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January 2013 | Section A

PHOto by sevil mahfoozi

George Corya grows soybeans on his farm in Commiskey.

The drought of 2012 was bad, but for most farmers, it won’t steer them off-course By Barney Quick

It was the kind of year that tests a farmer’s resilience. The drought began in February and reached its peak on Aug. 7. Approximately 63 percent of the continental United States was in some stage of drought as of early December. The relentless heat wave of 2012 devastated crop yields, particularly corn. George Corya, a Jennings County farmer, said his 2012 corn crop was “one of the worst we’ve ever raised.” Father and son farmers Norman and Steve Duke of Bargersville concur. Steve expects corn availability to become an issue in the new year. As does Evan Clouse of Hope. “In my 28 years of farming I’ve never seen anything like it,” Clouse said. “I’ve talked to farmers who have been at it 60 years, and they say the same thing.” The state’s best 2012 corn yields could be found in the northwest district and the worst in the southwest. South-central Indiana fell in between, and there was variation within the area, given factors such as elevation and soil composition, as well as the tendency of any rain to appear as short-lived, isolated cells. “Surprisingly, all our crops turned out really good,” said Albert Armand of Westport. “We did have a 20-acre farm that probably only got 25 to 50 bushels per acre. It sits on rolling ground. I think overall, for the year, we will be slightly under average, but we had areas that were above what we’d normally expect.” Armand’s relative good fortune, he says, is because of his land: “We happen to be sitting on some ground that holds moisture well. We also had a couple of timely rains that got us over the hump.” Armand’s operation is also diversified. It includes corn, soybeans, wheat, 10 acres of pumpkins, four acres each of sweet corn and mixed vegetables, as well as hogs and cattle. Armand had his cattle on pasture most of the year, although he did supplement it with “a little hay,” he says. Corya says he fed silage to his cattle from the second week in June until the second week in September. “We’re back to pasturing our cattle,” he added. Steve Duke says that late rains enabled his pastures to come back from drought damage. “In late July, they were just about smoked,” he said. “We were about to start using hay. If the rain hadn’t come, we would have seen long-term effects.” Because the weather normalized somewhat in August, soybeans seemed to have fared better. Corya says his yield was “better than we expected.” Duke says that his bean yield “was still reduced. Beans planted in May had close to a normal yield. Varieties planted in early April took it the worst.” Clearly, crop insurance is playing a bigger role in the farming business than usual as the figures for 2012 are tabulated. Some area operations will rely on it more than others, and there are two main types — crop revenue coverage (CRC) and group risk income protection (GRIP) — each of which has particular implication for a farm’s finances.

PHOto by angela jackson

Will Armand, 12, cuts zucchini at his family's farm in Westport.

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

2012 recap // cont. from A1 CRC insurance multiplies the five-year average of an individual farm’s yields by either the current year’s base price or harvest price, whichever is higher, to determine a revenue guarantee. It pays an indemnity if the current year’s yield falls below the revenue guarantee. GRIP insurance pays producers based on a negative discrepancy between countywide average yields and a trigger revenue established by the insured farmer. Clouse carries CRC insurance. “We’ve never collected before, and it’s rather expensive,” he said. “We almost didn’t take it this year, but our agent talked us into it.” Corya has GRIP insurance. “We carry it because we’re a rather large operation, but most of our crop is in a concentrated area,” he explains. “We won’t know until March 15, when

“Beans planted in May had close to a normal yield. Varieties planted in early April took it the worst.” —Steve Duke

Editor's Note You don’t know me. And I don’t know you. But it’s high time we met. I, Sherri Dugger, have been an editor for Home News Enterprises since July 2009. Thanks to my position here, I’ve had the chance to get to know people all over Indianapolis and, really, throughout the state. I’ve written and edited stories that interested and inspired me. Over the years, because of my work, I’ve grown as an editor. I’ve also, as we all do, changed in some more personal ways. A few years ago, I very haphazardly began a love affair with backyard gardening. My first garden was small and successful, with crispy, crunchy green beans, plump tomatoes and sun-ripened yellow squash as my rewards. The second year, the garden grew. I added pepper plants, here. More varieties of tomato plants, there. And a patch of sweet potato plants in the back, for good measure. This past summer, the garden grew again, to as large as my city lot would allow: 1,600 square feet. I had multiples and varieties and weeds, more weeds than I could handle. But spending hours in the sun, pulling those weeds, connected me back to the earth in ways I’d never imag-

ined before. I found peace out there and quiet, windswept moments of happiness. Not to mention the good taste that came from all that was growing back there. With each garden, I’ve grown, too, right along with my plants. I’ve learned about dirt and disease and plant pests and nature. I’ve honed in on what works well and what doesn’t in our Hoosier soils. And I’ve learned that I want to know more. My husband and I recently purchased a 100-year-old farmhouse with acreage attached, and you can bet my garden’s going to double, triple or maybe even quadruple in size. I hope my knowledge does, too. So when Farm Indiana first saw print here at Home News, you can imagine how quickly — and irreversibly — it caught my attention. As a budding gardener and an aspiring small-time farmer, I wanted to be involved. Regularly, I would volunteer my services to Doug Showalter, who was managing Farm Indiana from the start. He would throw me a story assignment here or there and allow me the opportunity to get to know the farmers and growers in our state. I was thrilled with each new assignment. Every interview and every conversation I had, it seemed, taught me some bit of information that I could put toward my own growing efforts. Each story also introduced me to folks who inspired me, the Hoosiers who had paved the way for my newfound obsessions. As luck would have it, and as life sometimes has it, things around the Home News offices changed one day. My boss, Chuck Wells, called me into his office to announce that I would be taking over editing for Farm Indiana. It was tough, I tell you, to keep from jumping out of my seat. The aim of this monthly publication is to offer the local news and views of Indiana’s farming world, to feature local families and their homesteads and to showcase businesses, equipment and technological advances in the trade. But I want it to be so much more. Over the coming months — and years, I hope — I aim to make Farm Indiana a publication made just for you. I want it to accurately reflect and celebrate your lives, your lifestyles and your passions. And, I guess, if I’m to be honest, I’m hoping there’s a little something in it for me. As I edit these stories and interview some of you myself, I’m going to be paying close attention. I’m convinced, you see, that each of you can teach me a thing or two (or three).

PHOto by mark freeland

Steve Duke inspects the roots of plants in a soybean field.

county yield averages are released, whether we have coverage, so we’ll have some sleepless nights this winter.” The Dukes in Johnson County are likewise covered by the GRIP program. “I think it will pay out a lot, but we won’t know until February 15,” Steve said. Farmers, who tend to stick with their occupation throughout their lifetimes and often keep the same perspectives as previous generations of farmers, take the long view of aberrations like the 2012 growing season. “I think most operations will regard it as a bump in the road,” Armand said. *FI

Comments, story ideas and suggestions should be sent to Sherri Lynn Dugger, The Republic, 333 Second St., Columbus, IN 47201, call (812) 379-5608 or email farmindiana@hnenewspapers.com. For advertising information, call (812) 379-5690. ©2013 by Home News Enterprises. All rights reserved. Reproduction of stories, photographs and advertisements without permission is prohibited.

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

Columbus cooperative Premier Cos. finds its true value in quality customer service By Brenda showalter Large, framed photos lining the walls in the conference room of Premier Cos. in Columbus make it clear how leaders of the 85-yearold business view its mission. A brick wall represents integrity; a concrete path, leadership; mints on a pillow, customer service; an assortment of gears, cooperation; and a bowl spilling over with seed, profit. General Manager Harold Cooper said the cooperative, primarily serving the agricultural community, has made changes over the years, but remains committed to its patrons. Founded in 1927, Premier Cos. began as Premier Ag in Bartholomew County and now serves an area from Indianapolis to Seymour to Cincinnati with its main market area in Bartholomew, Johnson and Decatur counties. Services range from helping farmers find the highest price for their grain through constant monitoring of markets to analyzing

fields to determine the best and most efficient use of farmland. Today’s Premier Ag division is the leading seed supplier in southeast Indiana, while also providing fertilizer and other farm chemicals and expertise on their application. Customer service is more than a catchphrase around the office. Cooper believes the success of the cooperative and its employees, customers and members depends on it. “I want to instill a sense of shared value that means more than just trying to be the best ag supplier in southeast Indiana,” Cooper said. “What means something to me is focusing on the customer and customer success.” Cooper also is a firm believer in the cooperative business model where members — called patron owners at Premier Cos. — own a small portion of the company. Patrons must be involved in farming and

PHOtos by joey leo

ke and Mike Carson

Daryl Dra Mark Canary, Harold Cooper,

purchase a $5 share. The benefits include having ready access to the cooperative’s programs and services. “You have an ownership,” Cooper said. “It makes a difference in the price you receive and the availability of services.” But others also benefit from having a cooperative in a community. Premier Energy, a division of Premier Cos., for example, sells propane fuel to any residential or business customer, providing competitive pricing and flexible payment options. The cooperative also operates CountryMark

gas stations, two in Greensburg and one in Harrison, Ohio, which sell fuel to the public.

Moving Forward

The cooperative has about 2,000 patrons and, financially, is on solid ground with no long-term debt. The board is considering growth options, but wants to move cautiously in a subdued economy, Cooper said. One of the biggest changes in the last decade has been for the cooperative to get out of the grain-handling business. Premier Cos.

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

used to own business property at the busy intersection of Second and State streets in Columbus, including grain storage bins and the adjacent gas station. Disaster struck in June 2008 when floodwaters submerged the area. The buildings and bins were damaged and grain ruined, and the board decided to sell the property. Premier Cos. also decided later to remove grain bins from its locations in Hope, Trafalgar, Franklin and Letts. Cooper said he still gets questions about the grain business and the Second Street property and is constantly spreading the word about the cooperative’s move to a renovated building on South Marr Road in Columbus and its refocused efforts for farmers. Much of the work is one-on-one, either in the office or in the field, depending on the types of services needed.

Cooper, who has been with Premier Cos. for 12 years, places a high value on serving the farmers in a way that provides the most value.

Lessening The Load

Daryl Drake, vice president of Premier Ag’s Grain Division, tracks fluctuations of 25 grain markets from television and computer screens surrounding his desk at the Columbus office. Determining when and where to sell and how to get the grain to the market are just some of the questions farmers face even after they’ve completed a challenging growing season and harvest. “We can take that work load off of them,” said Drake, who can help with the timing and logistics issues. Drake and his co-workers have expertise in how the grain markets work and spend their days looking for the best prices for co-op patrons.

Drake said Premier Ag also has built relationships with truckers by helping match farmers with someone who can take their grain to the market. Area business and residential customers also can benefit from the cooperative’s constant watch of propane fuel prices to help them secure savings on heating bills. Mike Carson, vice president of the energy division, said customers can lock in a price during the summer and make payments during the winter months. Workers also help monitor fuel levels of propane tanks to help customers avoid being in a situation where they run too low and need an emergency delivery — although 24/7 help is available. Cooper believes strongly in the cooperative working hand-in-hand with the farmers to help them be successful. One way is to help

them maximize the use of their land. “I’m extremely proud of what the American farmer does,” Cooper said. “We have the cheapest, safest, most abundant source of food in the world.” At the same time, he added, the farmer usually owns his land and doesn’t want to hurt what he owns. He only wants to use the proper amount of chemical and fungicides and no more. The cooperative offers a Trax Crop Management System that has its employees work with farmers to analyze their fields using databases, yield mapping and other technology along with field observation to ensure each acre is being used to its potential. Emily Stewart, Premier Ag sales and marketing employee with the Trax system, said after an analysis is complete, a farmer might be given a variety of information, including soil results, field history, fertilizer recommendations and a five-year plan. “Our focus is on growth and how we can drive more production,” said Mike Canary, Premier Ag’s vice president of the agronomy division. Through Trax, Cooper said, the cooperative wants to better understand the emerging and changing needs of farmers. In the end, Cooper hopes farmers will see that Premier Cos. is focused on them and the future. “Ultimately, we want them to see that we do care,” he said. “We’re doing things to help them be more successful.” *FI

Divisions: Premier Ag, Premier Energy, Heyob Energy and Countrymart. Focus: Supplies and services in the agricultural and energy sectors, including liquid fuel, propane, seed, fertilizers, crop protection, grain merchandising, retail fuel and supplies. Headquarters: 785 S. Marr Road, Columbus Other locations: Crops offices in Hope, Franklin, St. Paul, Greensburg and Trafalgar; CountryMark Fuel Station and Countrymart, Greensburg; Heyob Energy, Harrison, Ohio. Employees: 100 companywide, about 25 in Bartholomew County. Co-op patron owners: 2,000. Information: 379-9501 or premierag.com.

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FAMILY FARMS

Three generations of Elliotts work to keep their dairy farm afloat story & photos By marcia walker Life on the Elliott dairy farm has changed a lot since the 1950s, when a bucket and scales were used to weigh the milk and the individual who tested the samples spent the night with the family to be on hand at 4 a.m. for the first milking. These days, milk samples are sent to a lab in Iowa, the results sent back via email. What hasn’t changed, though, is that for the Elliotts, the day still begins around 4 a.m. The Elliott dairy farm, just down the road from Tampico, is about as far south as you can get in Jackson County, spread out over the bottoms of the Muscatatuck River. Brothers Francis and Harry took over the farm from their father, Richard, in the 1960s, but the two claim it was their mother, Ethel, who is responsible for the dairy. They say she brought dairy cows with her when the couple married. “Mom had five or six cows on her farm,” Francis said. “When they got married, they brought them here and sold cream. Dad (had) Angus and hogs. He never did really get into the dairy end of it.” Operating a dairy appealed to their mom, and it appealed to Francis and Harry, as well. Francis recalls that one of his teachers told his mother that “if he didn’t have farming on his mind, he’d probably get pretty good grades.” “Going to school and all, that’s (farming was) all we thought about,” Harry said. Graduates of Tampico High School, the brothers now work the ground where they were born and raised. They have never earned a living anywhere else. “Neither of us has punched a time clock,” Francis said. “Our wages have always been here at the farm.” The Elliotts started with about 20 Jersey cattle, but in 1946, they lost most of those animals to disease, forcing them to nearly start over from scratch. Undeterred, they brought in 22 head from Wisconsin: 15 Guernseys and seven Holsteins. Through the years, the brothers added to the herd, and by

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1975, they were milking around 80 cows. Today, about 200 cows make the trip through the milking parlor twice a day, primarily Holsteins, they say, with a few Jerseys mixed in. The Elliott farm is relatively small in size. Francis said larger dairies may milk as many as 1,000 cows. “We don’t have any desire to get into higher numbers,” he said. It takes about 3½ hours to milk the cows and an2021 E. Road 700S, Brownstown other half-hour to clean up. Then there’s time spent Owners: Francis and Lavonda Elliott and feeding, watering and Harry and Rita Elliott maintaining the herd. For years, the task of milking Size: 380 to 400 acres of corn; 110 acres fell to the wives, Lavonda of hay; 100 acres of soybeans; 40 acres of and Rita, while Harry and pasture; 200 head of dairy cattle Francis took care of the field work. The Elliotts also raise corn, soybeans and hay. Today, other family members, as well as part-time workers, lend a hand. The family jokes that Rita and Lavonda are retired from milking and that Harry and Francis now have time to take afternoon naps. Harry and Rita’s son, Brian, is heavily involved with the operation. He brings the family into the computer age, they say, by collecting data on each of the cows.

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

| Elliott dairy farm |

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PHOtos by marcia walker

1. Zackary Ellerman checks on one of the calves, which he helps bottle feed. During October, 30 calves were born. 2. Kim Ellerman prepares to attach a milking claw to one of the Holsteins. 3. Jakub Kozisek is one of several high school students who work part time for the Elliotts. 4. The Elliotts’ dairy farm in southern Jackson County. 5. (opposite page, from left) Lavonda, Francis, Rita and Harry Elliott.

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

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Lavonda Elliott’s recipe for

“Brian, he’s our recordkeeper,” Francis said. Janette Elliott, daughter of Francis and Lavonda, has a full-time job but helps out before work and on her days off. Her sister, Kim Ellerman, works full time at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour but helps milk the cows on weekends. Both say they enjoy the work because it offers a change of pace from their other jobs. “To me, it’s a family business; how many family farms are left?” Janette said, when asked what keeps her motivated. “I enjoy being a part of the family business.” Francis Elliott is uncertain about the future of that business. His three daughters and Harry’s three sons all work other jobs. He said the business is not as profitable as it was when he and Harry started out, and other jobs offer better benefits, such as pension plans and insurance. Of the seven grandchildren, at least one shows strong signs of keeping the operation going. Zackary Ellerman, 12, lives with his family in Seymour, where he attends Seymour Middle School. He visits his grandparents’ home whenever he can, even spending his summers on the farm. “It’s a lot of fun,” Zackary said, while giving a tour of the shed where feed is mixed. He admits, though, that it takes a lot of work to keep the farm going. Janette Elliott is not worried about the future. She has no doubts that the business will survive. “It will be here,” she said, “with the generations coming on and the family to help.” *FI

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

By barney quick

More than droughts affect farmers’ gains

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

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year like 2012 imbues the year that follows it with an exceptional degree of uncertainty. “The word you want to start listening for in discussions of how things are going to unfold is ‘if,’” said Chris Hurt, Purdue University agricultural economics professor. The “if ” applies to several factors, like whether drought conditions will persist in coming years or, conversely, if weather will finally normalize. It might also

litical, environmental and individual factors, it’s anyone’s guess as to what this year will bring for your average farmer. Area farmers are generally staying the course, regardless of the many mitigating factors. “Our game plan will stay the same as far as crop rotation,” says Jay Hatton of Decatur County. Evan Clouse, who farms near Hope, likewise intends to maintain a 50-50 rotation between corn and soybeans.

Going Global

The array of factors influencing farmers’ strategies continues to expand. “It’s a world market today,”

pertain to if weather elsewhere in the world is favorable (which would affect prices for various crops) and to political agendas, such as if Congress passes a farm bill and what form that bill takes.  Then there are individual factors for farmers that will further raise or lower profit margins for coming years. These factors, Hurt says, can result in an “extreme” range in the economic fortunes of individual farms. Some farmers may have had such low yields this past year that increased prices can’t compensate; others may engage in forward-selling, which carries with it risks that can impact economic outcomes. Some farmers have crop insurance (two types are available, which can compensate for lost profits in differing ways); and still other farmers have livestock, and they face rising feed costs that other farmers can avoid. Essentially, considering global, po-

says Hatton. “We need to look at things globally. You can’t just look out your back door and measure the rain.” Hurt notes that Argentina, in contrast to the U.S., has had an abundance of rain, making it a major player in soybean production. South America overall, Hurt says, “will dominate prices by winter. That continent has new acreage coming on.” He says that former Soviet republics such as Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have “more land in production,” and that all these developments are impacting export sales. “It’s just now becoming apparent how much the world can produce.” “We even have to pay attention to political events,” says Hatton, making specific mention of the absence of an updated federal farm

bill. “Will Congress take money out of conservation programs? Will the structure of crop insurance be changed?” Hurt feels that money that some legislators had anticipated dedicating to farm bill programs will be diverted to other budgetary uses.

Individual Concerns

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Food for Thought

A little closer to home, the past year’s weather conditions will influence farmers’ decisions. Some might decide to hang on to last year’s crop (particularly corn), or at least some part of it, to see how prices behave going into this year. Hurt says that if corn yields are in the normal range this year, there will probably be a drop in the U.S. average price to around $5.50 a bushel. “If you’re holding on to last year’s corn, you’re waiting to see prices strengthen,” he says. But it’s a guessing game as to what prices will do. Some farmers will forward contract, agreeing to sell their products at a future time on a fixed rate decided upon today. But forward contracting becomes a bit sketchier than usual in the aftermath of years like the one just concluded, leaving some farmers to have to buy back their contracts at higher prices when they need to hold on to some of their yields. Raising livestock adds yet another layer of uncertainty to farmers’ considerations for 2013. The drought scorched much pasture land on which livestock would usually graze, driving up the price of hay and feed corn. Clouse has been feeding his cattle hay, but says that it’s now in short supply. Farmers did some culling of their herds to offset scarcity and expensiveness of available feed. All in all — drought or no drought — “there’s nothing new in the way the markets behave,” says Albert Armand of Westport. “A weather event looks worse when it occurs. In a good year, yields at harvest time are not what we think they’ll be earlier in the season.” *FI

The third annual Ag Essay Contest is just around the corner, and it challenges students to consider the impact of Indiana foods and farmers. The contest, titled “Our Food, Our Farmers: Nourishing Generations of Hoosiers,” is sponsored by Indiana's Family of Farmers and Indiana Humanities and will award a first- and second-place winner in each grade level, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. First-place winners will receive an Apple iPad and secondplace winners will receive Beatsby Dr. Dre Headphones. All winners will be invited to attend a special recognition ceremony at the Indiana Statehouse on March 5 in celebration of National Ag Day.    For the 2013 competition, children are asked to: describe how Indiana farmers 1) nourish our families, 2) our animals, and 3) our earth (soil), as well as providing an example of each of the three areas. Entry guidelines can be found at www.indianahumanities.org or www.indianafamilyof farmers.com. Entries must be received by Feb. 1. 

Money to Spend Monty’s Plant Food Co., a Louisville, Ky.-based manufacturer of plant and soil enhancement products for the agriculture industry, is now accepting applications from Indiana students for four, $1,000 college scholarships. The awards will be made in conjunction with the National FFA organization to high school seniors who are members of FFA. To be eligible, students must reside in Indiana, live on a family farm, plan to pursue a post-secondary education and study agronomy and crop science, sustainable agriculture, soil science or soil conservation, have a minimum high school GPA of 3.25 and have participated in community service. Monty’s Plant Food Co. develops plant and soil solutions for growers around the world in the agriculture, horticulture, lawn and garden and turf industries. “FFA is a wonderful leadership program, and we are proud to partner with such an influential organization to offer scholarships to young people in agriculture,” said Dennis Stephens, president, Monty’s Plant Food Co., in a press release.   Scholarship applications are available online at www.ffa.org/ scholarships, and the deadline to apply is Feb. 15. The Monty’s Plant Food Co. scholarships will be awarded in May. For more information, visit www.montysplantfood.com.

Census Deadline The leading source of facts and figures about American agriculture, the Census of Agriculture provides a detailed picture of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. For the 2012 Census of Agriculture, forms were to be mailed in late December, and farmers and ranchers are asked to respond by mail or online by Feb. 4. The 2012 Census of Agriculture will collect information concerning all areas of farming and ranching operations, including production expenses, market value of products, and operator characteristics. Census data is used to make decisions about many things that directly impact farmers, including community planning, availability of loans, location and staffing of service centers and more. Participation in the Census is required by law, which also protects the confidentiality of all individual responses. For more information, go to www.agcensus.usda.gov/About_the_Census/index.php.

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

PHOto by sharon shipley

Larry McFarland and Kendal Ross review blueprints in the construction office at Schafstall Inc.

Expertise, equipment and the right people have helped Schafstall Inc. grow By DICK ISENHOUR

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hen Phil Newton purchased Richards Elevator in Taylorsville in 1999, he quickly discovered the operation’s old, 300,000-bushel facility was far from adequate, even for the demands of this rural hamlet just north of Columbus. “Grain was getting tough to find,” Newton said of the time, “and it was hard to compete with markets 50 miles away. We were landlocked in town, but our elevator was adequate until the 1970s, when tractor-trailers began to replace tractor wagons. It

would take us 30 minutes to unload a semi in town. It would take us all day to unload 30 trucks.” To boost volume and gain a competitive edge, Newton turned to Schafstall Inc., the Columbus-based GSI (Grain Systems Inc.) dealer with a solid track record as a fullservice design, sales, installation and service company. Larry McFarland, a Schafstall co-owner and its general manager, was hired as contractor. With McFarland’s help, Richards Elevator embarked on a $3.3 million, state-of-the-art grain

drying and handling system that included a new, 1.1-million-bushel steel elevator. McFarland believes Schafstall’s customer focus — regardless of the size of the customer — is what prompts farm and commercial grain producers and handlers to seek its expertise and equipment. “We are guided by our mission statement,” McFarland said, “which is to fairly, honestly and timely solve grain handling and conditioning challenges and problems of our current and future customers,

exceeding their expectations while, at the same time, making them more profitable. Our vision is to become the ultimate source of grain handling and conditioning equipment in south central and southern Indiana, providing the most technological equipment available in the industry.” Founded in 1970 by Rick and Diane Schafstall, the company has grown to become a large general contracting firm, building grain handling and grain conditioning equipment for both large farm and

commercial markets. With its construction office at 14055 S. Road 725W in Columbus, as well as a satellite office in Salem, the company also offers pre-manufactured steel buildings for the commercial, retail and industrial markets, and a full line of products considered by many to be the standard in the agricultural industry. These include GSI grain storage, drying and conditioning equipment; Schlagel manual and electric distributors; Gulf States steel buildings; Polaris off-road vehicles; Landoll Ag prod-

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

A11

PHOto by andrew laker

ucts; Bush Hog mowers; and Farm King transport augers. In 1998, McFarland and four other partners bought into the business. It currently employs 24 people, and even though McFarland is general manager, management responsibilities are spread among a corps of what he calls “decision makers.” These include Matt Schafstall, operations manager; Steve Mann, grain system construction manager; Tony Schafstall, steel building construction manager; Kendal Ross, assistant sales manager; Duane Von Dielingen, a semiretired vice president; Rick Schafstall, the semi-retired president; Sandy Combs, office manager and inventory control; Dennis Haynes, commercial account manager; and

answers with one word: growth. “We have our expansion plans already in writing,” McFarland says, “and know where we want to go next and basically how we are going to get there. As I have said in the past, sitting still is just waiting for your business to fail. In the times that we live in now, staying quick on your feet and having an aggressive nature will reap big benefits in the future.” That expansion plan, McFarland adds, includes opening another office east of Indianapolis, somewhere between Greenfield and the Ohio state line, north of Interstate 70. “We have dabbled in this area during the past five years just to see what we think the potential is,” McFarland says. “We’ve had the good fortune of working with customers in the Wil-

low Branch, Rushville, Connersville and surrounding areas designing and installing grain handling systems. These customers have provided us with the experience in these areas and what the potential for our grain handling business might be, and we like what we see.” “We have done our homework. As far as personnel goes, we are training an individual to take on the task of opening this facility when we are ready. Of course, we will have to find the right employees to support the business once we make the decision to open this location.” McFarland says the company’s plans rely on one guiding principle: “A great team with a great strategy wins every time.” “It works,” he says. *FI

“If anything, I believe today’s economy has made our customers more aware of ‘value’ for dollars spent.” —Larry McFarland

FRHC launching agriscience program A $10,000 grant will help Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. create an agriscience program and offer classes that can earn students college credits. The school district was one of 10 in Indiana chosen as a winner in the Monsanto Fund’s America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program. The grant, based in part on nominations by local farmers, is intended to enhance math and science education, according to a news release. The agriculture classroom at Hauser Jr./Sr. High will be transformed into an agriscience lab with the grant, said Sara Rapp, the school’s agricultural science and business teacher. In addition, the school will begin offering two new advanced life sciences classes: one on animals and the other on plants and soil. The classes will be dual-credit classes with Purdue University.

General manager, schafstall inc.

Tony Davis, general manager of the Salem store.  “When I first came to Schafstall,” McFarland recalls, “Rick (Schafstall) told me, ‘If you’re going to be successful, don’t be afraid to surround yourself with good, talented people and spread the responsibility as well as the wealth. A good manager isn’t afraid of someone doing a better job than himself. A good manager promotes success and compliments those who succeed.’” McFarland used the advice to shape the corporate culture at Schafstall and credits the philosophy as contributing to the company’s success. He is reluctant to talk about annual revenues, but various online company overviews list it as anywhere from $1 million to $5 million. They also underscore that the exclusive dealer of GSI products and services in the Midwest has doubled in size since McFarland joined the partnership. The general manager is not reluctant, though, to talk about how the company is faring in today’s economy. “Our business has actually grown each year since my buy-in,” McFarland says. “Our hard work, taking care of our customers and having the good fortune of being in the agricultural arena has afforded us that growth. If anything, I believe today’s economy has made our customers more aware of ‘value’ for dollars spent. We sell ‘value,’ so this change in our customers’ attitude has fit right into our goal of selling our customers the most value for the dollar spent.” Ask McFarland about the company’s plans for the future and he

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January 2013 | Section B

By Ryan Trares (from left) Casey Poindexter, Julie DeHart, Steve DeHart, Brett DeHart and Zachary Poindexter

FAMILY FARMS

The Real Thing For DeHart family, raising Christmas trees is a year-round endeavor

R

PHOtos by mark freeland

ows of evergreen trees curve over the hills of southern “When they were younger, we kind of made the boys help,” Johnson County. Short and wide Scotch pines, with a Julie said. “We thought once they left the nest, we’d lose the bluish-green tint, fill an acre. A group of white pines with help. But they love it. If they’re not working, they’re here. So it’s long, soft needles soar 10 feet high, while dark green Douglas still a 100 percent family operation.” firs and squat Canaan firs stand in waves over the landscape. Now with the Christmas season behind them, the family Steve and Julie DeHart have watched these trees grow from will take a few weeks to relax before tearing down the signs, saplings. Whereas other farmers plant and harvest their crops cleaning up the fields and taking down the shelter house where within a year’s time, it can take as many as six years before the customers drank hot chocolate. Steve will then begin to assess DeHarts’ trees are ready to sell. how many trees were cut down and will need to be replaced for And sell they do. Late November and early December brings future sales. droves of people to the Trees from DeHart farm. Families trek Christmas tree farms have become a growing segment of through the fields to find the perfect tree. Indiana agriculture, according to the Indiana Christmas Tree While the holidays are the focus for the DeHarts, a ChristGrowers Association. More than 200,000 harvestable trees are mas tree farm is an ongoing operaproduced in the state each year, maktion. From watering their fields to ing it the 11th-leading Christmas tree measuring growth to replacing last grower in the U.S. year’s crop with new saplings, ensurThe 11 acres on the DeHart farm are ing the success of the farm takes condivided into separate blocks. Each plot stant vigilance. has about 2,000 trees on it and usuFamily: Steve and Julie DeHart; sons, ally provides two years’ worth of sales. “The trees are always there,” Julie Zachary, Casey and Brett When all the trees in a 1½-acre block said. “It’s not like you grow corn, and have been cut down, the family will for half the year, it’s cut down. The Location: 3950 S. Road 200E, Franklin replant new saplings in between the trees are always there, they’re beautiful and we see (them) all the time. It rows. That allows time for stumps and Founded: 2004 gives you a sense of pride.” roots to decompose by the next time For the five weekends leading up to they plant the field, Julie explains. Offering: Choose and cut Scotch pine, the Christmas holiday, the DeHarts’ white pine, Canaan fir, Douglas fir; precut A Growing Idea isolated farm was the scene of a great trees and wreaths When their sons were younger, the Dedeal of activity. People would start Harts would drive the boys down to a arriving around 9:30 a.m., tromping farm in Brown County to choose and cut through the fields until dark, carefully looking over the pines and firs a Christmas tree each holiday season. until they found one they liked. After years of visiting the same farm to find a tree, Steve Steve met every customer who arrived, pointing them in the dilearned the farmer was planning on retiring. The couple decidrection of the trees. In the shelter house, Julie made wreaths, which ed this was an opening into a steady local market. “We thought supplemented the sales of the trees. Their sons, Zachary Poindexwe had the manpower at the time to do it and did,” Steve said. ter, 23, Casey Poindexter, 21, and Brett DeHart, 17, were the musInspired by their family traditions, Steve and Julie started their cle, cutting customers’ trees for them, shaking excess needles out tree farm in 2004. of the ones that have been cut down and tying the trees onto cars. The family had 11 acres for growing hay at the time. They decided to make the switch to trees instead. About four years passed before the trees they planted could start being harvested. Currently, the DeHarts have 14,000 trees in the ground. Scotch and white pines are the most predominant varieties, with some firs planted as well. Steve will also bring in specialty varieties from growers throughout Indiana, to give customers a variety of exotic pine trees. “We can’t grow some of the true firs around here, so I found a guy in Lafayette who will grow those Fraser and Canaan firs for us,” he said. Their experience in agriculture turned out to translate well into this new type of farming. They plant in the spring, usually late April. Throughout the summer, Steve and his sons apply herbicide and cut down weeds growing between the rows. When the trees are small, for the first few years of their lives, weeds, grasses and other competing plants can crowd the saplings out and kill them, Steve said. Special fungicides are applied to the needles of the trees to prevent root rot and cankers. In the off-season, they’ll go through the fields to cut stumps down to ground level, so no one trips over remnants poking through the grass. “It’s like any other farm,” Steve said. Nearly daily vigilance is required to ensure the trees grow big enough to survive on their own. Once that happens, the family and their hired help can begin shearing the trees. Shearing is done to get the Christmas tree shape that people come to expect, Steve said. Branches are cut in mid-June, snipped when new buds begin to grow on the branches.

TOP: Julie DeHart decorates a wreath. MIDDLE: (from left) Michael Mendenhall, Casey Poindexter and Luke DeHart, Steve's cousin, load fir trees. ABOVE: Zachary Poindexter, left, and Luke DeHart put netting around a Fraser fir.

See dehart on b2


B2

Farm Indiana | January 2013

dehart // cont. from B1 Doing so will produce more branches in a cluster, allowing the trees to fill out. “Usually by the third year, you start actually shearing. About half of our farm is shearing at any given time,” Steve said. But while the DeHarts can partially control weeds, pests and diseases, they have no answer to the drought that has plagued them the past three summers. At biggest risk are the newly planted saplings. Without the root system of older trees, the dry conditions can easily kill the small plants. “This is the third straight year that we’ve lost a significant part of our new planting,” Julie said. Out of 2,000 new trees planted in the spring, the DeHarts estimate they lost 1,200 this summer due to drought. They had to replant in the fall, requiring a considerable investment in the crop. For the first time since they started growing, they also lost mature trees. About 200 died in June, July and August, Steve said. Typically, pines are more hardy against drier conditions. But this summer’s heat took its toll. “Nature is a beast,” Steve said. “It will be significant in seven years, when instead of 8-feet-tall mature trees, we have only 6-feet-tall mature trees. It’s put us behind almost a year, but we won’t feel the impact until later.” For the time being, tree farming is a part-time job for the family. Their sons all have their own jobs or go to school. Julie works for Premier Ag, while Steve is a territory manager for Roofing and Insulation Supply. They have considered expanding the Christmas tree operation after retiring, but that possibility remains years away. Until then, they’re working to slowly add new features to the existing farm, while still keeping it the same simple operation that it’s been for the past eight years. “If you can keep it simple, you keep it enjoyable,” Steve said. *FI

PHOto by mark freeland

Steve DeHart gathers branches.

Christmas Tree Recycling Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to say goodbye to your tree. All trees should be free of lights, decorations, stands and any plastic bag wrapping when you drop them off at any of these locations: 

1. Bartholomew County County residents can bring their Christmas trees to the Columbus/Bartholomew County Yard Waste site at 720 S. Mapleton St. Residents within city limits can drop their Christmas trees on the curb following their regular trash collection day for pickup. (Trees should not be placed inside a bag.) Trees will be picked up from Dec. 26 through Jan. 11. 2. Brown County Christmas trees can be dropped off at the county’s recycling center, 176 Old State Road 46, Nashville. Information: (812) 988-0140. 3. Decatur County Greensburg residents can set trees at the curb on their regular trash day from Dec. 27 through Jan. 16.

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4. Jackson County Seymour residents may set Christmas trees out for pickup on the same day as their trash pickup. All Christmas trees are ground into a mulch/compost product and given away to area residents each spring.  5. Jennings County North Vernon residents can set their Christmas trees out for pickup on their normal trash collection day. There is no deadline for pickup. 6. Johnson County The Johnson County Recycling District will accept nonsynthetic trees at several locations. Drop-off locations include Center Grove High School, 2717 S. Morgantown Road, Greenwood (by the tennis court); Johnson County Fairgrounds by the Purdue Extension Office, 484 N. Morton St., Franklin; and Indian Creek Intermediate School, 1000 S. Indian Creek Drive, Trafalgar. Greenwood city residents may dispose of their non-synthetic Christmas trees on curbs during normal trash pickup times. Trees will be recycled from Dec. 26 through Jan. 10.

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B3

FAMILY FARMS

No season is slow for the Bush family, which has been following the same yearly schedule since 1929

By Brenda showalter The days start early for the Bush brothers — no matter the season. During winter months, Joe, John, Rick and Gary Bush arrive at the family farm by 3:30 a.m. on weekday mornings to make sure the meat cases at Bush’s Market are filled with fresh pork. Spring days are even longer: The brothers have to prepare their 1,000 acres of fields and plant the large variety of vegetables, corn and soybeans they sell to customers. Fall brings pumpkins, squash, gourds, mums and buses of children on school field trips. Brothers John and Joe and their cousins, brothers Rick and Gary, all of Bartholomew County, work hard and are proud of their family tradition and their determination to keep providing quality products to area residents. “We would not sell anything we would not eat ourselves,” Joe said. John concurs. “We feel our reputation is on the line every time people walk out the door with our meat and produce,” he said.

Humble Beginnings

PHOtos by sharon shipley

TOP: John Bush cleans the sausage packaging area. ABOVE: The meat counter at Bush's Market is stocked with fresh cuts of pork roast, tenderloin, ham, sausage, cracklings, bacon and more. RIGHT: A piglet statuette greets customers as they enter Bush's Market.

The Depression was just starting when grandfather Henry Bush was looking for a way to supplement the family’s farm income. “He needed a way to feed the family and decided to open a vegetable market,” said Joe, 60, the oldest of the third-generation men who still work in the farming enterprise. Henry lived on the property where today’s Bush’s Market operates just a few miles outside of Columbus on East 25th Street. More than 80 years later, area residents still flock to the market in the spring and summer for tomatoes, green beans, watermelon, corn, cabbage and all types and varieties of fresh, homegrown produce. Henry’s sons, Bill, Henry


B4

Farm Indiana | January 2013

PHOtos by sharon shipley

RIGHT: Rick Bush weighs a fresh side of pork. BELOW: Bill McClelland and his mother-in-law, Helen Milnes, live in Madison, but stop during trips to Columbus. Milnes is a Columbus native and has shopped at the market since it opened in 1929.

Jr. and Marion (often known as “Horsefly”), continued the family tradition, and although they have passed away, their sons are making sure Bush’s Market remains a Bartholomew County destination. Betty, widow of Marion, and Bernadine, widow of Henry Jr., also are owners in the farm operation. Henry’s 10 great-grandchildren, a fourth generation of the Bush farming family, remain undecided about their futures in farming.

Pork Offerings

Bush’s fresh sausage, ribs, tenderloins, ham and other pork products are a favorite for many residents who bypass their grocery store and drive out to the market to stock up during the season, which lasts from the end of November to midMarch. By early March, the Bushes say customers are buying in bulk for their freezer to last them until next November. The Bushes purchase hogs from Pavey Stockyard in Greensburg and process the meat at their facility in Columbus. Joe said the Bush farm has become so diversified and busy throughout the year, that to get the best quality meats, they decided to purchase their hogs from an operation that specializes in raising them.

“We’ve been blessed by our clientele ... Word of mouth is as important as anything.” —Joe Bush To keep the meat cases filled, the Bushes awake in what some would call the middle of the night. They meet an inspector from the Indiana Department of Health at 3:30 a.m. each day since the Bushes must adhere to strict health and safety requirements and complete proper documentation. By around 9 a.m., the processing is complete. A usual day’s work of eight to 10 hogs will generate roughly 60 pounds of meat per hog. The men take turns giving each other a day to go home “early,” while the others work at the

FARM INDIANA

Each month we will feature a member of 4-H and a member of the FFA from Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson, Jennings or Johnson counties. Contact your adviser or visit our Facebook page under notes for our questionnaire.

market until closing time at 5:30 p.m.

Food In Flux

Food trends have had some impact on the Bushes’ business, often in unusual ways. They see just how popular the Food Network and popular cooks, such as Martha Stewart and Paula Deen, are by how their recipe suggestions have a direct effect on what vegetables sell at their market. Rick, 59, said Stewart once suggested a recipe using white pumpkins, and suddenly the market had a run on the unusual pumpkins. They also have seen the benefits of more consumers wanting to buy locally grown food, but have also seen the downside of a fast-paced world where people buy ready-to-eat foods that cook in the microwave.

Rick likes to encourage customers to try new recipes or vegetables and explains simple dishes to them that often take little longer than a microwave meal. The Bushes know they have stayed in business as long as they have because they have always tried to do what was right, have taken good care of their customers and worked hard. “We’ve been blessed by our clientele,” Joe said. “And we try to put out the best product we can. Word of mouth is as important as anything.” Joe, John, Rick and Gary plan to keep doing what they love, even if it’s a career that seldom sees a 40-hour work week and requires demanding physical labor. “This is what I’ve done all my life,” said John, 56. “I enjoy getting out and seeing the change in seasons and working with my hands. I’ve never thought about doing anything else.” “It’s been a hard life, but it’s been a good life,” added Gary, 57. “You’re helping feed the country." *FI


Farm Indiana | January 2013

B5

Family: Business begun in Bartholomew County by Henry Bush in 1929 and continued by his sons, Bill, Henry Jr. and Marion. Operated today by Henry Bush’s grandsons, Joe, John, Rick and Gary Bush. Other owners are Henry Jr.’s widow, Bernadine, and Marion’s widow, Betty. Henry Bush’s great-grandchildren: Brian, Jeanette, Steven, David, Nathan, Sadie, Mollie, Ami, Brandon and Josh. PHOtos by sharon shipley

1. Illuminated sign at Bush's Market, against the early morning sky just before daybreak. 2. Joe Bush. 3. The original market was built in 1929 and sits next to the current retail store. It is used today as additional storage space. 4. Steaming kettle of cracklings.

Bush’s Market: 7301 E. 25th St., Columbus. Open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, from Dec. 1 to the third week of March for pork season. Vegetable market opens in mid-July and runs until Oct. 31. Information: (812) 379-9077 or bushsmarket.com

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B6

Farm Indiana | January 2013

PHOtos by Josh Marshall

Kathleen and Todd Jameson

FAMILY FARMS

Friends join forces to create FarmIndy

By ashley petry

The Jamesons and John Ferree farm five acres as FarmIndy.

Mellencamp Irrigation & Excavation 6478 E. 950 N. Seymour, IN 47274 812.216.1396

FarmIndy, a new organic farm in Needham, is more than it might seem. At just five acres, it is tiny compared to other farms in the area, and its first growing season was marred by drought and excessive heat. But this is no amateur endeavor. FarmIndy represents a merger of two prominent central Indiana farms, and that depth of experience is evident in everything from the superior salad greens to the sweet golden beets.


Farm Indiana | January 2013

Todd Jameson

FarmIndy’s owners are Todd and Kathleen Jameson, who previously ran Balanced Harvest Farm in Carmel, and John Ferree, who owns Danville’s Seldom Seen Farm. All three are prominent members of Slow Food Indy and fixtures at area farmers markets. Their joint mission is to raise high-quality, organic produce and to educate the community about sustainable agriculture.

The Late Bloomers

Both Todd and Kathleen grew up in New Jersey, but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. Kathleen was a city girl from the Jersey shore, but Todd was a farm boy from Farmingdale. “I always wanted to be a farmer,” he said, “and then one day I met a beautiful young girl who didn’t want to be married to a farmer.”

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Instead, Todd managed an agricultural marketing cooperative, and he and Kathleen married in 1986. A few years later, he became executive director of the New Jersey Flower and Garden Show. When it was purchased by an Indianapolis event-management company in 1998, the Jamesons followed the job to the Midwest. To teach their two children, Heather and Austin, about the foundations of the food chain, the couple started a backyard garden, which eventually yielded more produce than the family could use. So they opened a booth at the Carmel Farmers Market. “The kids lasted going to the market all of two or three weeks, but I was addicted,” Todd said. Before long, he located an uncultivated field in Carmel that was available for rent, and the couple founded Balanced Harvest Farm—

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meaning that Kathleen was finally married to a farmer after all. They started the farm at the right time, just as a flood of consumers began to seek local, organic produce. The Jamesons credit books like Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” for raising consumer awareness of sustainable farming. In just a few years, they rose to local foodie stardom. Todd served for two years as president of Slow Food Indy, and Kathleen translated her passion for food into a thriving personal-chef business. They have been Slow Food Indy delegates to Terre Madre, an international slowfood gathering held every two years. “It’s an amazing opportunity to talk to people who do the same work we do,” Todd said. “You’re talking to small-scale sustainable farmers from around the world who have the very same mission we do, and that’s putting forward the mission of ecological agriculture and chemical-free farming.”

The Tech-Savvy Foodie

After a stint in Milwaukee, Ferree moved back to his family’s Danville farm in 2001. At first he commuted to Indianapolis for work, but after a few years, he decided to switch gears and try his hand at farming. He founded Seldom Seen Farm in 2004. Alongside him was his wife, Kelly Funk, who soon became a favorite at local farmers markets. In 2008, the couple represented Slow Food Indy at Terre Madre. Their daughter, Laila, was born in 2009. On July 8, 2010, everything changed for the young family. While harvesting onions after a storm, Funk was struck by lightning and went into both cardiac and respiratory arrest. A farm

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employee was nearby and called for help, but by the time the ambulance arrived, she had already suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen. “Medical science has the ability to fix a good number of things, but anoxic brain damage is not one of them,” Ferree wrote last year on the website for his wife’s recovery fund (www.kellyfunk recoveryfund.com). He declined to be interviewed for this article. Funk, who is permanently disabled, is now in a long-term care facility. “Through all of this Kelly is loved. She is remembered as a loving mother, spouse and daughter, full of life and empathy,” Ferree wrote. “We continue to hope for the best in Kelly’s recovery. That hope is cautioned by the sobering reality of her injury.”

The Joint Venture

The FarmIndy partnership started with a chance meeting at the Traders Point Creamery farmers market in 2007. “We were there in the middle of the winter, just doing some shopping ourselves, and we met John,” Todd said. “We were taken with what a highly experienced and successful young farmer he was. There’s a certain connection that happens when a farmer meets another real farmer. You speak the same language, and things begin to click.” Meanwhile, the Jamesons were looking for farmland of their own, after years of renting their Carmel acreage from dairy goat farmers Mindy and Tim Levandoski, owners of What the Farm. To grow good vegetables, they needed light, loamy soil with good drainage, and they needed access to clean water for irrigation. It was a tough combination to find.


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Farm Indiana | January 2013

PHOto by Josh Marshall

Kathleen and Todd Jameson

roasted butternut squash 1 large butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces) 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme Celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients. Spread out on baking sheet. Roast until tender, 30 to 40 minutes, tossing once during cooking to brown evenly. Makes four servings.

kale with garlic and dried cherries 1 bunch kale (stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped) 1 clove garlic, minced 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 tablespoons dried cherries Salt and pepper Cook kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking. When kale is cool, drain but do not squeeze. Cook garlic in oil in same pot over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add kale, dried cherries, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, tossing frequently with tongs, for about 5 minutes or until kale is heated through.

“Soil type to a vegetable farmer is everything,” Todd said. “We are absolutely depending on the quality of the soil, and the same soil that grows superior soybeans or corn does not necessarily grow quality vegetables.” One night at a foodie book club, Todd met a soil mapper from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Soil Science Division, and he asked the man where he might find what he needed. The man told him to narrow the search:

south of Anderson and north of Seymour, between Sugar Creek to the west and the Big Blue River to the east. Not long after that, the Jamesons got a call from a longtime friend, Pam Parker, the owner of JP Parker Flowers and a lifelong southside farmer. “One afternoon Pam called all excited and said, ‘I found your farm. I need you to come down here right away.’ She said, ‘I’m not even going to tell you where it is,’” Todd said. “We got over there and literally walked next door, and there it was.” Parker — who raises organic sunflowers and peonies — is the third generation to farm her Shelby County property, and she knew the owner of the farm next door: a Michigan nurse who had inherited the property from her parents. She knew that the soil was ideal, and she suspected that the out-of-state owner might be willing to sell. She was right. “I called Todd the brother I never had, so having him in the neighborhood is just wonderful,” Parker said. “We get together and talk about vegetables, which not everyone wants to do. He is a true lover of what he’s doing and has a passion and a vision for healthy food.” When the Jamesons began planning the

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Needham farm in earnest, it seemed like a natural fit to join forces with their friend Ferree. They had more land to farm than ever before. And in his new life as a single parent, Ferree needed the flexibility and security that came with having business partners. Although many central Indiana farms offer organic produce, FarmIndy has something they don’t: a flexible and tech-friendly CSA. The acronym stands for community-supported agriculture; in typical CSA programs, members pay an upfront fee in the spring to receive a share of a farm’s produce throughout the growing season. Every week, each member gets the same box, whose contents are determined by the farm’s harvest. FarmIndy is giving that concept a face-lift. “It became apparent that there was a need for a new way of farming in Indianapolis, that the model of the CSA … had kind of run its course,” Todd said. “Shoppers today need more flexibility and more freedom to control what would be in their farm distribution each week.” Ferree, who is the tech-savvy member of the team, developed a way for CSA members to customize their weekly boxes online. The software is similar to that used by organic grocery de-

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livery services, such as Indy-based Green Bean Delivery, but FarmIndy’s system cuts out the middleman. “When you’re supporting FarmIndy, you’re supporting an actual, functioning, working farm,” Todd said. “It’s coming straight from the farm to your door.” FarmIndy had 250 CSA members in 2012, and Todd said he expects that number to expand in 2013. The farm has about 15 weekly pickup locations, including one each in Greenwood and Franklin. Those CSA boxes are sure to include memorable salad mixes, for which Ferree became famous during his time at Seldom Seen Farm. FarmIndy also cultivates rare varieties of produce that long ago vanished from grocery stores — often because they had a short shelf life or couldn’t withstand long-distance shipping. In the future, Todd said FarmIndy plans to offer tours and other educational opportunities, and to put Kathleen’s cooking skills to use in farm-to-table meals. In the meantime, the Jamesons are remodeling a house near the farm, and they look forward to meeting their neighbors — and maybe raising a few chickens in the backyard. *FI

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

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J.D. Lucas

story and photos By Jeff Tryon

FAMILY FARMS

T Behind one picturesque cattle and grain farm in the hills of southern Brown County is a long-term dream

here are good years and bad years in farming, and like everything, techniques and tools may change over time, but for the J.D. Lucas family, the overriding focus is to always keep the family farm … in the family. “This farm was put together starting with land from my wife’s family going back 150 years ago,” said J.D.’s father, Jack Lucas, sitting in their comfortable living room with his wife, Sheila, and their son. Sheila was born a Carmichael, one of the pioneering families in Van Buren Township in southern Brown County. Jack grew up in nearby Elkinsville, before families were removed to make room for the Lake Monroe reservoir in the early 1960s. Jack has farmed “all my life,” he says, purchasing the 70 acres where their current home sits in the mid’60s. The home was built in 1972, and the Lucases have been here ever since. In the beginning, Jack farmed corn, soybeans, hay and cattle, starting with just 10 cows and eventually building up to a 60some head herd. Since the initial 70-acre purchase, the Lucases have added other adjoining land, which now encompasses about 300 acres. They also rent two other farms of about another 100 acres, “and if you include hay and pasture it’ll run close to 500 acres” in total, Jack said. J.D., who loves the cattle side of the business, grew up working on the farm, showing cattle in 4-H and dreaming of one day living the farm life. “I’ve been here pretty much all

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my life,” J.D. said. “I went away to college for a year or so, but the rest of the time, I’ve been right here in this valley. “I always wanted to be a farmer, but when I was in my 20s, farming wasn’t such a good thing,” he said. “It’s just in the past 10 or 15 years that farming has become, or is coming around to being, profitable.” Jack remembers the 1980s as a particularly tough time, economically, for farmers. “There were a few years there that, had I not been able to work and bring home a few dollars extra, I could not have farmed,” he said. “It was absorbing all the extra money, and I was still losing out. “But we kept hanging on.” “It is very hard to make a living on a farm, very hard,” Jack added. “I’ve had good years and bad years. For us, times now are good.” That’s because prices for grain have increased dramatically over the past decade, due to many factors, including population growth and increasing access to foreign markets. J.D. said the farm sells more grain than cows, but “the cattle are kind of our steady thing; the grain fluctuates with the markets. Prices have gone up, and that has helped a lot, but the cost of inputs has gone up, too, so it’s kind of a stair-stepping effect,” he said. “I’d say out of every 10 years, you’re going to have one really bad year and one really good year, and eight just so-so years.” Jack said economics are the hardest part of sustaining a family farm over several generations “I guess the toughest things have been


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Farm Indiana | January 2013

the finance things, just trying to make ends meet, not lately, but in the past,” he said. “If both of us hadn’t worked, we certainly wouldn’t have had the farm, because we couldn’t afford it. There were times when it was a nonprofit thing.” And that is the revealing lesson for this multigenerational farm family; in each generation, the farm has only been sustained and grown because of the off-farm incomes of family members. Jack worked at the RCA plant in Bloomington, and Sheila also worked outside the home. J.D. works at Bloomingfoods, and his wife works in the medical technology field. Now his son, Jared, hoping to become the third generation on the Lucas farm, is preparing for a career in commercial construction by completing an associate degree and apprenticeship program. “He’d rather be here on the farm, but there’s not enough,” J.D. said. “There’s enough here to support one family really well. But there’s not enough here to support three. That’s why we work other jobs and do other things.” Modern technology has changed the farm through the generations; Sheila remembers the old wringer-washer she had when they first moved there, and J.D. notes how large the farm equipment has grown in his time. What is so important about holding onto the farm, about passing it to the next generation? Why do they struggle so hard to hang on through the tough times? For Sheila Lucas, who has put in her time on a tractor as well as in the kitchen, the lifestyle is the reward, and it’s worth being

passed along. “I’ve always lived on a farm,” she said. “It’s just a way of life. It’s a good life. There’s nothing better than to watch the crops grow. But there’s nothing more heartbreaking than to see it like some of them were this year, when you have the bad years. But still, I don’t know, there’s just a kind of peace about it that I enjoy,” she said. Jack chuckles wryly over the variable weather, irregular hours and other hardships of family farming. “In the busy part of the year, the planting season or the harvest season, you’re in the field; you don’t see very much bed time,” he said. “That’s the bad part. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all like that. But there are times when you’ve really got to get out and push whether you want to or not. Time waits on no one, so you’ve got to do it.” And for J.D., acting as a pivot between one generation and the next in a very longterm family plan to stay on the farm, there is a feeling of gratefulness and responsibility. “We’re lucky to be here,” he said. “I know there are people my age who have wanted to farm but haven’t been able to, because it’s not something that’s readily available to jump into. The overhead and the start-up costs would kill a person to just jump into unless they had some huge influx of cash to help them. “So we’re really lucky,” he added. “It’s been a sacrifice for many, many generations to get to where we are at, and that’s one of the things I’m thankful for. I intend to do the same thing for my children, and my son, barring a catastrophe, intends to do the same thing for his children.” *FI

ABOVE: Jack and Sheila Lucas, with their son, J.D., at their Brown County home. TOP: J.D. Lucas.

For the Lucases, technology, weather and even the next generation are causes for continual change in the way they do business

By jeff tryon The 400-acre Lucas farm in scenic southern Brown County has traditionally grown grain and cows, like most small farms in Indiana. But as the third generation comes along, the family has found some market niches that have helped them become more profitable and sustainable for the long term. “Probably the biggest thing right now is that my son is involved,” J.D. Lucas

“We get pretty much all the customers we can take care of by word-of-mouth,” he said. “It goes up and down. It would be a lot better, I think, if we were to pursue it more than we do. It’s kind of a deal where you’re too little to be big and too big to be little. That’s kind of where we’re at with it.” Jared’s interest in growing grain and grain markets has led to sales of non-GMO corn at a premium to whis-

but it paid off for us this year, whereas a lot of other farmers got burned.” That’s because in a drought-stricken year, the full till approach helped to keep more moisture in the ground, which is mainly a clay-type soil in the Story valley. “Our crops, they weren’t the best by far, but they were a lot better than we expected,” said J.D.’s father, Jack. “We were able to get to market with a reasonable amount.”

“Sometimes it works for you, sometimes it doesn't ... It's kind of a guess. You don't always win.” —Jack Lucas

said. “He’s a lot more aggressive than I am. He’s got a lot of big ideas. And he’s very good to research things; if he doesn’t understand something, he’ll go and approach someone, and he’ll find the answer. He’s really good at that.” J.D. grew up on the family farm, showing cows in 4-H and helping with every kind of farm chore. “My love is the livestock; I prefer the cattle,” he said. “My son, Jared, he’s more interested in the grain; he’s not so much into the cattle. Even though we all work together, we all have somewhat different interests.” J.D.’s lifelong love of beef cattle has led to providing high-quality beef for local customers who pay more for beef that’s been raised locally and differently than commercial beef. “Primarily what our business is now is freezer beef,” he said. “We’re not doing grass-fed right now, but all the feed that goes into this cow is produced on this farm. Everything is right here. We are doing antibiotic- and hormone-free cattle, so we’re trying to cater to the higher end, and it’s paying off.

key distillers. “He’s helped us to enter new markets, places to sell grain that we probably wouldn’t have sold to before,” J.D. said. The non-GMO corn, which doesn’t have Roundup-ready chemicals in it, is an example of a niche market the smaller farm can more easily access. “That’s where a smaller farm is going to have the advantage over bigger farms in the future,” J.D. said. “Some of these multi-thousand acre farms are pretty much locked in to what they can and cannot grow. They’re not going to be able to diversify as easily.” J.D. works a second job at Bloomingfoods (a health food co-op in Bloomington), and he said he sees a lot more organic and naturally grown products versus the commercial trade. Sometimes the old ways are good ways, and maybe having a continuity of farm owners comes into play there. “A lot of the farmers around us are doing a lot of no-till operations, where we’re still doing conventional tillage,” J.D. said. “It’s kind of an older practice,

The Lucases store their grain on the farm, hoping to sell it when the market is best. “Sometimes it works for you, sometimes it doesn’t,” Jack said. “I farmed for a lot of years, and some years I made a good profit by holding on, and a couple of years I lost the same amount by holding on. It’s kind of a guess. You don’t always win.” But J.D. said there is a lot more information available now to help with that strategy, from domestic economic analysis to access to foreign grain market reports. “There’s a lot more markers out there now to help you in that strategy that weren’t available years ago,” he said. “I would say it’s at least somewhat predictable, whereas, I can remember in years past when it was a guessing game.” Although he and his wife still both work off the farm, J.D. is looking forward to a day when he can spend all his time there. “I would love to get to the point where I had enough cattle to take care of my annual needs financially and I didn’t have to work at a job in town,” he said. “That’s kind of my goal.” *FI

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Farm Indiana | January 2013

While farm families are understandably reticent about discussing their most private and personal financial concerns and economic strategies, an open and understanding discussion is the first step in putting a financial plan in place to keep the family farm going from one generation to the next. Angela Gloy, a Purdue extension ag economics specialist who works with farmers on estate plans, said the important thing is to have honest communication between all family members about what everyone wants to see happen

TURNING OVER CONTROL Farmers need to begin planning early if they want to keep their land in the family By jeff tryon

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in the long run. “Sometimes the hardest part is just starting the conversation,” she said. “Planning for one’s own death isn’t easy; not only is there the work of figuring out financial details, facing one’s own mortality can be emotionally heavy.” But it’s also a chance for parents to teach yet another life lesson, no matter how old their children might be, Gloy said. “If what you leave the next generation is a legacy of planning, that’s invaluable,” she said. Farm families working hard to pass their land and farm operation intact to future generations need a farm succession plan to avoid a crippling tax bite that could keep children from being able to take over the family farm, or to make sure the farm doesn’t have to be broken apart and sold piecemeal to make sure everyone gets their rightful inheritance. In Brown County, the Lucas family owns about 400 acres, a portion of which has been in the family for 150 years. “We have a plan in place; we’re just trying to work it out right now,” said Jack Lucas, whose son, J.D., works on the farm, but whose two daughters have other interests. “We’ve been working on a plan for probably 10 years now, trying to get the right plan in place,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to do.” J.D., who hopes to one day pass the farm to his own son, Jared, but also has a daughter, thinks the transitions will be all right. “I don’t think it’s going to get in the way. It’s just something that has to be dealt with,” he said. “We have a plan in mind to take care of everyone, and we just have to actualize it.”

In fact, the farm succession planning taking place around the kitchen table may be critical for the future of agriculture in America. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 98 percent of all American farms are family farms, and 85 percent of the country’s total agricultural output comes from family-owned farms. However, surveys say that nearly 89 percent of farmers don’t have a plan in place to transfer property to the next generation of farmers. About 70 percent of the nation’s farmland will change hands in the next 20 years. The average age of the American farmer is 57. Farmers should begin planning land transfers five to 10 years before they plan to retire, experts say. The chance of successfully

B11

they will know who they want to care for the children if they die, but they don’t set it out legally. Or sometimes, a designated heir could predecease the owner. Nationally, about 66 percent of farms have been in a family for more than two generations, and about that percentage of farmers strongly agrees that maintaining family ownership of their farm is important. While 78 percent of these farmers say they plan to transfer control of the operation to the next generation, 38 percent have no formal succession plan. Currently, individuals have a $5 million exemption from federal estate taxes, and anything over $5 million would be subject to a 35 percent assessment. Farmers who have valuable farms and farm land

About 70 percent of the nation’s farmland will change hands in the next 20 years. The average age of the American farmer is 57. passing the farm to the next generation improves when they are trained and gain experience before the transfer. “I think regardless of your age, we need to have an estate plan,” Gloy said. “It’s not that complicated; most 25-year-olds have an estate. It might be nominal, but … if they own a car, they have an estate.” Because the occupation of farmers and their children who stay on the farm is tied to the property and equipment, having a plan is especially important for farmers. Gloy said an estate plan can address all kinds of issues. Often on farms, a parent and child will work together but have different ideas for its direction and growth. Or if a farmer has minor children,

need to consider how their heirs will pay that tax. If they intend to continue farming, will the tax bite force them to sell off part of the farm in order to continue? A qualified estate planning attorney understands the issues surrounding estate and farmland succession planning. Experts say it’s never too early to start planning for the future of the farm and the next generation; it can take time to get everything just right. Farm families should review their succession plan frequently and make adjustments as the law or family changes. Don’t do anything that cannot be undone later. As farmers surely know and understand, the only constant in life is change. *FI


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Farm Indiana | January 2013

Student Profiles School: Hauser Jr. - Sr. High School

School: Franklin Community High School

Adviser: Sara Rapp

Adviser: Ashley Shultz

Potential College Choice: Animal Science or Nursing

Potential College Choice: Purdue University

What made you join your respective groups?

What made you join your respective groups?

I actually had many reasons to join both 4-H and FFA. I live on my family’s farm, where we raise black Angus cattle, so for 4-H, I show some of our heifers and I also buy two pigs to show as well. I love animals, and 4-H is a great experience that teaches you responsibility and helps you mature, and of course it is really fun! My dad was a 10-year 4-H member and he also showed Angus cattle. He also was in FFA. I had always heard stories about his FFA trips and experiences, and seeing his blue corduroy jacket made me want to get one of my own. FFA has improved my leadership and has helped me to want to achieve more to better myself and my community. It was common sense for me to join both organizations when they both involve doing things I love based around agriculture.

Growing up on a farm and raising animals it was assumed that I would be a part of our county 4-H program. Joining 4-H as a third-grader, I can still remember my excitement when my dad agreed to let me show a heifer. On our family farm we raise Belted Galloway cattle; showing at our county fair we have been given another chance to show off our rare breed. What is the one thing that you like or dislike about farming and agriculture?

One thing I like about agriculture is that no matter what area you are in, there are many life lessons that it teaches. One part of agriculture I wish I could change would be how uneducated some of the public is on farming and agricultural issues.

What is the one thing that you like or dislike about farming and agriculture?

What changes would you make or like to see made in agriculture?

One thing I love about agriculture is the responsibility it takes to accomplish any task that may come. One thing that bothers me would be how uneducated a lot of people are about agriculture. It is good for organizations like 4-H and FFA to help educate those who don’t know how impacting agriculture truly is to them.

I would like to see more of the public that are uneducated on farming and agricultural issues to gain knowledge on the importance of agriculture.

What changes would you make or like to see made in agriculture?

In the next 5-10 years I see farming and agriculture producing more than it ever has produced on less land. I am certain that the agricultural industry will be able to provide enough food for the estimated population in the year 2050 with further advancements in technology.

I would like to see more and more agriculture leaders encourage advocacy and agriculture education. The only way for people to learn would be by having leaders who will teach and explain the importance of the industry that impacts them every day of their lives. Where do you see farming and agriculture in the next 5-10 years?

The world population keeps increasing more and more, and in the future, farmers are going to have to increase crop production with fewer acres to do so. In order to do so, technology will be a leading factor in improving this process. Farming has always been in high demand and production will keep increasing for years to come. There are so many opportunities in agriculture whether through education or hands on involvement. Agriculture teachers, farmers, and other careers involved in agriculture are the people who keep the industry going.

Where do you see farming and agriculture in the next 5-10 years?

We will profile two 4-H and FFA members in each issue of Farm Indiana. If you know a member who lives in Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson, Jennings or Johnson County whom you think we should feature, visit our Farm Indiana page on Facebook, download the questionnaire and follow the directions at the bottom to enter.

Indiana-Illinois Farm Equipment Show

Dec. 11-13, 2012 // Indiana State Fairgrounds

2

Jan. 8 Byron Seed Winter Meeting. Discussion to cover alfalfa and grass, sorghum, master choice corn and cover crops. Held at Ryan’s Restaurant, 203 N. Sandy Creek Drive, Seymour, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

1

Feb. 5 Annual meeting of the

3

Purdue Cooperative Extension Office and the Bartholomew County Soil and Water Conservation District. Held at 6:30 p.m. at the 4-H Fairgrounds Community Building, the meeting will include dinner served by Rolling Pin Catering. Fred Whitford will speak on volunteering.

PHOtos by Kevin wynne

The meeting is open to

1. A rep from Bane Equipment gives a demonstration on Case IH Equipment. 2. The staff of Schafstall Inc. 3. Heather Morris of Enviroheat talks to attendees about their products. 4. A visitor looks at a John Deere sprayer. 5. Precision Planting reps speak to attendees. 6. A Apache sprayer.

all occupiers of lands lying within the boundaries of Bartholomew County. It is held for the purpose of making a full report of the Bartholomew County Ex-

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tension Office’s and SWCD’s

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activities and financial affairs since the last annual meeting and to elect a supervisor for both organizations’ boards. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased either beforehand at the extension office or SWCD office, or at the door. Information: (812) 3781280, ext. 3


Farm Indiana January 2013