Monday, August 24, 2015

I am Indiana Agriculture: Hoosier Homestead

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Jill Hanson speaks fondly of her Hoosier Homestead farm that sits near the Putnam and Hendricks county line.  She says her “mind is filled with a lot of good memories from growing up near the family farm.”  Jill’s great-great-grandfather originally bought the farm in 1856.  Her mother, Wynona Strietelmeier, passed away nearly 20 years ago, but received the centennial award for the farm before her passing.  “I think it is such a neat award.  I remember my mother getting the 100-year homestead award and when I heard that there was a 150- and 200-year award, I knew that I wanted to apply for the 150-year award.  I’m 67, so hopefully my daughter will get the 200-year award.” 

According to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, the Hoosier Homestead program began in 1976 to recognize the contributions these family farms have made to the economic, cultural, and social advancements of the state.  In the past 30 years, more than 5,000 farms have been recognized for operating under long-time continuous ownership by the same family.

The homestead used to be the setting of a house and barn, as well as a 20-acre wood and farm ground.  While the house and barn are now gone, the others remain.  “The ground is farmed out.  My mother rented it out to a friend that she grew up with and now his son farms it.  We enjoy mushroom hunting in the woods.”

Jill has two brothers, Jim and Dean Strietelmeier, who did the majority of the planting on the farm growing up.  “I remember hay rides on the farm, feeding the goats and the hogs, fishing in the creek and river, and playing in the woods.  My brother Jim was swinging across the river on a grapevine one time and the vine broke and he fell and broke his arm.  We would also drive the tractors, or just steered the tractor if we weren’t old enough to drive.  Back then, we did so much together.  We used to go to the farm every day, and it was such a good time.  We went to the farm to work, but we also had fun.”

Sunday, August 9, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Walker Farms

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

“Agriculture has always been a part of my life,” Stacy Walker of Rensselaer says.  The daughter of a farmer, she remembers while growing up her mom always gardened and canned.  “I really got interested in agriculture as something to pursue my 8th grade year of school when we were able to take a vocation agriculture class through our high school.  This is where I knew I wanted to do something in the horticulture area.”   While in high school, Stacy participated a lot in class and did horticulture judging in FFA.  She graduated from Purdue with a degree in Landscape Horticulture and Design with a minor in Food and Agribusiness Management.  In 2005, she married her high school sweetheart, Scott, and they have 3 kids, Ty, 8, Lane, 6, and Brynn, 3.  Scott is a superintendent for a commercial construction company.  “Currently, I am a work-at-home mom with an online newborn photography prop business, and also work part-time for a wedding planner and am a part-time florist, along with managing our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and growing produce on our farm.  I also help my dad and brother in the field with hay and harvest and am the County Education and Outreach Coordinator for Jasper County Farm Bureau.”

Walker Farms began in 2006 with pumpkins.  They sold wholesale to a local business.  In 2007, the couple added produce and started selling at farmers markets.  In 2008, they added their CSA and have been doing all three ever since.  The Walkers grow a wide variety of produce beginning with cool crops in early spring, followed by summer crops, then cool crops again in the fall.   “We grow about 5 acres of produce and about 8 acres of pumpkins.  We planted several strawberry plants last year and plan to expand that as well as expanding pumpkins.  Pumpkins and Indian corn are our main crops that we grow.  Our favorites are probably the pumpkins and all the fall d├ęcor crops, kohlrabi, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, green onions, sweet corn, and peppers.  We also raise chickens.  They supply us with delicious fresh eggs, and we also sell frozen free-range whole chicken.  We also have some goats, rabbits, ducks, and turkeys on the farm.”

“In between planting and harvest we do a lot of weeding!  We got a Farmall Cub last year and that helps tremendously with keeping between the rows clean.  If we need to haul water to our crops we have a large tank that we fill and put up our irrigation throughout the garden to make sure things are watered.”

The Walkers’ three children love to help, especially with pumpkins.  “Although their attention doesn’t last long, we take any help they want to give.  They are right there along with us, helping and cleaning the produce.  The go play and come back and help more.  They like to help plant the seeds and plants.  I would say their favorite is helping pick pumpkins and gourds.  We make it a family affair!”

Growing produce, just like any other crop, is at the mercy of the weather.  “This year is a difficult one for us and probably our worst year we have had.  We can manage to keep our crops irrigated in drought spells, but this year 20 inches of rain in consecutive days was hard on our crops.  The fields stayed wet, so we couldn’t get in to work ground to maintain the weeds as well.  We are able to supply for our CSA members easily and for our self, but we had to give up the farmers market this year, as we didn’t have a lot of extra produce to have a good variety at the farmers market.  Any extra we have I am canning and freezing. “

The Walkers also have Fall Harvest Days at their farm a few weekends in October.  Started in 2009, visitors can find pre-picked pumpkins and gourds, since the pumpkin field is a few miles from their farm, along with straw, Indian corn, and fall produce.  They do a few kids activities as well.
When asked what she enjoys most about her job, Stacy explains, “A lot of the reason we grow produce is for ourselves.  I like to can and freeze a variety of things.  My mom taught me how to can, so I try to keep several quarts of different things each year.  I love to can green beans, beets, tomato juice and pickles.  I freeze peppers, onions, and strawberry jam.  I like that it teaches my kids to live off the land.  They are seeing, start to finish, how produce is grown.  We love interacting with customers at the farmers markets.  I always enjoy hearing their recipes and what they did with the produce they bought.  Today many consumers want to know where their food comes from and know the farmer.  It is a great feeling that we can make that connection and talk to our customers about our produce.”

You can follow Stacy and her family on her blog: where she shares recipes, gardening, farm life, and her love for vintage things.  She is also on Facebook and @stacyfarmsew on Instagram and Twitter.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I am Indiana Agriculture: Joe Tuholski

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

The Glass Barn is one of the many attractions at the Indiana State Fair.  It opened in 2013 and gives visitors a “vivid experience of what life is like for farmers and their families.”  Visitors can chat with a real farmer throughout the day, test their farming knowledge by playing a game of Beango, and experience the interactive games and exhibits.

Joe Tuholski is one of the farmers visitors will have the chance to chat with and “visit” his farm.  Joe is a third-generation farmer from Mill Creek, Indiana.  He has been married to his wife Cheryl for 17 years and they have two sons, ages 11 and 9.  Joe’s grandfather purchased the original farm in the 50s from Peter Scholl (Dr. Scholl).  “The farm has grown considerably over the past 60 years.  We grow soybeans, seed corn, popcorn, field corn, wheat and alfalfa.  We also raise a few steers.”

On the Tuholskis’ Northwest Indiana farm, they have six family members working full-time.  “There are three second-generation on the farm that include my dad and his two brothers and three third-generation that include myself and two cousins.  We also have some part-time help during the fall harvest, when it gets busy.”

Joe says “The goal of The Glass Barn at the State Fair is to educate the public.  Young or old, we want the people of Indiana to know about local farmers and why we do what we do.  As a featured farmer of The Glass Barn, I get to tell the story of my family’s farm and what we are doing to keep our operation sustainable.  The thing I enjoy most about The Glass Barn is knowing everyone leaves there with a better understanding of the agriculture here in Indiana.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Top 10 Things To Do at the Indiana State Fair

By Lauren Taylor of Indiana Soybean Alliance

The Year of the Farmer! It’s time to celebrate the hard work of the people behind Indiana agriculture. So what is the best way to do that? Check out the top 10 things to do this year at the 2015 Indiana State Fair! You are guaranteed to have a great time.

10. Be Amaized

Come to the Harvest Pavilion and check out Amazing Maize! Amazing Maize takes visitors on a journey through the centuries, beginning with corn's unlikely origins in a small-eared bushy plant called teosinte. Visitors trace the global spread of the crop following Christopher Columbus' travels, including its social impact in Africa and Europe. Fairgoers return to the shores of America to explore the push to improve productivity and the rise of hybrid corn. The final stop on the journey highlights the modern technology used to improve and grow the crop. 

9. Get Local

ISDA will host the brand-new Indiana Grown booth located within the Harvest Pavilion at this year’s State Fair.  The booth will provide State Fair visitors the opportunity to learn more about the program, as well as where they can buy locally-based Indiana Grown products.

8. Oh Baby

See a baby calf born almost every day at the Indiana State Fair! That’s right every day! Now on its 16th year, the Livestock Nursery is an award winning interactive, educational venue that attracts all ages!

7. Pig Out

The Indiana Pork Producers got a makeover! When you come to the State Fair this year, make sure to stop by and get your pork burger at the new and improved pork tents! They have a new look and a new flavor that won’t disappoint, but the same great hospitality.

6. Go Live

Come to the Glass Barn and talk to farmers LIVE at 11, 2, 4 every day! Prizes will be given away at each and every chat! Throughout the Indiana State Fair, visitors of the Glass Barn will have an opportunity to Skype with Indiana farmers on their farms and ask them questions about their production practices. In addition to talking with farmers, the Glass Barn visitors can enjoy a free photo booth, learn about modern farms through an interactive computer game, and follow the journey a soybean takes from field to table.

5. Dress Up

Superman the llama? Yep you heard right! You can see that at the Indiana State Fair! Check out the llama costume contest where you can see llamas like you have never seen them before! 

4. Fly High

Get in line for the Ferris wheel and go all the way to the top to overlook the beautiful Indiana State Fairgrounds! If it wasn’t for soy biodiesel then you may get stuck up there. The entire Midway at the State Fair is powered by soy biodiesel. That means that Indiana farmers don’t just feed Hoosiers they also fuel your fun! 

3. Be Cool

When the hot, humid weather sets in for the Indiana State Fair, visit the northeast side of the fairgrounds and walk through Pathway to Water Quality (PWQ). The park-like setting is an exhibit showcasing the importance of water quality and soil health. Conservation practices are on display that can be utilized on the farm, at home, and all areas in between. There is plenty of shade to cool you off, and activities for children and adults alike. Pathway also highlights beautiful native plants and flowers, and wildlife such as hawks, ducks and birds. As you leave, grab a cup of cool, free water. PWQ is sponsored by the Indiana Conservation Partnership.

2. Need S'more

Visit the Dairy Bar right across from the Plaza, the new beautiful addition to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, for a milkshake and a famous grilled cheese at the Dairy Bar. In addition to all the classic favorites, this year’s featured shake is the toasted-marshmallow-flavored S’mores Shake and the featured grilled cheese is Muenster cheese on cinnamon raisin bread. YUM!

1. Meet a Farmer

In celebration of Year of the Farmer at the Indiana State Fair, IFOF challenges you to find a farmer around the Indiana State Fairgrounds and take a picture with them using the official hashtag #FarmerSelfie. You can take a picture with a poster of a farmer, a sign with a farmer on it, or even with 1 of 17 featured farmers. Then post your picture on all of your social media handles! For every #FarmerSelfie posted, IFOF will make a donation to Feeding Indiana’s Hungry! At the end of each day of the fair, Indiana Family of Farmers will be a drawing for a winner that will get a $50 gift card to Kroger! So be sure to find a farmer take a #FarmerSelfie and post it online! Having fun and feeding the hungry! What could be better than that? 

Farmer Selfies!

By Lauren Taylor of Indiana Soybean Alliance

Although Indiana Farmers don’t recommend taking selfies behind the wheel of the tractor, they do encourage them at the Indiana State Fair. But, you have to find a farmer first! 

In celebration of Year of the Farmer at the Indiana State Fair, Indiana Family of Farmers challenges you to find a farmer around the Indiana State Fairgrounds and take a picture with them using the official hashtag #FarmerSelfie.

You can take a picture with a poster of a farmer, a sign with a farmer on it, or even with 1 of 17 featured farmers. Then post your picture on all of your social media handles! 

Want to know the best part? For every #FarmerSelfie posted, Indiana Family of Farmers will make a donation to Indiana’s hungry! Also, at the end of each day of the fair, Indiana Family of Farmers will be a drawing for a winner that will get a $50 giftcard to Kroger! 

So be sure to find a farmer take a #FarmerSelfie and post it online! Having fun and feeding the hungry! What’s better than that? 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Frey Farms

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Watermelons have been a part of 47-year-old Leonard Frey’s life for as long as he can remember.  As a kid, his parents and five siblings would grow and harvest watermelons and sell them from the back of a pickup truck.  Now, the Freys raise cantaloupes, watermelon, sweet corn, hard winter squash, pumpkins, Autumn Coleur  which is a unique and colorful heirloom variety pumpkin, and several different types of fall ornamentals.   The watermelon varieties they grow are: red seedless, red seeded, yellow meat, and personal seedless.  The Freys rotate with corn, soybeans, wheat, and canola.

Frey Farms have growing locations in Florida, Georgia, Missouri, West Virginia, Illinois, and Indiana.  They began growing in Indiana in 1999 and harvest at their Poseyville, Ind. farm usually takes place anywhere from the 12 to15 of July.  The family has about 250 acres of cantaloupe and 350 acres of watermelons at their Poseyville location.

Leonard explains that they use seeded watermelons as pollinators, then the seeded watermelons are used to make a delicious juice, Tsamma.  “Every bottle of Tsamma is packed with over one pound of fresh watermelon.  It is 95% watermelon juice with a blend of other juices; has no added sugar; no artificial colors or flavors; is rich in vitamins C, B, and A; and is only 80 calories per serving.”

All of the Freys’ produce is available at several local stores including Wal-Mart, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Whole Foods, and many more.  “We ship directly from the fields to the distribution centers, located minutes from each field, where it is then shipped to the store where customers can find it just as sweet and fresh as the day it was picked.”

Leonard, who has a PhD in Agriculture from the University of Illinois, says that it is hard to pick the one thing that he enjoys most about farming, but did say, “I enjoy seeing the crop grow and taking it from transplant to harvest.  Hearing people say they look for our sticker on produce at the store because they like it ranks at the top of the list.  It means we are doing a good job!”

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Trosts

 By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Claire Trost never dreamed she would be part of the agriculture industry.  She was born in downtown Chicago and spent much of her childhood in Dublin, Ohio just northwest of Columbus.  “As far back as we can tell, my family has no connection to agriculture and not one of my friend’s families was involved in the industry.  My high school did not offer 4-H or FFA, and I didn’t know one person who drove a truck.  I honestly had no clue where food came from, and I still have not been to a State Fair.  That’s changing this year though!  I didn’t get introduced to the agriculture industry until attending college at Purdue.”

Fast forward a few years and Claire is now married to her college sweetheart, Adam; they live in Russiaville, which is Adam’s hometown.  “We married four years ago, and since then we have focused our energy on our careers, building our new home on 40 acres of land that is currently rented to a local farmer, traveling, and learning as much as we can about producing food.” 

Even though no one in Adam’s family farms, Adam grew up very close to agriculture.  His extended family farms in Illinois, and his dad has owned his own grain handling equipment construction business.  “As a kid, Adam dreamed of being a farmer.  He now hobby-farms about 20 acres.”  Adam is transitioning into ownership of his family’s grain handling company, Indiana Farm Systems.  He majored in Building and Construction at Purdue and, after a year with an engineering firm in Indianapolis, he knew his heart belonged with the family business.

Claire majored in Hospitality Management at Purdue and now does development for a company called “Campus Cooks.”  “We partner and manage professional chefs in sororities and fraternities across the nation.  I work closely with students and alumni and love being surrounded by incredibly creative culinary talent every day.  It’s a great job for me because I was Greek as an undergrad and because I absolutely love great food!”

Their backyard garden is full of delicious fruits and vegetables and they are constantly trying to figure out how to grow more, either through succession planting or the addition of new plants.  Some of their favorite things to grow are tomatoes, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, garlic, and lettuces.  They are trying onions, leeks, and potatoes for the first time this summer and looking forward to having grapes and berry bushes in the ground next year.

“The produce we grow is mainly just for us to enjoy seasonally or to preserve.  I have taught myself how to can and we freeze many items like carrot coins, pesto, kale, and green beans to enjoy throughout the year.  We also love to share with family and friends throughout the summer.  Recently, we have been considering producing food on a larger scale to sell either to farmer’s markets or through our own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  We still have a lot to learn, but it is something we are really considering and are pretty excited about.”

Claire and Adam also raise backyard hens.  “Currently we have 25 hens.  They are our first experiment in seeing if there is a market for the food we raise and grow.  The birds should be laying around September.  We have raised hens for about two years but never had this many.  We initially started with hens, because we kept reading that composted chicken droppings are a great, natural fertilizer.  But, we learned that we loved the hens not just for the droppings in the garden’s soil, but also for the beyond-amazing fresh eggs and their funny personalities.  We can’t imagine not having hens.”

Claire has always worked in the food industry, so her jobs have always been connected to agriculture.  Changes in food prices; weather, such as droughts or late frosts; and keeping up with food trends are a big piece of her career.  “Today many consumers desire transparency and want to know the farmer.  Since 2008, I have had a lot of really neat experiences in forging connections with local farmers in my roles.  I got my first taste of the ‘Farm to Table’ movement when interning in Southern California, then, as a local school corporation’s Food and Nutrition Director, then I got involved with Indiana Farm to School as it was getting off the ground.  Now, in my role with Campus Cooks, we have made connections with a handful of local, Indiana farms for veggies and greens in particular.  Sorority women love it!”

When asked if she had any tips for someone who wants to start a garden for the first time, Claire said, “My number one tip is to grow things you like to eat.  You will be more apt to take care of a garden when you are looking forward to eating the fruits of your labor.”

You can follow along with Claire’s backyard gardening journey by visiting her blog where she talks about gardening, local food and growers who direct-market their produce or meat to consumers.  She also shares real, fun stories about life.  “I did not grow up around agriculture, so all the dirt in my life and the fact that I thought a home on a 1-acre lot had a lot of land sometimes makes for funny moments!”

Follow Claire on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook!