Thursday, December 17, 2015

How Popcorn Pops

Every winter break, I always find myself looking for ways to keep my children entertained. A movie and popcorn night is usually one of our go-to activities, but this year, we decided to mix it up a little bit and add an educational element:


The great thing about this activity is that it does not require a lot of time, ingredients or attention spans.

What you need:

·         1/3 cup popcorn kernels

·         3 tbsp. canola oil

·         Popcorn popper

If you don’t have a popcorn popper, you need:

·         Large pot

·         Clear glass lid (very important)

Any type of popcorn kernels will work. I sacrificed my popcorn as the kids wouldn’t let me sacrifice their “real” popcorn (with all the butter, salt, you know – the good stuff). 


1.      Put the pot on the stove, and then turn the stove on. Or turn on the popcorn popper.

2.      Pour in the oil.

3.      Add anywhere from 2-10 kernels and cover with a lid. The larger the pot, the more kernels you can use.

4.      Wait for kernels to pop.
5.    I had the kids take guesses beforehand about how long it would take. That was fun! Once they pop, you can add the remaining kernels and then serve. Be careful – it is HOT!


Inside each popcorn kernel is a little bit of water. When you heat the kernels, the water turns to steam and expands. After a while, the pressure from the steam builds up and the popcorn pops.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Walkers

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Jennifer and Jacob Walker of Dekalb County are both Purdue University graduates with majors in agriculture.  They have two kids Ryan, 2 ½, and Leann, 1 ½, who love coming to the farm, because as Jacob says, “It’s special to have them there.”  After graduation, Jacob worked off the farm for 3 years before coming back to the farm his grandparents started.  “My dad and grandpa farmed separately, but worked together.  In 2001, we lost my grandparents in an accident and my parents continued the operation.  I was fortunate to be able to come into a rolling operation and have the opportunity to help grow it and continue to be successful in the future,” Jacob says.

The Walkers both grew up on farms; Jennifer hails from a family dairy operation, where she was actively involved in the daily milking and harvesting aspects of the farm.  “Growing up on farms definitely has shaped who we are today and we hope our kids continue to have that same opportunity.”  On the current farm, the Walkers raise corn, soybeans, and wheat.  They also bale large square bales of straw and run a Beck’s seed dealership.  Jennifer works as a district conservationist for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Jennifer and Jacob were the proud recipients of the Young Farmer Achievement Award from Indiana Farm Bureau.  This award is based on their efforts in production agriculture and leadership achievement. 

“The process for the award starts by filling out the application,” Jacob explains.  “There are three finalists that go on to have 20-minute interviews…  We appreciated the application process for several reasons: It focused mostly on your accomplishments in your operation with involvements being important as well.  The applications get judged blind, so your name and hometown isn’t known until the final three.  One of the most difficult things was getting across everything you wanted in a 20-minute interview.  We learned a lot during the process and enjoyed documenting our journey.”

Jacob feels the Young Farmer program through Farm Bureau is important because of the demographics of people in production agriculture.  “There are fewer young people coming back to production agriculture all the time and this program focus on some of that.  There are few other programs across the country that put a focus solely on the next generation of agriculture and that provide a meaningful organization for them.  This award recognizes accomplishments of the individuals and promotes the Young Farmer Program.”

Jacob’s advice to a young farmer who is considering joining the family farm, “Go do something else for a while.  Don’t come straight back to the farm.  Set goals.  Make sure you’re able to make your own mistakes and make meaningful decisions without only riding on the coattail of the previous generation.  Have something that’s yours and take initiative.  Have a mentor.  Make sure there’s proper organizational structure and that it’s clear what everyone’s roles are.  Learn from the people that helped get you where you are and recognize that through the process.”

To learn more about the Walker's farm, visit their website,

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Farm to Table

This summer, we partnered five farm bloggers with five non-farm bloggers to participate in a two part series that would take them from the farm to the grocery store to learn more about where their food comes from. Below are links to not only their experiences but a lot of yummy recipes as well!

Ground Beef Tacos from Angie of Just Like the Number

20-Minute Skillet Pizza from Leah of Beyer Beware

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken Recipe from Ann-Marie of Chaos is Bliss

Super Easy Pizza Casserole from Heather of 3 Kids and Lots of Pigs

Italian Beef Sandwiches from Crystal of Mom for Less

Crock Pot Lasagna Soup from Jeanette of Fencerow to Fencerow

Homemade Baked Ziti from Ashley of Simply Designing

Crock Pot Chicken and Noodles from Jent of Farmwife Feeds

Baked Turkey Meatballs from Steph of Indy Homeschool

Fiesta Chicken Chowder from Liz of The Farmwife Cooks

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I am Indiana Agriculture: Dan Doles

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Dan Doles of Greensburg has been around farming his entire life.  His great, great grandfather, Isaac Doles, settled the parcel of land where Dan currently lives in 1836.  “I have helped farm the family farm since I was in high school.  We raised beef cattle, hogs, and crops.  At one time, we used to have a cow herd of about 200 cows that calved in the spring and fall, as well as purchasing feeder cattle to feed out.  Our swine operation was much smaller with a farrow-to-finish operation consisting of about 80 sows.  At that time, I was farming with my father, uncle, and cousin.  My father and uncle have since retired and the family has divided the farm acreage, and my brother-in-law and sister currently farm the ‘home’ farm which my father owns.”  Dan has two sisters, one of whom lives in North Carolina and the other lives just southwest of Greensburg, raising her family and farming with her husband.  They also sell products from their operation to local farmers’ markets.

In the winter of 1987, Dan attended a short course at Purdue University studying agriculture.  Then, in June 2015, he spent 4 weeks at Texas A&M University training for his current career as an Enforcement, Investigation, and Analysis Officer (EIAO).  Dan works for the Meat and Poultry Inspection Division of the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH), where he began as a meat inspector, then was promoted to EIAO in January of 2015.  “I am responsible for conducting Food Safety Assessments (FSAs) at official meat processing establishments throughout this great state of Indiana.  An FSA is an in-depth assessment of an establishment’s food safety and sanitation procedures that ensure the meat and poultry products they process are safe to eat.  I also directly observe employees in the performance of their duties to verify if they are following  safe food processing and handling methods.”

When asked why he decided to become a meat inspector, Dan said that in 2005 he took a part-time job working in one of the state-inspected processing establishments on the slaughter floor handling the live animals. That is where he met the BOAH inspectors who monitored the plant.  “In 2009, my father and I had a meeting and decided it was not economical for us to continue to purchase feeder cattle and fatten them out for market.  We decided to rent the farm ground and phase-out feeding cattle,” explained Dan, who had to seek other work.   “I informed the inspection staff, before I resigned, to call me if a position in my area opened up. In 2011, a position opened, and I was hired as a meat inspector.  I have found it has been a wonderful career change and I have no regrets.”

Consumers are once again concerned about antibiotics in the meat they purchase.   Dan offered this piece of information to ease consumer’s minds: “State Meat and Poultry Inspection inspectors collect random drug residue samples, as well as USDA-directed residue samples.  Any meat that tests positive for antibiotic drug residue is condemned for human consumption.”

In his free time Dan likes to be outdoors hunting, fishing, shooting/archery, and playing golf.  He also likes to volunteer his time helping his friend with his Hunter Education Course a couple of times each year.

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.”

Sunday, August 9, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Walker Farms

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

“Agriculture has always been a part of my life,” Stacy Walker of Rensselaer says.  The daughter of a farmer, she remembers while growing up her mom always gardened and canned.  “I really got interested in agriculture as something to pursue my 8th grade year of school when we were able to take a vocation agriculture class through our high school.  This is where I knew I wanted to do something in the horticulture area.”   While in high school, Stacy participated a lot in class and did horticulture judging in FFA.  She graduated from Purdue with a degree in Landscape Horticulture and Design with a minor in Food and Agribusiness Management.  In 2005, she married her high school sweetheart, Scott, and they have 3 kids, Ty, 8, Lane, 6, and Brynn, 3.  Scott is a superintendent for a commercial construction company.  “Currently, I am a work-at-home mom with an online newborn photography prop business, and also work part-time for a wedding planner and am a part-time florist, along with managing our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and growing produce on our farm.  I also help my dad and brother in the field with hay and harvest and am the County Education and Outreach Coordinator for Jasper County Farm Bureau.”

Walker Farms began in 2006 with pumpkins.  They sold wholesale to a local business.  In 2007, the couple added produce and started selling at farmers markets.  In 2008, they added their CSA and have been doing all three ever since.  The Walkers grow a wide variety of produce beginning with cool crops in early spring, followed by summer crops, then cool crops again in the fall.   “We grow about 5 acres of produce and about 8 acres of pumpkins.  We planted several strawberry plants last year and plan to expand that as well as expanding pumpkins.  Pumpkins and Indian corn are our main crops that we grow.  Our favorites are probably the pumpkins and all the fall d├ęcor crops, kohlrabi, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, green onions, sweet corn, and peppers.  We also raise chickens.  They supply us with delicious fresh eggs, and we also sell frozen free-range whole chicken.  We also have some goats, rabbits, ducks, and turkeys on the farm.”

“In between planting and harvest we do a lot of weeding!  We got a Farmall Cub last year and that helps tremendously with keeping between the rows clean.  If we need to haul water to our crops we have a large tank that we fill and put up our irrigation throughout the garden to make sure things are watered.”

The Walkers’ three children love to help, especially with pumpkins.  “Although their attention doesn’t last long, we take any help they want to give.  They are right there along with us, helping and cleaning the produce.  The go play and come back and help more.  They like to help plant the seeds and plants.  I would say their favorite is helping pick pumpkins and gourds.  We make it a family affair!”

Growing produce, just like any other crop, is at the mercy of the weather.  “This year is a difficult one for us and probably our worst year we have had.  We can manage to keep our crops irrigated in drought spells, but this year 20 inches of rain in consecutive days was hard on our crops.  The fields stayed wet, so we couldn’t get in to work ground to maintain the weeds as well.  We are able to supply for our CSA members easily and for our self, but we had to give up the farmers market this year, as we didn’t have a lot of extra produce to have a good variety at the farmers market.  Any extra we have I am canning and freezing. “

The Walkers also have Fall Harvest Days at their farm a few weekends in October.  Started in 2009, visitors can find pre-picked pumpkins and gourds, since the pumpkin field is a few miles from their farm, along with straw, Indian corn, and fall produce.  They do a few kids activities as well.
When asked what she enjoys most about her job, Stacy explains, “A lot of the reason we grow produce is for ourselves.  I like to can and freeze a variety of things.  My mom taught me how to can, so I try to keep several quarts of different things each year.  I love to can green beans, beets, tomato juice and pickles.  I freeze peppers, onions, and strawberry jam.  I like that it teaches my kids to live off the land.  They are seeing, start to finish, how produce is grown.  We love interacting with customers at the farmers markets.  I always enjoy hearing their recipes and what they did with the produce they bought.  Today many consumers want to know where their food comes from and know the farmer.  It is a great feeling that we can make that connection and talk to our customers about our produce.”

You can follow Stacy and her family on her blog: where she shares recipes, gardening, farm life, and her love for vintage things.  She is also on Facebook and @stacyfarmsew on Instagram and Twitter.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I am Indiana Agriculture: Joe Tuholski

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

The Glass Barn is one of the many attractions at the Indiana State Fair.  It opened in 2013 and gives visitors a “vivid experience of what life is like for farmers and their families.”  Visitors can chat with a real farmer throughout the day, test their farming knowledge by playing a game of Beango, and experience the interactive games and exhibits.

Joe Tuholski is one of the farmers visitors will have the chance to chat with and “visit” his farm.  Joe is a third-generation farmer from Mill Creek, Indiana.  He has been married to his wife Cheryl for 17 years and they have two sons, ages 11 and 9.  Joe’s grandfather purchased the original farm in the 50s from Peter Scholl (Dr. Scholl).  “The farm has grown considerably over the past 60 years.  We grow soybeans, seed corn, popcorn, field corn, wheat and alfalfa.  We also raise a few steers.”

On the Tuholskis’ Northwest Indiana farm, they have six family members working full-time.  “There are three second-generation on the farm that include my dad and his two brothers and three third-generation that include myself and two cousins.  We also have some part-time help during the fall harvest, when it gets busy.”

Joe says “The goal of The Glass Barn at the State Fair is to educate the public.  Young or old, we want the people of Indiana to know about local farmers and why we do what we do.  As a featured farmer of The Glass Barn, I get to tell the story of my family’s farm and what we are doing to keep our operation sustainable.  The thing I enjoy most about The Glass Barn is knowing everyone leaves there with a better understanding of the agriculture here in Indiana.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Top 10 Things To Do at the Indiana State Fair

By Lauren Taylor of Indiana Soybean Alliance

The Year of the Farmer! It’s time to celebrate the hard work of the people behind Indiana agriculture. So what is the best way to do that? Check out the top 10 things to do this year at the 2015 Indiana State Fair! You are guaranteed to have a great time.

10. Be Amaized

Come to the Harvest Pavilion and check out Amazing Maize! Amazing Maize takes visitors on a journey through the centuries, beginning with corn's unlikely origins in a small-eared bushy plant called teosinte. Visitors trace the global spread of the crop following Christopher Columbus' travels, including its social impact in Africa and Europe. Fairgoers return to the shores of America to explore the push to improve productivity and the rise of hybrid corn. The final stop on the journey highlights the modern technology used to improve and grow the crop. 

9. Get Local

ISDA will host the brand-new Indiana Grown booth located within the Harvest Pavilion at this year’s State Fair.  The booth will provide State Fair visitors the opportunity to learn more about the program, as well as where they can buy locally-based Indiana Grown products.

8. Oh Baby

See a baby calf born almost every day at the Indiana State Fair! That’s right every day! Now on its 16th year, the Livestock Nursery is an award winning interactive, educational venue that attracts all ages!

7. Pig Out

The Indiana Pork Producers got a makeover! When you come to the State Fair this year, make sure to stop by and get your pork burger at the new and improved pork tents! They have a new look and a new flavor that won’t disappoint, but the same great hospitality.

6. Go Live

Come to the Glass Barn and talk to farmers LIVE at 11, 2, 4 every day! Prizes will be given away at each and every chat! Throughout the Indiana State Fair, visitors of the Glass Barn will have an opportunity to Skype with Indiana farmers on their farms and ask them questions about their production practices. In addition to talking with farmers, the Glass Barn visitors can enjoy a free photo booth, learn about modern farms through an interactive computer game, and follow the journey a soybean takes from field to table.

5. Dress Up

Superman the llama? Yep you heard right! You can see that at the Indiana State Fair! Check out the llama costume contest where you can see llamas like you have never seen them before! 

4. Fly High

Get in line for the Ferris wheel and go all the way to the top to overlook the beautiful Indiana State Fairgrounds! If it wasn’t for soy biodiesel then you may get stuck up there. The entire Midway at the State Fair is powered by soy biodiesel. That means that Indiana farmers don’t just feed Hoosiers they also fuel your fun! 

3. Be Cool

When the hot, humid weather sets in for the Indiana State Fair, visit the northeast side of the fairgrounds and walk through Pathway to Water Quality (PWQ). The park-like setting is an exhibit showcasing the importance of water quality and soil health. Conservation practices are on display that can be utilized on the farm, at home, and all areas in between. There is plenty of shade to cool you off, and activities for children and adults alike. Pathway also highlights beautiful native plants and flowers, and wildlife such as hawks, ducks and birds. As you leave, grab a cup of cool, free water. PWQ is sponsored by the Indiana Conservation Partnership.

2. Need S'more

Visit the Dairy Bar right across from the Plaza, the new beautiful addition to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, for a milkshake and a famous grilled cheese at the Dairy Bar. In addition to all the classic favorites, this year’s featured shake is the toasted-marshmallow-flavored S’mores Shake and the featured grilled cheese is Muenster cheese on cinnamon raisin bread. YUM!

1. Meet a Farmer

In celebration of Year of the Farmer at the Indiana State Fair, IFOF challenges you to find a farmer around the Indiana State Fairgrounds and take a picture with them using the official hashtag #FarmerSelfie. You can take a picture with a poster of a farmer, a sign with a farmer on it, or even with 1 of 17 featured farmers. Then post your picture on all of your social media handles! For every #FarmerSelfie posted, IFOF will make a donation to Feeding Indiana’s Hungry! At the end of each day of the fair, Indiana Family of Farmers will be a drawing for a winner that will get a $50 gift card to Kroger! So be sure to find a farmer take a #FarmerSelfie and post it online! Having fun and feeding the hungry! What could be better than that? 

Farmer Selfies!

By Lauren Taylor of Indiana Soybean Alliance

Although Indiana Farmers don’t recommend taking selfies behind the wheel of the tractor, they do encourage them at the Indiana State Fair. But, you have to find a farmer first! 

In celebration of Year of the Farmer at the Indiana State Fair, Indiana Family of Farmers challenges you to find a farmer around the Indiana State Fairgrounds and take a picture with them using the official hashtag #FarmerSelfie.

You can take a picture with a poster of a farmer, a sign with a farmer on it, or even with 1 of 17 featured farmers. Then post your picture on all of your social media handles! 

Want to know the best part? For every #FarmerSelfie posted, Indiana Family of Farmers will make a donation to Indiana’s hungry! Also, at the end of each day of the fair, Indiana Family of Farmers will be a drawing for a winner that will get a $50 giftcard to Kroger! 

So be sure to find a farmer take a #FarmerSelfie and post it online! Having fun and feeding the hungry! What’s better than that? 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: Frey Farms

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Watermelons have been a part of 47-year-old Leonard Frey’s life for as long as he can remember.  As a kid, his parents and five siblings would grow and harvest watermelons and sell them from the back of a pickup truck.  Now, the Freys raise cantaloupes, watermelon, sweet corn, hard winter squash, pumpkins, Autumn Coleur  which is a unique and colorful heirloom variety pumpkin, and several different types of fall ornamentals.   The watermelon varieties they grow are: red seedless, red seeded, yellow meat, and personal seedless.  The Freys rotate with corn, soybeans, wheat, and canola.

Frey Farms have growing locations in Florida, Georgia, Missouri, West Virginia, Illinois, and Indiana.  They began growing in Indiana in 1999 and harvest at their Poseyville, Ind. farm usually takes place anywhere from the 12 to15 of July.  The family has about 250 acres of cantaloupe and 350 acres of watermelons at their Poseyville location.

Leonard explains that they use seeded watermelons as pollinators, then the seeded watermelons are used to make a delicious juice, Tsamma.  “Every bottle of Tsamma is packed with over one pound of fresh watermelon.  It is 95% watermelon juice with a blend of other juices; has no added sugar; no artificial colors or flavors; is rich in vitamins C, B, and A; and is only 80 calories per serving.”

All of the Freys’ produce is available at several local stores including Wal-Mart, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Whole Foods, and many more.  “We ship directly from the fields to the distribution centers, located minutes from each field, where it is then shipped to the store where customers can find it just as sweet and fresh as the day it was picked.”

Leonard, who has a PhD in Agriculture from the University of Illinois, says that it is hard to pick the one thing that he enjoys most about farming, but did say, “I enjoy seeing the crop grow and taking it from transplant to harvest.  Hearing people say they look for our sticker on produce at the store because they like it ranks at the top of the list.  It means we are doing a good job!”

For more information visit:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Trosts

 By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Claire Trost never dreamed she would be part of the agriculture industry.  She was born in downtown Chicago and spent much of her childhood in Dublin, Ohio just northwest of Columbus.  “As far back as we can tell, my family has no connection to agriculture and not one of my friend’s families was involved in the industry.  My high school did not offer 4-H or FFA, and I didn’t know one person who drove a truck.  I honestly had no clue where food came from, and I still have not been to a State Fair.  That’s changing this year though!  I didn’t get introduced to the agriculture industry until attending college at Purdue.”

Fast forward a few years and Claire is now married to her college sweetheart, Adam; they live in Russiaville, which is Adam’s hometown.  “We married four years ago, and since then we have focused our energy on our careers, building our new home on 40 acres of land that is currently rented to a local farmer, traveling, and learning as much as we can about producing food.” 

Even though no one in Adam’s family farms, Adam grew up very close to agriculture.  His extended family farms in Illinois, and his dad has owned his own grain handling equipment construction business.  “As a kid, Adam dreamed of being a farmer.  He now hobby-farms about 20 acres.”  Adam is transitioning into ownership of his family’s grain handling company, Indiana Farm Systems.  He majored in Building and Construction at Purdue and, after a year with an engineering firm in Indianapolis, he knew his heart belonged with the family business.

Claire majored in Hospitality Management at Purdue and now does development for a company called “Campus Cooks.”  “We partner and manage professional chefs in sororities and fraternities across the nation.  I work closely with students and alumni and love being surrounded by incredibly creative culinary talent every day.  It’s a great job for me because I was Greek as an undergrad and because I absolutely love great food!”

Their backyard garden is full of delicious fruits and vegetables and they are constantly trying to figure out how to grow more, either through succession planting or the addition of new plants.  Some of their favorite things to grow are tomatoes, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, garlic, and lettuces.  They are trying onions, leeks, and potatoes for the first time this summer and looking forward to having grapes and berry bushes in the ground next year.

“The produce we grow is mainly just for us to enjoy seasonally or to preserve.  I have taught myself how to can and we freeze many items like carrot coins, pesto, kale, and green beans to enjoy throughout the year.  We also love to share with family and friends throughout the summer.  Recently, we have been considering producing food on a larger scale to sell either to farmer’s markets or through our own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  We still have a lot to learn, but it is something we are really considering and are pretty excited about.”

Claire and Adam also raise backyard hens.  “Currently we have 25 hens.  They are our first experiment in seeing if there is a market for the food we raise and grow.  The birds should be laying around September.  We have raised hens for about two years but never had this many.  We initially started with hens, because we kept reading that composted chicken droppings are a great, natural fertilizer.  But, we learned that we loved the hens not just for the droppings in the garden’s soil, but also for the beyond-amazing fresh eggs and their funny personalities.  We can’t imagine not having hens.”

Claire has always worked in the food industry, so her jobs have always been connected to agriculture.  Changes in food prices; weather, such as droughts or late frosts; and keeping up with food trends are a big piece of her career.  “Today many consumers desire transparency and want to know the farmer.  Since 2008, I have had a lot of really neat experiences in forging connections with local farmers in my roles.  I got my first taste of the ‘Farm to Table’ movement when interning in Southern California, then, as a local school corporation’s Food and Nutrition Director, then I got involved with Indiana Farm to School as it was getting off the ground.  Now, in my role with Campus Cooks, we have made connections with a handful of local, Indiana farms for veggies and greens in particular.  Sorority women love it!”

When asked if she had any tips for someone who wants to start a garden for the first time, Claire said, “My number one tip is to grow things you like to eat.  You will be more apt to take care of a garden when you are looking forward to eating the fruits of your labor.”

You can follow along with Claire’s backyard gardening journey by visiting her blog where she talks about gardening, local food and growers who direct-market their produce or meat to consumers.  She also shares real, fun stories about life.  “I did not grow up around agriculture, so all the dirt in my life and the fact that I thought a home on a 1-acre lot had a lot of land sometimes makes for funny moments!”

Follow Claire on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

We Are Indiana Agriculture: New Generation Dairy

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Brian Rexing and his wife, Ranell, own and operate New Generation Dairy in Owenville, Indiana, along with their four children:  Blair, 12; Mylie, 10; Alleah, 8; and Case, 21 months.  Brian is a 4th generation farmer.  They currently milk 1,200-head of Holstein cows in their new milking facility that was built in 2008.  The cows are milked three times a day and, since it takes 6 hours to milk each time, a single cow is milked every 8 hours.  The Rexings also raise corn, beans, wheat and alfalfa.

The milk from New Generation Dairy is shipped to Nashville, Tennessee where it is processed at the Country Delight plant and sold under the Purity label.  While most dairy farms sell most of or all of the bull calves, New Generation is trying something new by beginning to raise all of their bull calves.

A balanced feed ration and quality care is important in keeping the cows healthy and aids in the production of quality milk.  “We use sand bedding; we think that is the most comfortable for the cows. We also have sprinklers and 80 3-foot fans in each barn. We think comfortable cows produce more high-quality milk. Our farm’s milk parlor is oversized so that we can minimize the cows’ wait time in the holding pen,” Brian explained.

Ranell is a former school teacher, but now works on the family farm and manages the books and payroll.  She also organizes several school farm tours throughout the year, which allows her to get her “teaching fix.”  “We love to tell our farm story and, hopefully, the kids leave with a different perspective of farming than when they first stepped foot on the farm.”

The four kids are active on the farm and while Brian says they don’t have any chores yet, “their time is coming.”  Blair and Mylie are active in 4-H and Alleah is in exploring 4-H.  They show dairy at the fair and Brian says, “That is a requirement.”

When asked what he likes most about farming, Brian replied, “All of it!  It’s exciting to produce food and watching things grow is cool.”

You can find New Generation Dairy on Facebook.  If you would like to schedule a tour for your school, you can email them at