is stamped with the Red Barn Meats logo and the U.S. Department of Agriculture seal of approval. The professional appearance has helped set her apart as they carve out a niche in the market, Doug said. “We’re very proud of her accomplishments. She’s worked hard and made her money back. Her business has probably doubled in the last two years in sales. It’s nice to see hard work paying off,” he said. Farming was never going to be a full-time job for Doug. He had gone to school to study electrical engineering and worked as the manager of engineering and maintenance for Eli Lilly until last year.
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
The Abneys raise Belted Galloway cattle, a breed that originated in Scotland.
But he had always been attracted to the farm. Both of his grandparents were farmers, raising cattle, pigs and lambs, and sowing grains such as corn and wheat. “There was something about visiting them and helping on the farm that stuck with me. After college, it’s what I decided I wanted to do,” he said. When he started the farm, he couldn’t afford to do grain, since it was only his part-time job. Instead, he planted hay. After he and Sherry married and started a family, the farm expanded to include livestock animals. Angela was 8 when she asked her parents if she could buy a cow. Using money that she had saved from doing chores, she purchased a heifer. Her dad helped her raise it and then sell it to another buyer. With those profits, she bought her first belted Galloway — a special breed known for its tender, lean meat. That single animal motivated the rest of the family to start raising a small herd, and their numbers slowly grew. Angela, Allie and Dougie were active in Union 4-H Club, with Angela serving as past president and Allie as vice president. They showed their animals every summer at the Johnson County fair, selling the best ones at the livestock auction. Most days, the Abney children are up around 7:30 a.m. to work on the farm. They start with the chicken coop, spreading grain feed and ensuring the poultry have full water dishes. At the main barns, they rotate through the indoor and outdoor pens, feeding hay cut from the family’s own fields. The four sheep and four goats come last. Every two or three days, the children clean stalls. Throughout the day, they will check to make sure the water is full and the fans attached to rafters throughout the barn are working correctly. “Until you do that work, you don’t think about the work that goes into food. It’s a lot more work than you think to get to the grocery store,” Dougie said. But in the past year, the responsibilities around the farm have changed. Last year, Doug’s position at Eli Lilly was eliminated. Sherry’s job as a partner in the health law group at Ice Miller and the growing Red Barn Meats have allowed him to focus more on agriculture rather than pursuing another office job. The 125 acres of hay that the family had grown has been mostly converted to grazing land, with a few specialized acres left to feed the herd during the winter as well as for some custom work. More attention has been placed on Red Barn Meats. Since the start of spring, Angela has taken in six cattle, three pigs and two goats to be processed. Because of the demand, the Abneys have stopped selling to most of their outside customers, relying solely on business at the farmers markets to move their product. Even in the offseason, many
The Abney family WHO Doug Abney and Sherry Fabina-Abney; children Angela, 19; Allie, 17; and Dougie, 13. HOME Union Township, Johnson County ACREAGE 121
customers have started coming to the farm to purchase their meat. “There’s a loyal fan base, and that’s what you need. When the farmers market season ends, there’s still going to be meat in the freezer,” Doug said. “If you can develop that, you don’t have to take a half-day off to go to these markets.” Angela has visions of expanding Red Barn Meats into a full-time career after she finishes her degree at Purdue University. Plans are also in place to fence in more of the Abney land, allowing them to expand the herd beyond 50 cattle. People have asked if she’s hiring, and adding more people would allow her to hit more farmers markets throughout the area. But for the time being, she intends to keep it at its current size while relying on her family to help the business grow. “They know the product. The people at the markets want to know who raised these animals or what we fed it. I know my brother and sister can answer that, since they know these animals just as well as I do,” she said.
PRODUCTS 50 head of Belted Galloway
cattle; four sheep and four goats; chickens; small plot of hay BUSINESS Red Barn Meats, the family’s
brand of grass- and grain-fed beef, lamb, goat and eggs. The products are sold locally at farmers markets in Franklin, Greenwood, Indianapolis and Bloomington
FARM INDIANA | August 2012
Justin, left, and Bill Gelfius stand in the soybean field behind their family farm.
CARRYING ON THE
tradition Three generations of Gelfius family have farmed in eastern Bartholomew County BY SHERRI CULLISON | PHOTOS BY ANGELA JACKSON
➡ “I’m fi lthy,” Justin Gelfius says as he motions to shake hands without actually reaching out a dirt-covered hand to do so. Gelfius is on a cellphone; he apologizes for the discussion he needs to fi nish and quickly disappears into the “shop” office at his father’s home in Hartsville to continue talking. With the door still open behind him, Gelfius can be overheard discussing beans, bushel prices and deliveries scheduled to go to Monsanto, a customer of his family’s Bartholomew County farming outfit. A few minutes pass and Gelfius reappears. “If you don’t mind,” he says, walking to a utility sink nearby, “I’ll wash up.” He grabs a paper towel before officially extending a still-moist hand in greeting. Dressed in khaki shorts, an orange T-shirt and a ball cap, 34-year-old Gelfius doesn’t look as what one might expect a full-time farmer to look. But then again, farming, to use a little slang, ain’t what she used to be. A typical day — if such a thing exists — for Gelfius and his father, Bill, starts here in the shop. “We usually come in the office and do some research on the commodity markets,” Justin explains. “We have several semi trucks to haul our own grain. We go through those trucks and trailers and come in here and get caught up on the books, to be honest with you. It’s not very farmer-like.” What is very farmer-like is the Gelfius family’s dependence on good weather conditions to make a profit. And the day of this visit to the farm was expected to be the hottest of the year so far. The heat was also coming in what 59-year-old Bill Gelfius describes as the worst drought he’s seen since the much-discussed drought of 1988. “If this drought doesn’t break in the next week, there will be a lot of fields that don’t get harvested,” Bill says. “Th is is beginning to look like the worst drought I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.” But the Gelfius family is luckier than most. They farm approximately 1,000 acres of irrigated ground, which provides some relief for their plants when rainfall isn’t available. But the majority of the land they work is not irrigated. For that, the family has tried to create a cushion by growing a variety of crops. “We try to keep ourselves diverse,” Justin explains. By varying what they grow, which currently includes soybeans, corn, wheat and tomatoes, “hopefully the odds are you’re not going to take everything on the chin,” he says.
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
The Gelfiuses check the growth of the soybeans in their field north of Columbus.
The Gelfius family WHO Bill and Norma Gelfius; their son, Justin; and his wife, Chatney.
They raise tomatoes for Red Gold, seed corn for Pioneer, seed beans for Monsanto, commercial corn, commercial soybeans, wheat and double crop soybeans, and a variety of cover crops in the fall for soil health and conservation purposes.
The family farms primarily in Bartholomew County and on the west side of Decatur County.
wanted to be on the farm.â€? In 2007, he left Cummins and returned And where diversification doesnâ€™t help, crop insurance does, to working with his dad full time. Bill adds. â€œItâ€™s like your house. Itâ€™s never as good as keeping your In the early 1980s, the Gelfiuses had left the tobacco business house intact, but when you get an insurance payment, it keeps and, by 1992, had begun raising tomatoes, as well as you going.â€? growing seed corn, Justin says. â€œNow, weâ€™re raising Th is way of life began when Justinâ€™s grandfather tomatoes for Red Gold, weâ€™re raising seed corn for and Billâ€™s father, Bob Gelfius, began farming his land â€œIf this drought doesnâ€™t break in Pioneer, we raise seed beans for Monsanto, and we â€” the same land where Bill and his wife, Norma, now the next week, grow regular field beans and regular corn.â€? live â€” in 1957. Bob was a carpenter by trade, but he there will be A lot of the corn they grow has been going for use decided to become a dairyman, Justin explains. That a lot of fi elds in making ethanol. â€œFor years, we have been raising idea quickly morphed, and Bob began growing corn, that donâ€™t get non-genetically modified corn that went to National soybeans, wheat and tobacco. harvested.This Starch in Indianapolis and was used for ingredients â€œSo Dad (Bill) grew up on the farm out here,â€? Jusis beginning to look like the for human consumption,â€? Justin explains. â€œFor years, tin says, before he left to study agriculture economics worst drought that was our market. at Purdue University. Bill graduated in 1975, and in Iâ€™ve ever seen â€œNow theyâ€™ve transitioned all of that to Kansas, so 1977 â€” after working a couple of years for a seed corn in my lifetime.â€? we started transitioning into commercial corn. There company â€” came home to help his father on the farm. Bill Gelfi us are many more markets for commercial corn, for hog Justin took a similar route by heading to Purdue, feed, for ethanol plants and things like that. The last where he studied mechanical engineering technology. two years have been our fi rst years of producing comHe went to work at Cummins Inc. in Columbus for mercial corn on a large scale, and a majority of that is going to seven years as a service engineer. While there, Justin continued ethanol plants.â€? to farm part time. Justin goes on to explain the various kinds of corn that can â€œIt was getting to the point where I spent a lot of time on the be grown and their many uses. For farmers, the ways to make farm and at work at Cummins, and it was just too much to try to money on what they plant are numerous â€Ś as long as the weather keep up with both,â€? he says. â€œMy family was growing. Long term, I
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FAMILY Justin and Chatney have two sons, Crew, 7, and Ledger, 5; a daughter, Charleston, 4; and a baby due in August.
cooperates. The lack of rainfall this year and the recent excessive heat have served as a double hit on crops, one from which many farmers may not recover. â€œYou have soil moisture and you have rainfall,â€? Justin says. â€œIf you have adequate soil moisture, you have a buffer zone, where the roots can go deep and access that water thatâ€™s in the soil, and they donâ€™t have to rely on rainfall at the exact time it needs to rain. â€œThe problem is this spring was dry, so that soil moisture, that buffer zone, is not there. So now weâ€™re relying on timely rainfalls. There never is a timely rainfall. So thatâ€™s the problem. There is a good chance weâ€™ll have some fields that wonâ€™t be worth harvesting.â€? Despite the uncertainties of the farming life, Justin believes in the work that his grandfather began and that he and his father now carry on. Itâ€™s a tradition that he hopes one or more of the children that he and his wife, Chatney, have will uphold. â€œMy oldest is 7,â€? Justin says. â€œIâ€™ve got two boys. Iâ€™ve got a little girl thatâ€™s 4, and we have one on the way. I anticipate that it (farming) will continue down the Gelfius family. Iâ€™m going to do everything that I can to make sure that happens.â€?
FARM INDIANA | August 2012
Allison, Victor, Jacquelyn and Megan Hackman with produce to sell at their farm market. Below: Megan bags okra for a customer.
FamilyTOGETHERNESS Hackman children open farm market in Jackson County STORY AND PHOTOS BY MARCIA WALKER
➡ Megan Hackman kicks off her flip-flops and grabs a water hose to wash the dust and dirt from her feet and ankles. The tall, slender young woman doesn’t mind the dirt but wants to look her best for the photos that are soon to be taken. Dirt, dust, sweat, sun, wind, rain — or lack thereof — are all part of life for the 18-year-old, one of the four proprietors of the Hackman Family Farm Market, located south of Vallonia not far from the Muscatatuck and White rivers. It’s really no surprise that the name Hackman is attached to Jackson County’s newest farm market, which officially opened June 25. After all, Hackmans have been farming in Jackson County for generations. But until recently, the farming operation has involved 1,400 acres devoted to corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, along with 200 head of feeder cattle and 200 head of finishing cattle. This is the first year for the produce market and the first year the family has taken a serious stab at retail sales. “Two years ago, we contracted melons,” Tom Hackman, Megan’s father, said, explaining that the move into the retail market began by growing watermelons on contract for another farmer. “This last year, we decided to go retail.” “We planted, cultivated and sprayed them (watermelons),” said Victor Hackman, 12, another of the four who is in charge of the operation. “We did everything but pick them. We contracted with Kammans.” There are farm markets scattered all around this part of Jackson County, perhaps the result of the stretch of sandy soil between Brownstown and the Muscatatuck River. That sandy soil is conducive to
growing melons, and the area has picked up a reputation for the watermelons produced there. The Hackmans have five acres devoted to watermelons and cantaloupes. But some markets selling produce are offering what someone else has grown. At the Hackmans’, with a few exceptions, everything has been raised right there. “We haven’t outsourced many of our products,” Tom said. “We need to understand what people want, what people are asking for … next year we may start buying, but for starting out, we thought it just best to do our own thing.” TEENS IN CHARGE But what truly sets this market apart is that the four running the operation are all teenagers, or almost teenagers. Although Mom and Dad are there to guide, coax and encourage, this market is the result of the four’s own efforts. Victor, tall, slim and inevitably clad in a T-shirt and jeans with a ball cap perched on blond curls, is the youngest, approaching his 13th birthday. Megan, at 18, is the oldest. In between are Jacquelyn, 17, and Allison, 15, all tan, fit and no strangers to hard work. They represent the fifth generation on both sides of their family tree that has opted to make a living by working the land. The roots on the Hackman side are tied primarily to Jackson County, although one branch of the family can be found in Bartholomew County. Ruth Hackman, mother of the four, has family ties to Harrison and Floyd counties and before that, Kentucky.
The four young people have always been involved with the farming operation, helping with the chores that come with running a farm. And the family has always maintained a garden. “My mom taught me to garden,” said Ruth Hackman, who is district conservationist for Washington County. “That’s what the kids have grown up with. It’s something they’ve been around all their lives. It’s the way Tom grew up, the way I grew up.” The family had no way of knowing, of course, that the year they chose to start selling retail would also usher in a record-breaking drought. But Megan said, in a way, it’s helped in that people’s gardens are drying up, generating more business for their produce stand. As far as their 10-acre garden, they irrigate from a nearby pond, using two 300-foot fire hoses that feed a drip irrigation system. One of Victor’s responsibilities is swimming out into the pond each day to move the well points, which become clogged with moss. It’s been hands on all the way for the four. The educational lessons provided here are especially beneficial for Megan, who is planning to attend Hanover College and wants to pursue a degree in business “There’s no better way than running a business to learn everything first hand,” Megan said. “With help from my siblings, we decided what to plant, how much to plant, where to plant.” FROM BROWN TO GREEN They also talked with a number of people about their plans, soliciting advice and gathering information, and studied pricing at other markets and grocery stores. The work of raising produce has been coupled with the work of transforming a building that had served as a garage into a produce stand. “When we first came in, everything was brown … there was just junk in here,” Jaquelyn recalled. “We had to power wash the walls and floor, cover up holes, repaint. We built a cool room, installed new doors, built all the shelves.” It was Allison’s idea to add a garden where customers can pick out fresh herbs. She loves to cook. “I saw the idea at another stand,” Allison said. “It seemed like a good idea at the time. I cook with them, and I figure other people would enjoy them.” 4-H is a big part of life for the Hackmans,
and they are very involved with St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wegan, where Tom serves on the church council. He also serves on the board of Trinity High School in Seymour, the school Megan, Allison and Jacquelyn attend. Victor attends Lutheran Central in Brownstown. One doesn’t get too far into a conversation with Tom before his strong faith and spiritual values surface. Family and church are what anchors his life, and he talks of the enjoyment he finds working side by side with his children. “The good Lord pays pretty good dividends, letting us do what has been done,” he said. When asked about challenges that come from starting the venture, Tom brought up not being able to attend church as a family. Everyone still goes to church Sunday mornings, he stressed, but they split up, attending services at different times at different churches so someone is available to tend the market. And Ruth mentioned the outpouring of support that has come from the community, encouraging the four as they establish their business. “They’ve become more confident, having the community support helps that. The community has been really supportive even from the talking stage,” she said. A typical day begins before 7 a.m., when some of the Hackmans head to the garden to pick crops. Their single employee, Erin Bane, whom they jokingly refer to as their hired hand or their employee of the year, arrives around 8 to sweep the shop and help set out the produce. FUTURE UP IN THE AIR As far as the young people’s plans, there is uncertainty. They view the market as a way to generate money for college, but they aren’t certain if the market will become part of their future careers. Jaquelyn mentioned Purdue and pursuing something in the agricultural field, but doesn’t know what. Victor also mentioned Purdue. But Allison is adamant about doing something different. “Absolutely not,” she said, when asked if the farm or market might be part of her future. As far as the long-term plans for the farm market, Tom mentioned adding a greenhouse; this year, plants were started in a cousin’s greenhouse. As far as the market itself, he said the direction it takes is up to his four children. “They can do anything they want with this,” he said. “They can go commercial, go wholesale, do retail. It’s so wide open. This is driven by supply and demand.”
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
One for all
for the drought of 2012 BY MIKE FERREE
Community garden allows Brown County residents to grow their own food STORY AND PHOTOS BY JENNIFER WILLHITE
➡ The Brown County Community Garden is feeding minds and feeding bodies. Located in Deer Run Park, just west of Nashville, the garden was made possible by grant money offered by the Brown County Economic Development Commission. Parks and Recreation Board member Judy Henderson was among those who helped bring the idea to fruition. According to Henderson, when you live in Brown County, you are surrounded by trees and very little flat land. The food raised and harvested locally, and sloping, shaded yards make gardening difficult an opportunity to exercise. He hopes at best. the location of the garden will also help The idea for a community garden originated build awareness. from area residents’ shared frustration and “Th is is the county park, so everybody strong desire to grow their own food. comes here,” he says. The park is called Deer Run for a reason. To Increased concern about the health of keep the deer out, a 7-foot chain-link fence surour food supply is also fueling interest in rounds the garden. Currently, there are 30 indicommunity gardening. vidual plots, and they’re all full. “We’re seeing the imporTeepee structures made from tance of the foods that we sticks and twine offer vining vegeat,” Henderson says. “And everygies room to stretch. Corn keeps thing you buy is waxed or has been watch from the back of the garden. “It has built a lot in pesticides and herbicides. We’ve Amid the sunflowers and herbs, of community offered totally organic, but I think just about every summertime faspirit. You never you’ll fi nd that most of them out vorite grows here, from rhubarb come out here here, nobody is using anything.” to okra and watermelon. Narrow where there isn’t somebody Originally virgin soil, the land pathways divide the plots. Wide working in on which the garden sits was overswaths of grass divide each section. the garden.” grown with weeds just last year. “It has built a lot of community Judy Henderson Not set aside for anything in parspirit,” says Henderson. “You never BROWN COUNTY PARKS ticular, the land was an ideal locacome out here where there isn’t AND RECREATION BOARD MEMBER tion. somebody working in the garden.” “It’s a year’s garden right now,” Whenever there is an overabunsays gardener Dave Boeyink. “But dance of produce, it does not go to if we can manage it well in the fi rst waste. years, and make it a success, this The Brown County Literacy will be here for a long time.” Coalition and Mother’s Cupboard Community He says if the garden helps give people an opKitchen are actively involved with the project portunity to enjoy gardening and raise some and have their own plots this year. Excess provegetables, he will consider it a success. Boeyink duce is regularly donated to Mother’s Cupboard also acknowledges there is much work left to do. for its food bank. Smaller, raised-bed gardens may be introGardener Jeff Tryon says the community duced for individuals with mobility issues. garden offers a twofold benefit: an increased There are also compost bins to be built. focus on the locavore lifestyle, meaning eating
Mike Bube, foreground, Jeff Tryon and Judy Henderson work in the Brown County Community Garden. Excess produce is regularly donated to Mother’s Cupboard’s food bank.
According to Literacy Coalition Board member Mike Bube, the biggest challenge thus far has been maintaining the garden despite drought conditions. He says if it weren’t for the garden’s single hose, the vegetable plots would be in trouble. Despite weather-related frustration, Bube says it is the people he has come to know, and learn from, on this venture who make it all worth while. Everyone helps one another. For instance, if a gardener goes on vacation, someone will step up and offer to take care of her plot while she is gone. The garden has successfully helped grow a sense of community. And everyone involved hopes to see it expand with time. “If people would realize that we are on this fantastic trip around the sun and we just need to work together to make the best of the journey,” Bube says, “wouldn’t that make life all the better?” Registration for the 2013 garden has already begun. Individuals interested in renting a plot next year can contact Steve Bassett at 812-9885522 or visit www.bcparksrec.com.
➡ Mother Nature has dealt area producers a difficult hand at a critical time this growing season. For some cornfields there will be no grain harvested. For others only time will tell how much yields will be reduced. Purdue Extension specialists and educators have and will continue to provide timely information on ways to make the best of what the drought has caused. Much of this information is located online at our website, www3.ag.purdue. edu/counties/bartholomew. There you will see the link to the drought strategies website called “IN Drought.” The drought information is arranged by topic for livestock producers, crop producers and consumers. For those grain fields that do not have much of a prospect for grain harvest, there may be an opportunity for salvaging the crop for livestock forage. If the crop is insured, contacting the crop insurance agent is the first step in this process. If the crop is to be used for forage, nitrate toxicity is of concern. Producers wanting to check nitrate levels in drought-stressed crops can submit samples to the Purdue Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL) for nitrate analysis. Growers should submit at least 1 pound of silage in a paper sack along with their name and contact information. Cost of the analysis is $15 plus $10 accession fee. Contact information for the Purdue Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory is 406 S. University Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907; 765494-7440; www.addl.purdue.edu. For fields yet to be chopped for silage, samples of standing corn can be tested by taking 25 or more random stalks from throughout the field cut at intended harvest height, taking care to avoid field edges, ditches, abnormal stands or other areas different from the rest of the field that might affect the test. Stalks should be chopped up and submitted through the ADDL as with silage. Purdue Extension animal scientists Ron Lemenager, Mike Schutz and Tamilee Nennich and Extension forage specialist Keith Johnson have developed a couple of references for beef and dairy cattle producers. The references help to evaluate strategies for stretching feed supplies as well as considerations for alternative feed sources. The documents are located at https:// ag.purdue.edu/ansc/Pages/Drought.aspx and are titled “Beef Management Practices for Coping With a Short Forage Supply” and “Drought Strategies for Dairy Cattle.” If you are not able to access the website, please contact our office and I will be glad to assist you. Mike Ferree is the Purdue Extension educator – agriculture & natural resources, in Bartholomew County.
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
GROW MELONS Kamman family proud to be fourth generation farming in Jackson County BY DAN DAVIS | PHOTOS BY ANGELA JACKSON
➡ Growing, tending and harvesting watermelon, muskmelon, sweet corn and other fruits and vegetables is often back-breaking, sometimes heart-breaking, work. “We just don’t see that side of it at all,” Sue Kamman says of her husband, Mark, and herself. “We just have a passion for it,” he adds. “If you have a true passion for what you do, you don’t really work a day in your life.” But Mark and Sue — the third generation in both their families to raise melons in the glacial sand-rich hills near Vallonia in southern Jackson County — work hard and feel the stress when weather damages or kills their harvest. That’s true this growing season, one plagued early by late frosts and more recently by dry and hot, humid weather. “I think we’re just made for it,” Sue says of their lives tilling the soil and producing crisp, sweet watermelons and cantaloupes, which are actually muskmelons. Mark and Sue learned their occupation as children, working in the fields alongside their parents and grandparents. It’s an occupation they planned for as a team while students at Brownstown Central High School. “We were high school sweethearts, and we always knew what we wanted,” Mark says. “We started planning on starting a market and farming the family fields when we were in school.” They started producing their dream and their melons when Mark graduated in 1986. Sue graduated the next spring. GENERATIONS ON THE FARM Mark and Sue trace their families’ melon production roots to their grandparents. Her grandparents, Lawrence and Lottie Toppe, started raising melons south of Vallonia in the mid-1940s. Her other grandparents, Emmett and Hilda Nicholson, raised melons north of town. Her parents, Jack and Elizabeth Toppe, carried on the tradition. Elizabeth still helps out on the farm. She focuses on the family’s jacko’-lantern pumpkin crop each season. Victor and Norma Kamman, Mark’s grandparents, started planting melons near Vallonia about the same time. His parents, Lowell and Clara Kamman, followed them into the fields. The family’s fourth generation — Mark and Sue’s sons, Josh, 21, and Colby, 7, are hard at it, too. The farms were brought together with Mark and Sue’s marriage in 1987. Their retail farm market is on land that Sue’s family tilled for years.
HARD WORK Farm work never ends. The family plans and orders supplies in the winter months. Potting what few melon plants they still grow themselves starts in late March, and planting in the fields follows in late April. Much of that work is mechanized, but some hand-planting remains. Irrigating and replanting as needed come next, along with praying and hoping for the best as a six- to eightweek harvest approaches. The Kammans sell much of their watermelon and muskmelon crops at their farm market off Indiana 135 south of Vallonia, but they also work with wholesalers. “We’re basically on 24-hour call during harvest,” Mark says. “We have to pick and wash the melons and have them ready for our store, which really is our focus and priority, and we have to be ready to fill a truck (from wholesalers) at any time of the day or night, depending on their schedule.” The family produces an estimated 500,000 watermelons and 625,000 muskmelons on about 325 acres in a typical growing season, if there is such a thing. “We’re facing drought and hot weather this summer,” Mark says. “Last summer it was too much rain at the wrong time. Another year it was hail. Other years things work out great.” FOLLOWING THE LAW Federal farm and food regulations add to the work. Muskmelon plants are more fragile than watermelons and are more susceptible to heat stress and disease. They also require more care — and work — in handling. By law, the Kammans must wash muskmelons as part of USDA Good Agriculture Practice requirements before they can be marketed.
Mark Kamman (center) and his 7-year-old son, Colby, work with the crew in the melon fields. Below, Mark and Sue Kamman instruct employees about preparing the watermelons for packaging.
FARM INDIANA | August 2012
The Kamman family WHO Sue and Mark Kamman WHAT They produce watermelon, muskmelon, sweet corn and other fruits and vegetables WHERE On their farm in the Vallonia area FAMILY Their two sons, Josh, 21, and Colby, 7,
and Sue’s mother, Elizabeth Toppe, also help out on the farm IS IT RIPE?
Jackson County watermelon farmer Mark Kamman says he’s right about 90 percent of the time on whether a melon is ripe. “It’s an eye thing,” he says. Kamman watches for the sheen of watermelons to dull. “They’ll become more like a flat paint, and the stripes will broaden and dull.” He adds some people judge by the little curl or tendril where the melon sets on the plant. “If it’s dried out, it’s ready,” he says. As for muskmelon, Sue Kamman, his wife, suggests that consumers look for a purple tinge that the melons can develop. “That usually means the sugar content is high and it’s a good melon,” she says. “And I’ve never seen that purple on one that isn’t ripe,” Mark adds. FAST FACTS
About 70 percent of melons produced in Indiana and Illinois grow in and around Knox County, in southwestern Indiana, according to the Illiana Watermelon Association. Among the 50 states, Indiana ranked fifth in muskmelon and sixth in watermelon production in 2003, according to Purdue University. Combined, Hoosier farmers harvested 10,200 acres of melons in 2003, producing $34 million in revenue, Purdue reports. The majority of Hoosier melons are grown in Daviess, Gibson, Jackson, Knox and Sullivan counties, Purdue says. Some melons are also grown in Bartholomew County.
Watermelons lead the demand among melons. “Demand worldwide and in the U.S. is 10 to one for watermelons compared to others,” Kamman says. “There’s a huge demand.” And is that demand tilted more toward seeded or seedless melons? “By far, people want seedless watermelons,” Mark says. That consumer preference drives a change in how producers such as the Kammans raise their crops. Years ago, melon farmers started most if not all of their plants by seed in late winter for transplanting in the spring. Now, seed vendors almost require that producers buy plants directly from them. “They have better quality control for their products,” Mark says. The Kammans don’t mind. It’s less work, less cost and requires less space for starting melon plants. The family is among six or seven active producers in the Vallonia area, a number that’s down from 25 to 30 back in the 1950s, Mark estimates. “There’s not many of us left,” he adds. “Probably a quarter of what there used to be.” Those current half dozen producers are basically farming the same number of acres, however, if not a little more. “You have to have the volume to make any money,” Mark says. “And not a lot of people care to do this kind of work.”
According to the Indiana 2002 Ag Census, the Kammans were among 250 Hoosier farms involved in melon production. Those farmers produced $34 million in income on 3,000 acres of muskmelons and 7,200 acres of watermelons in 2003, according to Purdue University. Love and faith sustain the Kammans’ passion for their work. “Last year, it was too wet, but then God shut off the rain and we had a good crop,” Sue says. “It’s a rewarding thing we do. Watching the plants grow, produce their fruit and then picking it — we see the work of God up close every day.” “And it brings us closer as a family,” Mark adds. “We have a good family life.” The family works and struggles and celebrates together, Sue says. Is there anything else they’d rather do now instead? “No,” Sue says quickly and emphatically, her blue eyes fi xed as she shakes her head.
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
The Armand family, from left, Albert, Lexie, Will, Ellie and Diane.
IN THE LAND From livestock to pumpkins, Armand family sells only what it raises BY JENNIFER WILLHITE | PHOTOS BY ANGELA JACKSON
➡ Harper Valley Family Farms is a true family farm. Located on the western side of Decatur County, the 57-acre farm is owned by Albert and Diane Armand. Named for an 1800s railway station and depot built by a local business man named Harper, the farm sits on what was once the railway’s stockyard. In 1941, the construction of Jefferson Proving Ground forced Albert’s grandparents, Frank and Molly, to move from their home near Butlerville to Westport. The couple lived on and farmed the land across the road from where the Armands’ farm sits today. When Albert’s parents, George and Onalee, married, they also settled down on a 40-acre farm nearby. In 1980, while he was still in high school, Albert bought the land he and his family farm today. “We’ve been here forever,” says Albert, a 1985 graduate of Purdue University with a degree in agricultural economics. Diane, also a graduate of Purdue, says she grew up on a farm and never saw herself as one who would live on a farm as an adult. “I’ve got three brothers and sisters who have degrees in agricultural economics,” says Diane. “And I’m the only one who farms.”
The Armands, married since 1990, have been especially involved in their community over the years. They received the Hoosier Hospitality Award in 2004 for their work with agri-tourism. Nearly 100 percent no till, Albert’s farming techniques and use of products like Landoil have also earned him several conservation awards, including conservation farmer of the year for 2007. The couple have served on several area boards, including those associated with the Purdue Extension Office and the Decatur County Fair. Their daughters have also been involved with the South Decatur Future Farmers of America chapter. The Armand family has raised livestock for generations. According to Albert, the cow herd can be traced back to the 1940s, when his grandparents first moved to the area. He remembers his father saying he cannot recall a time when there weren’t hogs on the farm. The hogs and cattle are bred and raised in open areas with as many comforts as possible, from mud holes to lie in to misters in the buildings designed to keep them cool. According to Albert, most of their meat sales are conducted in the fall. He says if someone orders a pig, they deliver it to the locker for the customer. Likewise, beef orders also are delivered to a licensed locker for processing. Albert says his livestock is generally kept away from the public aspect of his farm for a couple of reasons. First, he doesn’t want to run the risk of the animals being accidentally exposed to disease. And, secondly, it is a matter of safety. “When you have livestock around, it can, on occasion, get through a gate or a fence,” he says. “And so it’s also a safety issue if we have too much livestock around where we have a crowd of people.” Prior to harvest one year, a lot of rain fell. Unable to regularly get into the fields to pick pumpkins for his wholesale customers, Albert harvested several pumpkins and built a pile beside the road. The stack of pumpkins, and ease with which he could load them onto his truck for delivery, inadvertently drew the attention of passersby. “People started stopping by and saying, ‘Hey, can we buy a pumpkin?’” Albert says. “And the next thing we know, we have a sign that says, ‘Pumpkins $1.50 a piece.’”
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The crowd and demand grew exponentially. Short on pumpkins one year, Diane asked people if they would mind going out into the field to see if there were any pumpkins out there they’d like to purchase. The next thing the Armands knew, there were cars coming the next year just to go to the field. The crowds became so large, they invested in a few garden carts for those who wanted to walk back through the field. “Next thing we know, we’ve got enough people coming that we can no longer let cars go to the field,” Albert says. “We have a fleet of yellow yard wagons.” The Armands’ pumpkin patch officially opened in 1994. Albert’s business ventures haven’t ended there. He is a dealer of Landoil, a soybean product, used to improve the penetration of herbicides on weeds and insects, while reducing the chemical drift associated with herbicide use. He is also a distributor of HubbardWayne Feeds, based in Ohio. “I see a lot of opportunities in farming in the future,” he says. “We have the local food movement giving small operations more opportunities to grow their incomes on small acreages.” The Armands participate in several area farmers markets, including Columbus and Greensburg. He says his wife and daughters, Ellie and Lexie, work at the markets while he stays home to harvest more crops. Although he doesn’t get to attend the markets as much as he’d like, Albert says when he does go, he sees a pattern. “I see a lot of people that aren’t buying so much because it is local but because they get a better quality product, a better flavored product than what they normally get in the store,” he says. “That isn’t to downplay the role of the supermarket, but when you come to the farmers market, you are going to get something that has a little different flavor and is a little fresher than what you normally find in stores.” According to Albert, most farmers want to sell a product they would be proud to put on their own table. He says he and his family approach things the same way when they participate in area markets. “When you walk up to our booth, regardless of where you’re at, if you see something for sale in our booth it was either grown by us or a member of our family,” Albert says. Of the Armands’ three children, Will enjoys everything about farming and hopes to one day continue to farm like his father. Their oldest daughter, Ellie, says most of her work on the farm has been concentrated in the produce operation. Planting, picking and marketing produce have been her main area of focus during the summer months. “When I was younger, it frustrated me that I had to spend my weekends and breaks working on the farm,” she says. “In the end,
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
The Armand family WHO Albert
though, growing up on the farm has provided me with many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.” Currently a student at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Ellie says she doesn’t see herself making a career in farming. Instead, she hopes to one day work in advertising. Both Lexie, 16, and Will, 13, agree it is the authentic farm experience that brings people back to Harper Valley Family Farms year after year. “They know we grow all our products,” says Lexie. “If they come to the pumpkin patch, they are on a real functioning farm where they can see where everything was grown.”
Albert acknowledges that the local food movement has affected the area agricultural economy. He says the movement is enabling local farmers to increase their income using less land, while offering area consumers a fresh, tastier product. He considers it a winwin for all involved. And his family’s farm is just one of many making a difference. “This is a true family farm where you will find most of the people who are here working and the owners have some kind of a blood tie,” Albert says. “My hope is that we see an increasing opportunity for younger people to return to the family farm, as the rest of us continue to age.”
and Diane Armand
produce corn, soybeans, wheat, squash, hay and pumpkins. Their livestock consists of pigs and cattle.
the west side of Decatur County near
Westport. FAMILY Daughters, Ellie, 19, and Lexie, 16; and a son, Will, 13.
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
MID-CONTRACT MANAGEMENT FOR
Conservation Reserve Program BY TROY HILL
➡ Conservation Reserve Program policy requires newly enrolled participants, starting with General Signup 26, to do some type of “disturbance” to certain CRP practices during the life of the contract to benefit wildlife, especially bobwhite quail. Now is the time to begin planning performance of this practice where required. In this article I will discuss one of the primary Mid-Contract Management options available: strip disking. Normally, MCM activities are conducted between the fourth and seventh year of the contract. However, on land with existing cover, disturbance activities can begin as soon as technically feasible. Once established, grassland fields need to be managed so that grasses do not crowd out the forbs and/or legumes over time. In the absence of disturbance, the composition of grassland communities will change over several years through normal plant succession. The vegetative structure changes as annual forbs and legumes are replaced by perennial forbs, grasses and eventually, woody plants. Changes also occur structurally, as bare ground declines, litter accumulates and vegetation density increases. These changes lead to a decline in wildlife benefits. The purpose of Mid-Contract Management activities is to enhance the wildlife habitat value of the enrolled acres by increasing the amount of bare soil under the grass canopy and by encouraging a diverse forb/legume community. Forbs (any broadleaf plant) and legumes in grasslands are beneficial to birds, insects such as butterflies and other wildlife. Strip
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Many of these species have experienced nced population declines over the last severall decades. Disking enhances habitat qualityy because it inhibits woody growth, promotes otes favored seed producing plants, reduces plant residue, increases bare ground, and increases insect abundance.
and manufacturer’s label rates will be followed when applying herbicides.
CONSIDERATIONS Strip disking should be planned for the least erosive parts of fields and not in places where gully formation is a problem. CAUTION: Disking in the late fall on highly erosive sites may cause erosion to occur over the winter months. Consider broadcasting one-half bushel of winter wheat per acre to reduce erosion potential. Consider seeding a mixture of forbs and legumes into areas that have been strip disked. See NRCS CRP Program Job Sheet Mid-Contract Management: Interseeding http://www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/CRP/crphomepage.html for additional guidance. Consider spot-spraying areas in advance of disturbance where noxious weeds, such as Canada thistle and Johnsongrass, or other invasive species, such as Reed Canarygrass, exist. This will reduce the potential for unintentional establishment of these species by disking. Consider the habitat needs of the target wildlife species. Areas disked in late summer or early fall will tend to stimulate the production of hard-seeded plants such as common ragweed. These species provide excellent brood-rearing cover and winter food for quail and pheasants. Disking in low, wet areas currently dominated by sedges should be avoided because these areas often add additional plant diverMAXIMUM AREA TO BE DISTURBED Table 1 sity to the site. CP21 CP33 ALL OTHER CP PRACTICES Where the existing vegeta½3 of the area ½3 of the area tion is extremely thick, tall, or 5 ACRES OR MORE each of 3 years each of 3 years ½ of the area each rank, consider first using preof 2 years, or total scribed burns, herbicides, or area in 1 year ½ of the area each ½ of the area mowing on those areas where 5 ACRES OR LESS of 2 years, or each of 2 years disking will be performed. total area in 1 year Landowners should be wary of tile blowholes, groundhog holes, fallen tree limbs and other hazards or shrubs is not allowed. disking is an effective management tool that that may have developed since they were Disking operations will not be percan be utilized where vegetation has become last in the field. formed from March 1 through July 15 for too thick to benefit the target species. After strip disking is complete, consider contracts prior to 2007, and from April 1 Disking is especially helpful for mainplanting wheat at a rate of one bushel per through Aug. 1 for contracts starting in taining brood-rearing habitat for bobwhite acre. In addition to adding food and habitat 2008, to protect the primary nesting period quail, wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant structure, wheat may suppress grass growth for grassland bird species. It is also recomand other early successional grassland and increase forbs resulting in longer-term mended, but is not required, to delay diskwildlife species. wildlife benefits. ing until after Aug. 15 to reduce the chance The insects associated with annual weed Cost share assistance is available for perof harming fledgling birds and other young communities provide critical nutrients, informing your management practices. Folwildlife. cluding protein, and essential amino acids lowing the above guidelines should ensure Strip disking operations will be perfor growing nestlings and chicks. Reduced proper maintenance, offer control of unformed along field contours, or across the plant residue, along with bare ground, are wanted vegetation and enhance the wildlife slope, when practical. also critical for young chick mobility in benefits of the practice. Contact your local Erosion from disked strips will not exgrassland areas. FSA office for further advice or clarification. ceed tolerable limits. The structural diversity that results from Troy Hill is county executive director Strips will parallel brushy or woody esdisking also improves habitat for a variety of Bartholomew County Farm Service cape cover when feasible. of grassland songbirds, including dickcisAgency. All federal, state and local guidelines sels, bobolinks and savannah sparrows. SPECIFICATIONS The following are specifications for strip disking on CRP acreage: Grassland fields must be established for a minimum of three years before initiating strip disking, and strips will not be disked more than once in a two-year period. Table 1 shows the maximum amount of area that can be disturbed by Mid-Contract Management activities in a given number of years. However, to maximize wildlife benefits, participants may opt to perform MCM on one-third of the area each of three years if they so choose. Strip disking will be avoided on environmentally sensitive areas including: • Concentrated flow areas • Critical areas • Acreage within the first 20 feet of a practice that borders a water resource to avoid water quality resource concerns • Other areas where gully erosion is likely Environmentally sensitive areas will be marked on the plan map to ensure MidContract Management activities are avoided on these areas. Disking of grassed waterways, riparian forest buffers or areas planted to trees and/
Congratulations to all 4-H participants on all your hard work and dedication!
➡ Calling all agricultural enthusiasts! Check out Greensburg’s Power of the Past. Founded in 1989, the club was organized to preserve agricultural history and heritage. The club’s 550 members are collectors of antique machinery, including tractors, combines and cultivators, used in days gone by. Members gather once a year, during the third weekend in August, at the Decatur County Fairgrounds in Greensburg. The event is intended to showcase antique farming equipment and educate people about the history, social and technological contributions made by the farming community. According to its website, the club’s mission is “to preserve a part of our heritage for all generations and historians to enjoy.” The event draws agricultural enthusiasts from all over the United States. Attendees may attend demonstrations and talks or just wander around the nearly 50 acres of exhibits, flea markets and vendor booths. Th is year’s event will be held Aug. 16 to 19. “We call it the annual reunion of people, collectors who get together to swap stories and talk about what they are fi nding and collecting,” says President Tom Cherry. “Back when this started, the collection and restoration of tractors and machinery was a little easier.” At one time, Cherry says, fence rows all over the country were the resting place of abandoned, broken and worn-out tractors and machinery. But that was years ago. Anymore, he says it is rare to fi nd such treasures since scrap prices have increased, and many collectors have already rescued most of the old machinery worth restoring. Jill Fuel, treasurer, has been involved with the club for nearly 20 years. She fi nds the most enjoyment from the stories members tell. “I enjoy seeing the pride people have on their faces when they talk about the equipment they own,” she says. “A lot of older people can tell some great stories about using the equipment growing up.” Fuel says the organization plays an important role in the community by showing young people pieces of history they may otherwise only read about in textbooks. Acknowledging the group has consistently grown over the years, she says they try to add something new every year. Each year, different pieces of machinery are featured. Th is year will spotlight an Oliver & Case tractor, Case & Reeves steam engine and a Hercules hit & miss engine. Individuals interested in showing a piece of equipment are encouraged to do so. They must register upon arrival at the fairgrounds and pay a $5 membership fee. Opening this year’s event will be a benefit breakfast to kick off the weekend. Scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday, tickets are $20 in advance and may be purchased at the fairgrounds and the Decatur County Community Foundation on the square in downtown Greensburg. According to Cherry, Power of the Past hosts one of the biggest consignment auctions around for agricultural items. Additional events include a toy show; fiddle contest; and bluegrass, old country and gospel music. Primitive and non-primitive camping is also available. Proceeds from Power of the Past’s annual events are given back to the community through several charitable organizations, including the Decatur County Future Farmers of America, the Wishard Burn Center in Indianapolis and Hospice of Decatur County. For additional information, contact Tom Cherry at 812-593-8977 or online at greensburgpowerofthepast.com.
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012
Calendar of events
At the fair
JULY 25-28 Jackson County Fair, Brownstown. JULY 28 Reeves Pancake Breakfast, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the historic Breeding Farm. This year’s event will feature a silent auction, tours of the Breeding home, music, crafts and games for the whole family, plus an all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage meal. Tickets $10 in advance at the Bartholomew County History Center, 524 Third St., and $12 day of the breakfast. Children 9 and under $5. For directions and more information: 372-3541 or bartholomewhistory.org. JULY 30–AUG. 4 Brown County Fair, Nashville. JULY 28 Area I Tractor/Lawn Garden Contest, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Decatur County Fairgrounds, 545 S. Road 200W, Greensburg. Information: Heather Millett, 812-663-8388, hmillett@ purdue.edu. AUG. 2-5 The Pioneer Engineers Club annual reunion, Caldwell Pioneer Acres, 3 miles south of Rushville just off Indiana 3. $5 for all four days. Camping information: erhurst@yahoo. com; reunion information: www.pioneerengineers.com or Brian Vaughn, 812-346-7640.Aug. 3-19 — Indiana State Fair. Information: www.in.gov/statefair/fair/index.html.
Kenna Maschino, 9, wins Grand Champion in the Dairy Heifer division at the Jennings County Fair. PHOTO BY MADELINE HODEK
AUG. 16-19 Greensburg Power of the Past machinery show. Decatur County Fairgrounds. Information: greensburgpowerofthepast.com. AUG. 17-18 Jackson County Rodeo. 7:30 p.m., Plumer Hay Farm, 2746 E. Road 800N. Information: Laura, 812-569-4414.
Marcella Whipker refills the water bowls in the chicken pens at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair.
Cody Schoettmer, 8, of Greensburg rides his ATV through the water trap during the timed obstacle course at the Decatur County Fair.
PHOTO BY MADELINE HODEK
PHOTO BY GREG JONES
AUG. 18 Versailles Lions Club Farm Equipment and Consignment Sale. 9 a.m., Ripley County Fairgrounds, Osgood. Will begin accepting consignment items Aug. 4 (absolutely no household goods). To consign: 812-571-4115. OCT. 24-27 National FFA Convention, Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis.
Home food preservation classes Do you enjoy or want to learn about canning and freezing fruits and vegetables, making homemade jams and jellies, trying your hand at pickling foods? You have an opportunity to take the Master Food Preserver course. Purdue Extension Central District is offering a series of classes on safe food preservation techniques through the Master Food Preserver Program in Franklin. Purdue Extension Area VI Consumer & Family Science Educators will provide the instructional course work and preservation labs. The Master Food Preserver course will be offered in Area VI on the following dates from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Scott Hall on the Johnson County Fairgrounds, 100 Fairgrounds St., Franklin. Aug. 15 — Food Safety & Freezing Food Aug. 22 — Boiling Water Process Aug. 29 — Pressure Canning Sept. 5 — Pickling and Drying Foods Sept. 12 — Jams and Jellies Each session consists of lecture including hands-on laboratory food preservation activities. Participants will take home some product from each lab session. For more information or to register: Linda Souchon, firstname.lastname@example.org, 317736-3724. Cost is $130 for the five-day course and includes Master Food Preserver Notebook, preservation resource and lab materials. Deadline for registration is 4:30 p.m. Aug. 3. Class size is limited to seven people.
Mineral rights workshop Min
Indiana Farm Bureau will host “Mineral Rights: Ind Knowing Your Rights Underground,” for those Know interested in learning more about the laws and intere regulations affecting mineral extraction. regula “Although Indiana has a long history of mineral “A extraction, some recent developments have extrac increased the need for landowners to carefully increa evaluate and understand the agreements they evalu enter into,” said Mark Thornburg, director of IFB’s legal affairs team. The seminar, held Aug. 2 at Vincennes Th University, will offer landowners a look at Unive regulations, land leasing tips, and how to protect regul personal rights, among other topics. Shale perso development activity, coal bed methane gas d considerations, and carbon dioxide and natural consi gas sstorage opportunities will all be covered. The program will be focused toward the Th interest of landowners; however, attorneys who intere represent landowners may find the information repre beneficial. In addition, continuing legal education bene credits are being sought for the program. credi The Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation and CountryMark Cooperative are seminar partners. Cost of the program is $10. For more information contact Maria Spellman at 317-692-7840. Visit www.infarmbureau.org, under the Events menu to register.
Indiana Farm Bureau’s “Drainage School,” a seminar focusing on Indiana drainage issues, will take place on Aug. 29 at IFB’s home office in downtown Indianapolis. The seminar’s purpose is to promote an understanding of the laws and regulations that control drainage laws and dispute resolutions. It is open to farmers, public officials, agency personnel, attorneys and members of the public. Continuing education credit is being sought for attorneys. This year’s seminar features federal and local regulatory issues, funding and wetlands. Sessions include assessing benefits and damages, federal jurisdiction and concerns for agriculture. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.; the program runs from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Lunch is provided. Registration will be accepted until Aug. 10 or until the program is filled, whichever comes sooner. Those interested are encouraged to register early due to limited space. Registration is not complete without payment, and there will be no refunds after Aug. 10. Registration is $50 and can be found online at www.infarmbureau.org under the Events menu. Anyone with questions may contact Maria Spellman, 317-692-7840 or mspellman@ infarmbureau.org.
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FARM INDIANA | August 2012