Thursday, August 28, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Mahans

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

This article is a little different than the others I have written, because instead of interviewing someone else, I get to tell you a little about our farm.  My husband, Brad, and I farm along with his parents, Tom and Colleen, in Rush County.  Brad is the fifth generation to work on the family farm.  We have three daughters, Brittney, 8, Melaney, 5, and Jody, 22 months, whom we try to involve in the day-to-day activity on the farm as much as possible.  Brad also has a sister, Lauren, who works off the farm at an accounting agency.   

We raise corn and soybeans and also have a feeder-to-finish cattle operation.  We purchase the cattle weighing 400 to 500 pounds and feed them out to a finished weight of 1200 to 1300 pounds.  The cattle are fed a well-balanced diet of corn, corn silage, hay and supplements, which act as vitamins to help keep them healthy.  We want the consumers to be satisfied with the meat they purchase, because we aren’t just farmers, we are consumers as well.  We eat what we raise and take pride in delivering delicious meat to dinner tables everywhere.

Brad and his dad are the only two operators on our farm.  We don’t have any outside employees, but during planting season Colleen drives the tractor to till the ground before planting and, during harvest, she drives the combine when needed.  I am a stay-at-home mom and manage to stay pretty busy chasing kids around.  While I look forward to the day that I can work on the farm with my husband, right now my main duties on the farm involve delivering meals to the fields during spring and fall, helping move equipment from field to field, and driving to town to pick up parts to fix the ever-dreaded break down.

Farming is 7-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year.  Farmers never get a day off.  I grew up on a dairy farm, and I remember taking only one extended vacation.  On Christmas day, we would have to wait for my dad and brother to get in from doing the morning chores before we could open our gifts.  My mom may tell you differently, and I’m sure I begged her several times about opening just one gift before they came inside, but I didn’t mind it.  I learned at an early age that that was life on the farm.  I admire Brad for how hard he works day-in and day-out. 

I feel one of the biggest misconceptions about farming is that farmers don’t care about their livestock or the land.  This past winter, when we faced several days of subzero temperatures and people were advised to stay inside, Brad and his dad were out braving the elements to make sure the cattle had water, feed and fresh, warm straw.  If we take care of them, they take care of us.  We want to preserve the land for the next generation.

You can follow along with our life on the farm by visiting my blog: You can also find me on Instagram: farmmomof3, Twitter @SarahMahan3, and Facebook: This Farm Family’s Life

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quick Dinners for Back to School

By Sarah Correll

Most Indiana schools are back in session, fall sports are getting starting, and families are even busier than ever. Take some of the stress out of your evenings with these quick and family-friendly recipes!

Sarah of This Farm Family’s Life shares a five ingredient enchilada recipe here.

Jent made a crockpot meatloaf- and shares the recipe over at From My Front Porch!

This lasagna recipe from Leah of Beyer Beware uses only one pan!

Lou of Much Ado About Lou’s Cheesy Taco Bake is ready in just 30 minutes.

Combine any of these with some quick sides, and supper’s ready! What is your go-to quick meal?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: 4-H Provided Family, Life Skills for This Farmer

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Jeanette Merritt, a member of The Real Farmwives of America and Friends, is the 4th generation to farm on her family operation, Maple Acres, in Miami County.  “I was raised with corn, soybeans, wheat, and hogs. Those are the same commodities we raise today.”  Rusty, Jeanette’s husband, grew up on a dairy farm.  She often jokes that, “My dad sent me to Purdue to get my MRS. Degree; to find a boy to bring back home to farm with him.”

Jeanette and Rusty did, in fact, meet at Purdue during her freshman year.  They were on a mission trip to Oklahoma with about 80 other students during Christmas break.  “I spent the week flirting with my future husband and when second semester started, we were in the same Calculus class.  We spent a lot of time studying together and, while I would study him, he actually learned math!”
Jeanette has been married to her college sweetheart for 19 years and they have three children: Alexandra, 10, Lauryn, 8 and Levi, 3.

A 10-year 4H-er, Jeanette took a variety of projects, but a few she did all 10 years: clothing, genealogy, foods, pigs, and consumer clothing.  “I loved all my projects, even the year I took entomology and had to pin bugs all summer!”  Her kids are following closely in their mom’s footsteps.  “Alexandra just completed her 2nd year of 4-H.  She took 15 projects this year!  Lauryn finished her 2nd year of Mini 4-H.  Next year while in regular 4-H, she intends to take 15 projects too!”

When asked what she feels is one of the greatest values kids learn from 4-H she answered, “My Grandma Maple used to tell me that 4-H wasn’t about blue ribbon projects, but about making blue ribbon kids.  I truly think 4-H teaches kids responsibility.  I believe the work makes them blue ribbon kids.”

“My fair memories are wrapped around my friends.  It’s hard to answer this question right now, as I just lost one of my childhood best friends, but the best memories I have of the fair involve her and quite a few other 4-H friends.  Memories of water fights, horse tank dunking, helping each other get ready for show days, pats on the back for all the ribbons won, and the extreme pride we took in each other’s successes.  In the end, the memories aren’t wrapped around champion ribbons, but the friendships I made.”

Jeanette is the Marketing Director of Indiana Wines and the Purdue Wine Grape Team.  “It is my job to promote the Indiana wine industry.  I market our nearly 80 Indiana wineries.  I also run the largest wine festival in the state, Vintage Indiana.  I work with wineries as they are establishing and help them with marketing plans, social media efforts, news releases, and much more!”

If you are planning a visit to the Indiana State Fair, you might find Jeanette, as she will be in three different spots during the fair that runs until August 17.  She will be in the Grand Hall at the Beer and Wine Exhibition; the DuPont Food Pavilion, where her educational exhibit is located; and in the Glass Barn, where she emcees the live farmer chats three times a day.

“I believe no summer is complete without a trip to the Indiana State Fair.  It is truly a showcase of what is best in agriculture and youth education.  Visitors can touch a pig, watch baby calves be born, learn about many different commodities and climb on tractors.  However, there is so much more for families to experience as well!  You don’t have to live on a farm to enjoy what we do at the State Fair.”

Follow along with Jeanette’s life on the farm by visiting: and on Twitter: @indianawinebabe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Glass Barn at the Indiana State Fair

By Jackie Barber of Winners Drink Milk

Have you ever wondered where your food comes from, how it was grown, or who grew it?

glass barn

The Glass Barn at the Indiana State Fair will answer your questions. This interactive, new exhibit debuted last year and is back, better than ever, this year. Pop on in the Glass Barn for an (air conditioned) adventure. Play a realistic farm-simulator game that will make Farmville look like Pong, check out pictures of actual Indiana farm families, and even "visit" (via Skype) Indiana farms.

glass barn farming game

You can read a little bit about the five Indiana farm families featured in the Glass Barn here. These five farms take turns doing Skype tours each day of the fair (Aug. 1-17) at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.

glass barn farmers

One of the featured families is Kelsay Farms--an Indiana dairy farm! (Not that I'm biased towards dairy, or anything...) Kelsay Farms in Whiteland, IN (just south of Greenwood) hosts tours for school groups throughout the summer and also opens their farm every fall for corn mazes, pumpkins, snacks, and--of course!--dairy farm tours. If you want your next agritourism experience to be on a real, working farm, check them out on Facebook, on the web, or on this blog. Check out the Glass Barn on Facebook for updates.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: A Family Tradition

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Heather Hill from Hancock County didn’t grow up on a farm, but her mom grew up on a pig and grain farm and made sure to instill the importance of agriculture in her and her siblings at an early age.  This and her 4-H experiences led her to major in Animal Science at Purdue University. 

Heather and her husband, Marc, farm with his parents, Steve and Debi. Heather and Marc’s three children, Addison (11), Reese (8), and Hadley (5) are part of the operation.  They raise corn, soybeans, wheat and pigs.  Marc is the 4th generation to raise pigs in Hancock County.

“I was a proud third generation 4-Her in Laporte County.  I took sheep, rabbits, foods, sewing and photography for all 10 years,” Heather says.  She had so many great memories during her 10-year experience that she finds it hard to narrow it down to just one, but she says, “I sure do miss those days of hanging out on the show box with friends during the fair!”

Heather is getting to relive her 4-H years through the eyes or her children. “Our kids are the fourth generation of both sides of our family to be in 4-H.  Our oldest, Addison, completed her third year of 4-H this year and our son, Reese, completed his third year of mini 4-H.  Addison took several projects such as pigs, tractor maintenance, foods, sewing, consumer clothing, soil and water, photography, consumer pork, demonstration and public speaking, just to name a few of them.  Reese took mini arts and crafts, mini beef, mini pigs, mini gardening, mini foods, and mini sewing.  Our kids love the fair, but showing pigs and hanging out with their friends are probably top of the list.”

When 11-year-old Addison was asked what her favorite part of 4-H is she said, “Getting to meet new people and seeing the finished product on a project after you’ve put lots of hard work into it.”

Pig show day is the Hill’s favorite day at the fair as a family.  “We love pig show day!  Even though Hancock County is not my home fair, it brings back so many memories for Marc and me, and we are so excited to be making memories with our children.”

Heather’s advice to a parent who is unsure of letting his/her child join 4-H, “Just try it.  It is an amazing organization that will definitely give back what you put into it and more!”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fair Enough!

By Sarah Correll

It’s county fair season here in Indiana, and a lot of our friends have been having fun at theirs!

Jeanette shares memories of her 4-H fashion review days, and of her kids’ fair week, complete with a Hog Wrestling Contest.

Jent keeps her sense of humor as her kids show their beef cattle at their county fair and watches a tractor pull here.

Lindsay shares photos and memories of a fair filled with livestock shows that involved people of all ages.

Nancy shares about their day at the county fair, complete with ice cream and Ferris wheels!

Sarah’s daughters showed calves and pigs in the open class of their fair. Find the stories here!

What is your favorite thing to do at the fair?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Producing Nature's Most Perfect Food

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Wagler Farms was founded in 1950 when Henry and Frances Wagler moved from their Daviess County home in Southern Indiana to help start the Bean Blossom Mennonite Church.  “The original farmstead took on the image of many local farms in that era--167 acres, 18 head of cattle, 4 sows and a mess of piglets,” says Sarah Wagler. “ Sixty-two years, 8 children, 21 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren later, Wagler Farms is still focusing on producing nature’s most perfect food, wholesome nutritious milk.”  Wagler Farms is currently operated by Henry and Frances’s sons, Ken and Lloyd, their wives, Lesa and Crystal, grandson Justin, and his wife Sarah.  The Wagler family is dedicated to the care of their milk cows and is also passionate about adding to the picturesque rural landscape of Brown County.

Work on the 700 Holstein cow dairy farm is definitely a family affair according to Sarah. “Every single day our farm is a bustle!  Justin, Kenny and Lloyd are directly involved in the daily operations dealing with crops and animals.  You can find them doing anything from helping trim hooves to planting crops or making silage.  The jobs are endless on a dairy!  Lesa and Crystal maintain the operation’s financial records, while I work with tours and promotion.”

“On average, our cows provide us with 75 pounds of milk per cow, per day.  Our cows, employees, and ourselves work hard every day to provide families with over 6100 gallons of wholesome, nutritious, delicious milk.”  Since the cows work hard to provide milk 365 days a year, the Waglers work hard every day to ensure their cows are comfortable as Sarah explains. “In Indiana, we can go from one extreme to the next in the blink of an eye!  The ideal temperature for a cow is around 50 to 60 degrees, with that said, how often is Indiana a comfortable 50 to 60 degrees?  So, to help keep our cows cool and comfortable in the summer, we provide shade, clean and comfortable bedding, fans, and even water misters.  It is truly better than a day at the beach!  With those efforts in place, we can make a hot, humid August day into a breezy comfortable 75 degrees.  In the winter, we are also worried about the extreme cold for our cows like we are for ourselves.  Our milking cows are provided shelter that eliminates drafts, but still provides fresh air flow.  We even provide our baby calves with warm jackets to stay warm and cozy!”

When asked how she feels about there being fewer small dairies and more large-scale dairies Sarah explains, “I honestly feel that instead of size we should focus on quality.  In Indiana, we are blessed with diversity of size from 7 cows to several thousand cows.  The best part is, they are all focused on cow care and on providing consumers with a great, nutritious, high-quality product regardless of size.”

Aside from living on a dairy farm, Sarah also has the privilege of working with hard-working dairy families through her career with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA).  “DFA is a milk marketing cooperative that markets members’ milk to the processing facilities.  I am a field representative for DFA and, honestly, do something different about every day.  I love my job because I get to work with great people, great farms, and help ensure a superior product is delivered to market.”

The greatest satisfaction Sarah gets from dairy farming, “It’s hard to pick just one, but I would have to say that at the end of the day, knowing our hard work and dedication is helping feed our neighbors near and far always puts a smile on my face!”

Interesting dairy facts:     
  • Indiana has more than 1200 dairy farms and 97% of them are family owned.  The average herd size is 129 cows.
  • Some cows wear pedometers to measure how many steps they take each day—time spent walking can be a sign of how healthy a cow is.
  • Indiana ranks second in the nation in ice cream production.
  • Milk travels an average of only 100 miles from farm to grocery store.
  • An adult dairy cow drinks nearly a bathtub full of water every day.
  • The average cow produces 90 glasses of milk every day and nearly 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.
  • Dairy farming and processing contributes $810 million to the Hoosier economy every year and creates 8,220 jobs in Indiana.

Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Rock Salt (also called Ice Cream Salt)
Gallon Baggies
Quart Baggies

1 cup half and half (or whole milk)
2 Tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Any additional mix-ins that your heart desires (cocoa powder, strawberries, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc.)

1) Fill gallon size baggie half full with ice.  Generously pour rock salt over ice.
2) Pour half and half, sugar, vanilla extract and mix-ins in the quart sized baggie.  Seal tightly!
3) Place quart sized baggie inside gallon sized baggie and ensure both are sealed completely!
4) Shake, shake, shake!  Shake for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until ice cream becomes firm.
5) Scoop ice cream into your favorite dish or cone and enjoy!
6) Place any leftovers in freezer.