Friday, October 24, 2014

I am Indiana Agriculture: Kirk Thornburg

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life
Kirk Thornburg is a 4th generation farmer who resides in Richmond with his wife Lori and daughters, Macy and Kinzie. Kirk grew up on the family farm located near Greensburg in Decatur County and his father still farms the land today.  "I currently manage a 2,800-sow farm for Country View Family Farms located in Randolph County near Lynn.  Country View Family Farms is a division of The Clemens Food Group, and all hogs are harvested at Hatfield Quality Meats in Pennsylvania.  The pork is marketed primarily in the Northeast corridor of the U.S.   I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2005, and am currently enrolled at Purdue University as a graduate student and a candidate for a Master of Science degree in communications.”

Kirk is currently President of the Indiana Pork Board where he has been a member and served on several committees since 2010.  Kirk was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture as a National Pork Forum delegate in 2014.

The one thing Kirk loves most about farming is “the sense of accomplishment I get from understanding that what we do helps to feed the world, and being able to educate others as to what farmers do to feed their families and others around the world.”

“The methods we use to produce crops and livestock today, including pork, use modern technology to produce more food, more efficiently, and more environmentally friendly than ever before.This technology is allowing us to produce the most affordable, most nutritious and safest food we’ve ever produced.  I have had the pleasure of speaking to Richmond High School students on several occasions to teach them about modern pork and food production in general, as well as demonstrating how pork can be prepared.  This is truly something I enjoy."

Friday, October 10, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Emiley Gaskill Doing What She Loves

Emiley Gaskill and her husband, Randy, live in Adams County.  They have three sons: Aaron, who works for Helena Chemical Company; Brandon, a service man for Oracle Pork; and Craig, who is a manager over 10,000-head of wean-to-finish hogs. 

Randy and Emiley are also the proud grandparents of 2-year-old Gaven who, Emiley says, “Is the apple of my eye.”  

The Gaskills are proud supporters of 4-H, having all completed 10 years in the organization.  They are also members of the National Junior Swine Association. “Our family raises and shows swine for exhibition.  We show at county, state, and national levels. We currently breed 30 sows to raise piglets to sell to other young people who want to show them. We have had success in and out of the show ring as we have built relationships with other swine exhibitors, and have gained important knowledge and life skills that have made our show pig business what it is today.”

“We follow the advice from our veterinarian on the health and well-being for our pigs and the National Pork Board’s PQA (Pork Quality Assurance) program to ensure that, on our pig farm, the pigs are kept healthy and safe,” Emiley explains.  “We care about the kind of care our pigs receive after they are sold, so we work with families on educating them on proper pig care and handling, nutrition, and want our pigs to do well for them."

Her favorite part of farming is the long nights they spend as a family in the barn when the “mama pigs” are giving birth.  “We want every pig to get off on the right start from the very moment they are born.”

Emiley also serves on the Indiana Pork Producers Association Board of Directors and is the chair for the youth show pig committee, where they hope to engage more young people in pig farming.  She also gives speaking presentations through the National Pork Board’s Operation Main Street speaker’s bureau. Emiley serves as a PQA Advisor to help other pig farmers by educating them on good production practices and getting their farms assessed for certification.

“I feel it’s very important for pig farmers to be advocates for our industry, because no one knows it better than us, and if we aren’t out there sharing how and why we do the things we do, then someone else might tell consumers things that simply are not true. We raise and feed our family the same quality of pork that consumers find in the stores, so we want to make sure it’s the very best.  I love what we do and want to share what I love with everyone!”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Italian Wedding Soup with Cheesy Meatballs


frost close up on leaf2The temperature dropped, just after a wonderful stretch of beautiful warm weather in late September. 

Can you guess what happens next?  

If you guessed people dig out the cold weather comfort food: chili (no doubt), soups and crock pot creations, then we are on the same page.  

I thought about taking a poll to see how many people made chili that first weekend when the temperature plummeted.  I’d bet more than you realize.  Maybe I’ll ask that incredibly nice lady greeting me at my favorite grocery superstore.  

But I digress, back to comfort food, ah yes.

Sure enough at my house they requested Italian Wedding Soup with homemade cheesy meatballs.  This is a simple soup with great tasting meatballs.  It’s a pleaser for all in my household because it’s different than what is usually on the menu and my picky eaters love it as well. There is nothing worse for me than to make something that only some of us are excited about. It just gives you a great feeling to know that everyone will enjoy their dinner that evening. The recipe calls for 1 ½ pounds of ground turkey for the meatballs however, I alter my meatballs a bit by using 1 pound of ground turkey and ½ pound of sausage. It gives the meatballs a great flavor. I’m sure you will find a way to make it your own. 

  Italian Wedding Soup with Cheesy Meatballsitalian wedding soup 


1 ½ lb. ground turkey 
¾ tsp. Salt 
¼ tsp. Pepper 
3 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley 
1 egg 
½ cup bread crumbs 
¼ tsp. hot sauce 
½ tsp. Garlic powder 
½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese 
16 oz. of small bow tie pasta 
2- 32oz. containers of Chicken stock 
1 package of baby spinach

  meatballs cooking 

Combine turkey and all ingredients except pasta, chicken stock and spinach and mix well in a large bowl. Roll into medium sized meatballs. Brown meatballs in skillet with 2 tbsp. olive oil. While meatballs are browning, pour chicken stock in large pot and bring just to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Cook pasta in separate pan to al dente. Once meatballs are browned transfer to large pot of chicken stock. Add spinach and simmer 5-10 minutes.  Lastly add cooked pasta. Serve and enjoy!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Maple Family Farms

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Denny Maple and his wife Rita have been married for 41 years.  Their corn and soybean farm and wean-to-finish hog operation is located in eastern Howard County.  “Our farm was started in the early 1900s by Rita’s grandparents,” Denny explains.  “My father-in-law continued farming until the early ‘70s when Rita and I continued to grow the farm to what it is today.”

Denny and Rita are the proud parents of Bart, a Purdue-trained construction engineer who lives in Texas with his family, and is part owner and president of a construction company; Ryan, a Purdue graduate in mechanical engineering, who lives in Lafayette with his family, where he works for Cat; and Tiffany, who lives in Hanover, where her husband is a visiting professor of Physics at Hanover College.  Tiffany has a degree in elementary education.

“I grew up on a grain and livestock farm with three brothers and one sister and all we knew was hard work and farming.  There are two times that are really important and satisfying to me, and that is in the spring at planting and in the fall at harvest.  Planting is so important in getting the crop started and having a good stand so you have a chance for a good crop.  Then in the fall, at harvest, to see everything come together with a good crop--although sometimes that doesn’t work out that way--with bad weather.  Harvest is really the most important; whether harvesting grain or harvesting livestock, it’s time that you measure how well you did.”

As the current president of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC), Denny says that his duties include sharing the Council’s story and how ICMC’s efforts work to support corn farmers and identify new uses for the farming staple.

“Every generation we get further and further from production agriculture and how farmers produce food and how we care for the land and livestock.  As world population continues to grow, it’s our job to produce a more high-quality and safe food for this population to eat.  It’s sad that we allow special interest groups to tell our story when they don’t really know our story of how we care for our land and livestock to produce the best and highest quality food in the world.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Smith Family Farms

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Smith Family Farms is located just a few miles west of Pendleton. Jennifer and Neal Smith are the sixth generation to farm the family farm that was established over 100 years ago. Their sons: Mitchell, a sophomore at Purdue, Nathan, a senior at Pendleton Heights High School, and Miller, a seventh grader at Pendleton Heights Middle School make up the seventh generation. The Smiths, along with Neal’s parents Mike and Linda, farm about 2500 acres of corn, soybeans and hay. They milked approximately 100 Holstein calves until 1999 when they converted the dairy farm to a beef farm. Now they have 100 cows. They raise the calves to sell for freezer beef or for show calves.The Smith's cattle are grass and grain fed and raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones.

The Smith children are definitely familiar with the show ring. “Our boys are very active in the National and State Junior Shorthorn Livestock Shows. Our beef recipes have won the National Junior Shorthorn Cook-off for the last four years,” Jennifer explained. “It is one of our kids’ favorite contests. The teams consist of four kids each. They have a recipe that they must prepare while explaining what they are doing, plate it and present it to the judges to taste.”

If you would like some locally raised beef, Jennifer invites you to visit them at Pendleton, Saxony, or Noblesville farmer’s markets on Saturdays from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m., or you can buy directly from them. They are also in the process of opening a meat market in Pendleton. “I wish the public would understand that they have the safest and cheapest food supply in the world,” Jennifer says.

In addition to the corn, soybeans and hay, the Smiths also have 25 acres of wholesale pumpkins and a U-pick pumpkin patch for field trips. Smith Family Farms combines fall fun and Ag education. The kids can navigate their way through the corn maze, visit the petting zoo, ride ponies, go on a wagon ride and enjoy the other various entertainments while learning all about agriculture. There is also a prairie maze, which is a maze in the soybeans that is geared toward younger children. Visit them on Saturdays and Sundays beginning the last Saturday in September from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Smith Family Farms is located at 7055 West 675 South, Pendleton, Indiana 46064. You can also visit their website for more information.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Don’t Be a Chicken, Try a New Chicken Recipe!

By Sarah Correll

September is Eat Chicken Month! Chicken is a great source of lean protein, not to mention a delicious part of many meals! The Real Farmwives of America and Friends have shared some delicious chicken recipes. Which one are you most excited to try?

Cris shares the secret to making great stuffing in this crockpot recipe!

Wings take a fun twist in this recipe from Marybeth.

Liz adds protein, and flavor, to a white pizza with this recipe.

Cheese, ham, and chicken are all included in this recipe from Leah- and this version is low-carb, too!

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