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.

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