Friday, November 13, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Kamille Brawner

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Twenty-one-year-old Kamille Brawner is a junior at Purdue University who lives and breathes dairy farming.  She is majoring in Ag Business Marketing with a minor in Animal Science.  Kamille is a proud fourth-generation dairy farmer from Hanover.  “Dairy farming has always been a huge part of my life and helped shape me into the person I am today.  Even though I’m away at college, I still go home as much as possible and help out on the farm.  I have two older sisters and an older brother, and our job growing up was to help on the farm where it was needed.  Most of my fondest memories from my childhood are from helping on the farm.  On Christmas morning, the farm work had to be done before we could open our presents.  That’s still how it is, and I don’t know any other way.”

Kamille is the daughter of Greg and Teresa Brawner. She says that her brother and dad currently work together on the farm.  The Brawners milk 200 cows, primarily Holsteins.  They also raise corn, soybeans, and hay.  Kamille stays as active as possible in the dairy industry.  Last summer she interned for Organic Valley which allowed her to tour other dairy farms in her area.  She served as the 2014-2015 Indiana Dairy Princess, allowing her to attend the Indiana State Fair and visit the dairy barn and shows to speak with farmers and leaders about the dairy industry.  She also hosted events at her local high school to promote dairy.  Last year, during school, Kamille was also actively involved with the American Dairy Association of Indiana.  “Next summer I will actually be doing something completely different for me and will be interning at John Deere in Iowa.  Everything I have done up until now has involved dairy, so I’m anxious to try something new.  I am still looking forward to doing anything dairy when I’m not working for John Deere.”

Animal care is a top priority for the Brawners.  “We always make sure the cows have fresh sawdust for bedding, and their stalls are always clean.  In the summer, when it is hot, we have fans to help them keep cool and we spray them with water while they are waiting to be milked or if they are lactating, as that greatly increases their body temperature.  The cows are always on fresh pasture during the summer months, and we rotate it every 2 days.  They are also fed a very balanced ration to make sure they are getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need to stay healthy and produce milk.  In the winter, we have tarps in the parlor, where the cows are milked, that come down for added warmth.  We also perform regular herd checks.  Each cow has a monitoring device, which is an ear tag, that allows us to monitor their health closely.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Indiana Farm Bureau Outstanding Young Farm Families

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Each year, Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. recognizes outstanding young farm families for two awards:  The Excellence in Ag Award and the Achievement Award. From all of the applications received, three finalists are selected for each award based on their personal accomplishments and community involvement. Meet this year’s final three for each of these prestigious awards:

Excellence in Ag Finalists

Mike and Sarah Hertsel
Mike and Sarah Hertsel live in Syracuse, Ind., along with their three children: Elizabeth, 7, George, 4, and Caroline who is nearly 2.  Mike worked for 10 years as a livestock feed specialist.  Then one day, one of Mike’s customers provided him with a chance to work on a grain and livestock farm.  Sarah is a homemaker as well as a cosmetologist at a local salon.

During high school, Mike and Sarah were active in 4-H and FFA.  Shortly after college, Mike became involved with Farm Bureau.  Mike and Sarah are currently active with Ag in the Classroom farm tours, food checkout day, their county tractor parade group, and the Your Food at the Fair scavenger hunt.

Jeff and Jenna Demerly
Jeff and Jenna Demerly moved to his home county of White County nearly 4 years ago.  They have three children: Adalynn, 5, Austin, 3, and Archer, 1. Jeff owns a business that sells Pioneer seed, crop insurance risk management, and general consulting.  His job consists of working with farmers closely to help maximize their profitability through the growing and harvesting of corn, soybeans, and wheat.  “I wake up each morning feeling blessed to have this opportunity, and I take it very seriously.”

Jeff has served as chairman of the Young Farmer Committee, board member, and vice president, then was elected as president in 2013.  Not only is he involved with Farm Bureau, but he is also active with 4-H, FFA, and their church.

Jeremy and Lindsay Barron
Jeremy and Lindsay Barron of Noble County keep themselves busy by being involved in their community and Farm Bureau and by chasing their two boys around: Lane, 4, and Lawson, 19 months.

Jeremy graduated from American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Partners in Agricultural Leadership, is a member of AFBF’s grassroots GO Team and made it to the Final Four in the national discussion meet at last year’s AFBF convention in San Diego.

The financial services lead for Cargill Risk Management, Jeremy helps grain, livestock, and dairy farmers better manage their risk and increase their profitability.

Lindsay’s primary job is being a wife and mom as well as helping with farm finances.  She also manages the Ole Milk House which is a repurposed milking parlor where she sells antiques and primitives.

Achievement Award Finalist

Jacob and Jennifer Walker
Jake and Jennifer Walker live in DeKalb County with their two children: Ryan, 2 ½, and Leann, 1 ½.   Jake credits college, working in sales for a farm management software company, and owning a precision ag business for helping him better manage his farming partnership with his parents. 

Jake came back to farm full-time in 2008. The Walkers raise 4,950 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat.  They also do custom straw baling, tiling, excavating and manage a Beck’s seed dealership.  Jennifer is a district conservationist with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.  Jake recently joined the board of directors for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and is the co-founder for a regional pro-ag group called Friends of Agriculture.  They are also actively involved with their church and the Down Syndrome Association.

Mindy and Craig Fruechte
Craig Fruechte and his wife, Mindy, raise 24,000 turkeys and also farm 581 acres of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa in Decatur, Ind.  Craig and his dad also custom harvest about 700 acres for nearby farmers.  They have two children, Mason and Brielle.  The Fruechtes also raise four steers and 60 hogs that they market to their urban co-workers.

Craig and Mindy both have jobs off the farm; however, they each dream of working on the farm full-time. 

Craig currently serves as Adams County Farm Bureau vice president and Mindy is the education and outreach coordinator for the county.  They also each have a passion for 4-H, as Craig helps young showmen develop better techniques for the show ring and Mindy serves as Mini 4-H leader teaching 125 6- to 8-year-olds about agriculture.

Matt and Brianna Chapman
Matt and Brianna Chapman from Springport live on the family farm with their 1 ½ year old daughter, Grace.  They met while at Purdue University where Matt earned an associate’s degree in agricultural economics and Brianna received a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences.  Today they each have careers in agriculture.  Brianna owns two retail flower shops in Middletown and New Castle and Matt farms about 3,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat with his younger brother, along with a custom hay-baling business that he started while in high school. 

Matt’s father, Tim, retired from farming in 2013which allowed him to take over the operation. Matt and his younger brother are now partners of the operation, farming the ground their father owned and rented.  Also, they have  rented additional acres.

The Chapmans are very active in Farm Bureau, as well as the Henry County Farm Bureau Young Farmer program.  Matt is currently serving as chairman and Brianna is secretary.  Both are involved in various areas of the community as well, serving on their township park board and in their church.

Friday, October 23, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Hills

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Heather and Marc Hill farm in Hancock County along with their three kids, Addison, Reese, and Hadley, and Marc’s parents, Steve and Debi.  Hill Farms raises corn, soybeans, wheat and pigs.  Marc is the 4th generation of his family to raise pigs in Hancock County.  “All of the corn we raise on our family farm is used to feed our pigs,” Heather explains.  “We market the majority of the 13,000 pigs we raise each year to Tyson and other packers so that our pork ends up in a grocery store near you; however, we do sell a small percentage of our pigs under our private label, The Pork Shoppe.”Nearly 10 years ago, Debi and Heather started The Pork Shoppe as a way to educate their neighbors about their farm and raise some money for the Hill kids’ college by selling retail pork cuts directly to consumers via farmer’s markets and other retail locations.  “I created the business plan as a part of my final project when I received my MBA.  Today we sell pork under The Pork Shoppe label year-round at  the Farmer’s Market at the fairgrounds in Greenfield, the Statehouse Market from May to October, Tuttle Orchards, the online Hoosier Harvest Market and via appointment.”

All of the pigs at Hill Farms are raised the same, whether they are selling them to Tyson or for The Pork Shoppe.  “Our pigs are our top priority on our family farm and ensuring that we raise healthy pigs so that our family and all of yours have safe and nutritious pork to eat is what it is all about.  Our family is proud to carry on the tradition that was started by our family so many years ago and to be able to build upon their knowledge and combine it with current education to make the best decisions for our animals.  My grandfather died over 25 years ago, and I can only wish that he could see how we raise our pigs today.”

So, whether you buy pork at the grocery store or the farmers’ markets, as a former Indiana Pork Producers Association President, Heather can ensure you that the farmers who raised those pigs provided the best care possible to their pigs.

You can follow along with Heather’s family’s adventures at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter and Instagram at @proudporkmom.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Schoettmers

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Keith Schoettmer and his wife of 33 years, Darla, started Schoettmer Prime Pork, Inc. in Tipton, Ind. in 1987. Their pig farm began when they bought a 450-sow operation on contract from another farmer. “We built aggressively through the 90’s and slowly worked our way up to 1050 sows, which is our current sow inventory.  We place the highest emphasis on herd health.” The first-generation farm is a farrow-to-finish pig farm that raises nearly 23,000 pigs per year from the 1050 sows. “This is a daily inventory of around 12,000 head kept in 13 barns, including three off-site units.” The Schoettmers do not farm any row crops; however, they purchase nearly 225,000 bushels of corn, used for pig feed, from neighbors.

The Purdue University graduate cares strongly about the welfare of his animals. “The first step is to be sure we have the right, well-trained people in place to care for the animals every day, 365 days a year. We constantly monitor the environment the animals live in to make them as comfortable as possible. We are also constantly analyzing the nutrition of the pigs to be sure they have balanced feed every day.”

Keith and Darla are the parents of four children, three of whom are married. They also have four grandchildren with two on the way. Keith says that God is a very integral part of their farm. “We have a staff of eight people on our farm.  This includes a full-time maintenance person and two managers who oversee the production on a daily basis. We value our employees both on and off the farm and start each day with a staff devotion and prayer.”

So, where can you buy pork from Schoettmer Prime Pork, Inc.? Keith explains, “We do not sell direct to consumers, but through Indiana Packers in Delphi, so if you buy Indiana Kitchen Pork, you may have eaten some of our product!”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Pleasant View Orchard

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Conveniently located 1 mile north of Interstate 74 in Northwest Shelby County, Pleasant View Orchard is home to 31 acres of apple trees, as well as a 2-acre pumpkin patch.  As Adria Kemper explains, “The orchard was started in the 1930’s by the Reude family.  It was then purchased by the Anderson family in the early 1990’s, then sold to the Hopkins family in the mid-1990’s, who were friends of the Anderson family.  The orchard remained Anderson Orchard until we purchased it in 2013.  We renamed it Pleasant View Orchard.  We grow over 20 varieties of apples that are harvested from July through October.  We offer U-Pick apples and pumpkins.”

Pleasant View Orchard, owned by brothers Jeff and Duane Kemper and their families, also has a country store that allows people to purchase bagged apples, fresh vegetables, fruit, preserves, apple butter, specialty sauces, and much more.  Tractor rides are part of the fun as families make their way out to the 2-acre pumpkin patch which usually begins the last weekend in September.  There’s also a playground for the kids to enjoy.  As their website says, “There’s something for the whole family.”  Pleasant View Orchard also has a concession stand filled with homemade apple cobbler, elephant ears, fried biscuits with apple butter, corn dogs, hot dogs, nachos, BBQ sandwiches, caramel apples and apple cider slushes.

The orchard is currently open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 
Free events this season at the orchard include:

September 26th-Live Hammered Dulcimer music from 3-6 p.m.

October 3rd- Live music from Steve Jeffris from 3-6p.m.

October 10th-Live music from Birch Creek Bluegrass Band from 3-6 p.m.

October 25th- Trunk or Treat at 2p.m./ Silly Safaris show at 3 p.m.

For more information, visit their website:

Sunday, September 6, 2015

I am Indiana Agriculture: Satek Winery

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Satek Winery, located near the intersection of I-80/90 and I-69, sees great volume of traffic passing by; most drivers are unaware the winery exists before seeing the road signage, Jason Satek explains.  “Satek Winery is, in a sense, a cautionary tale; what may happen if you follow your passion and let a hobby take over your life.  If that sounds appealing, or even not unappealing, our story may even be inspirational.”

Jason’s father, Larry, began as an amateur winemaker around 1975 in Chesterton, Maryland.  He was a college professor teaching chemistry, and the house that he and his wife rented happened to have a few grape vines in the backyard.  “He had the knowledge, the raw materials, and the curiosity, and he had the time.  He also had a 3-year-old, but I must not have been too time-consuming!  He began with small batches and began the process of gaining experience.  He found that he enjoyed it.”

Larry left academia in 1979 and took a job with Amoco Research in Illinois.  “Amoco was acquired by British Petroleum and there had begun to be a great number of layoffs,” Jason explains.  With three kids in college, Larry and Jason’s step-mother, Pam, decided to look to agriculture as a backup plan. 

“My step-mother was raised in Fremont, in the 101 Lakes region of NE Indiana.  Her great-grandfather had purchased 28 acres of lakeshore property on the third basin of Lake James in 1915—the land that they still reside on today.”

The Sateks cleared two acres of what was an apple orchard in the 1930’s and 40’s.  They planted the original six varieties of grapes, which they tended, sprayed, pruned and harvested to sell to other wineries in Michigan and Indiana.

“In June of 2001, they opened Satek Winery and haven’t looked back.”

Satek Winery offers free wine tasting in the tasting room overlooking the production area.  They usually carry around 20 different wines ranging from dry to sweet, red, white and rose, local and more remote.  “We maintain quality across the board and have won medals for almost every wine ever made.  Our better sellers are sweeter wines, but their success allows us to produce drier, more niche, wines that might appeal to a smaller, select audience.”

“My father and step-mother have long preached, ‘Good wine, good fun’ as a mantra, and we have developed a handful of yearly events: art shows, a holiday open house, a 5K run/walk and 10K run, and a celebration of Steuben County’s namesake Baron von Steuben, to name a few. But we have largely chosen to grow through distribution.  Satek wine can now be found throughout Indiana, and that is a growth pattern any farmer could be pleased with.”

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.”