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.