Thursday, March 19, 2015

IFOF Celebrates Ag Day at Statehouse

Organizations affiliated with Indiana’s Family of Farmers celebrated National Ag Day at the Statehouse. The group hosted a luncheon for legislators and staff while celebrating the role of farmers in the state.

“Let’s lift up all farmers,” said Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Ted McKinney. “As we continue to progress in Indiana agriculture, let’s lift up the entire food chain. Let’s start before the farm gate and let’s celebrate past the consumer plate.”

The event featured a brief program. Members of the Indiana FFA state officer team read a proclamation signed by Governor Mike Pence declaring March as Ag Month in Indiana. The group recognized Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee chairwoman Jean Leising and House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee chairman Don Lehe as special guests.

Winners of the group’s essay contest were also recognized. The essay asked, “What are the benefits of Indiana agriculture?” Each winner received a $250 cash prize. In the 4th-6th grade category, Kendall Cash of Derby, Ind., took first place. Cash is a 4th grader at Perry Central Community School. She is the daughter of Calvin and Kelly Cash. Levi Spurgeon, a freshman at Indian Creek High School, won the 7th-9th grade category. Spurgeon is the son of Amy and Mathew Spurgeon of Trafalgar, Ind. The winner of the 10th-12th place category was Emily Dougherty of Greenwood. Dougherty is a junior at Whiteland Community High School. Her parents are Amy and Matt Dougherty.

National Ag Day is celebrated every year on or around the first day of spring.

Friday, March 13, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Akers

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Craig Akers and his wife, Lindsay, and their two daughters begin each day by collecting eggs from their 350 hens on their family-run hatchery.  The process begins by placing eggs in an incubator, where they stay for 21 days until the hatching occurs.  Akers choose not to bring poultry in from other locations, so they produce new hens out of the existing flock.  The chickens usually don’t start laying eggs until they’re about 5 months old.

Indiana is ranked No. 3 in the nation in egg production which means that the eggs in your refrigerator probably came from The Hoosier State.  In 2011, the Indiana Agriculture Statistics Service valued the state’s egg industry at more than $422 million, thanks to the success of both small-scale operations and large-scale operations.

 “We’re fairly self-sufficient, “Craig says.  “We raise our own chickens and breed for what the standard of that chicken is.” 

The family carefully monitors the birds and also grinds their own feed which consists of corn, alfalfa, calcium and a protein supplement.  They also make sure the chickens always have plenty of water.  “We have an automatic water system that catches rainwater and pipes it through the coops and buildings,” Craig says.  “But in the winter, we have to carry fresh water out to the chicken houses every day.”

Craig says that attention to detail is very important.  Since they don’t supply to grocery stores, being able to offer the best product to local consumers is vital.  “There are so many other places that people can go and get eggs, but we have very loyal customers that come to us year round in the snow, sun, or rain.  People like our product and what we do.”

Akers Hatchery produces between 15 dozen to 18 dozen eggs per day and also has chicks for sale, which allows consumers to start raising their own hens for eggs.  For visitors who drive to Akers Hatchery for eggs, the eggs were likely laid that morning.  Craig says, “I have even gone to gather eggs while people wait for them.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Gillis Family

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Elaine Gillis and her husband, Craig, farm corn and soybeans in Delaware, Blackford, and Jay counties.  They have an 8-year-old son, Adam, whom they anticipate will join them in the farming operations someday.  Additionally, Elaine assists Craig with their Beck’s Hybrids Seed dealership.  Farming has been a part of Elaine’s life for many years.  She grew up on a farm about 20 miles from where they currently farm.  “Farming is a way of life and a life that was born into my blood.  I don’t work outside the home; however, I do help operate the inventory in/out of our seed dealership, help with manual labor at spring planting, and drive the combine in the fall.  Additionally, I do contract work for an agricultural company, Beck Ag.”  

One of her fondest memories from growing up on a farm is the fall season.  “I love the smell of corn and beans on a chilly or cold evening.  It can’t be found anywhere else, but on the farm.  I also remember the late evenings, listening to the augers empty grain into the grain bins and having fun playing with my brothers and cousins in the barn lot while my dad was working in the fields.”

Elaine and Craig are the third generation to farm the family farm.  “Craig’s grandfather came directly from Belgium and started to farm upon his arrival to the States,” Elaine explains.  Craig’s dad Richard and his brother, Joe, join are also active on the farm.”

When asked what she enjoys most about farming, Elaine stated, “The sense of accomplishment watching a crop grow throughout the season and seeing how plants adjust during adverse conditions during the growing season.  To me, this represents so much of life and how we adjust to different conditions when they are presented.  It’s amazing what the possibilities are when we take care of our soil, the plants, and our water supply, and this is evidenced in the adaptability and success of the plant.”

Elaine currently serves on the United Soybean Board, representing the Indiana Soybean Alliance.  The Gillis family is also one of the feature families in the Glass Barn at the Indiana State Fair.  Additionally, Elaine serves on the Indiana Soybean Board Organizational Committee to spread the word about the many uses for soybeans and the good work soybean farmers do.

“Agriculture is not just a job for many of us in the business.  It is a true love for the land and a true effort of stewardship to our environment.   In our business, we do things to be able to strengthen our operations so that we can pass our business to the next generation.  We plan to take care of things now so they are available and stronger for the future.”