Photos by My Indiana Home
Post by Kathleen Dutro of Indiana Farm Bureau
Don and Jennifer Shoemaker’s route to farming is a pretty traditional one: Both grew up on farms and now farm with Don’s parents, Eugene and Barbara, producing corn, soybeans, seed soybeans and wheat, and “finishing” (that is, bringing to market) several hundred head of cattle annually.
Don and Eugene have an easy way to divide up the work on their family farm. “I joke that if a problem has roots or wheels, it’s my division, but if it has legs, it’s Dad’s,” Shoemaker says.
The farm consists of 1,350 acres, most which are rented from other landowners. Don and Jennifer rent all the cropland for the grain operation while Don’s parents run the beef cattle operation, and each helps the other as needed.
In Indiana, a farm with both cattle and grain isn’t unusual. What is unusual is the way the Shoemakers blend the two by using the same fields for both cattle and grain, but not at the same time. They keep cattle on their sandy, rolling fields during the winter, and then they plant corn on those same fields in the spring. The cattle are fed from portable feeding units and graze off the corn residue, and they “fertilize” the field as they graze.
“Dad and I work for each other since our work is seasonal,” Don explains. “We discuss major decisions, but they are ultimately made by the person that has the money invested.”
Another of Don’s responsibilities is working with the USDA’s Environmental Quality Improvement Program, making sure the farm is environmentally friendly through the use of techniques such as careful management of fertilizer use on the farm.
Meanwhile, Jennifer, who married Don last year, is becoming more involved as she becomes familiar with the operation. Her other job is teaching high school math.
The Shoemakers were in December named the winners of the Indiana Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Achievement Award, which recognizes young farmers whose farm management techniques and commitment to their communities set a positive example for everyone involved in production agriculture. Applicants must earn a majority of their income from production agriculture.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to farm and enjoy sharing the story of production agriculture with others,” Don says.