The best way to learn to appreciate something is to leave it for a while and come back. Don Villwock was reminded of that truth after campaigning in 22 states over about a six-month period in late 2015 and early 2016. It was part of his bid to become the American Farm Bureau Federation president.
Villwock came up short, but he walked away with many new friends, lessons about U.S. agriculture and politics, and a deeper appreciation for agriculture in Indiana.
“We take some things for granted here, and you don’t realize how special Indiana agriculture is until you go elsewhere,” Villwock says. And while agriculture is great in other parts of the country, it’s the cooperation and camaraderie among ag people in Indiana that’s hard to match, he says.
Here are five reasons why Villwock is especially proud of Indiana agriculture.
1. Indiana’s general farm organization is very strong.
Just retiring as Indiana Farm Bureau president in January, Villwock realizes he may be biased. Nevertheless, he’s proud of Indiana’s largest farm organization. “We have a very good Farm Bureau organization in Indiana,” he says. “We have many counties which are very strong. All county Farm Bureaus aren’t equal, but many do a good job in their communities. It’s not that way everywhere.”
2. Farm group involvement with the state Legislature is strong.
“Farm Bureau is much more involved with legislators in the statehouse and much more respected than in many other states,” Villwock observes. Legislators here were particularly impressed at how many Farm Bureau members from all over the state showed up day after day in Indianapolis during the past session to support changes in property tax laws affecting farmland.
3. There's good rapport among ag groups and congressional leaders.
Sen. Joe Donnelley, a Democrat, attended the Purdue University Ag Alumni Fish Fry in February, and even met with the press beforehand. Both he and Sen. Dan Coats attended the annual ham breakfast sponsored by Indiana Pork on the opening day of the 2016 Indiana State Fair.
4. All commodity groups cooperate.
One of the biggest supporters of the livestock industry in Indiana is the Indiana Soybean Alliance. That group, along with Farm Bureau and a host of other farm groups, helped start the livestock forum held in Indianapolis each winter. A dozen and a half commodity and general farm groups are behind the Indiana Family of Farmers effort.
5. Soil and water conservation partnerships work to promote cover crops and soil health.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, soil and water conservation districts, Purdue University and many others cooperate to promote soil conservation efforts. Sometimes employees from at least three agencies work on the same project at the same time.
“The bottom line is that Indiana Farm Bureau and other ag groups working together so well benefits agriculture and the farmers of Indiana,” Villwock concludes.