Someone once said that things don't have to be right or wrong, sometimes they can just be different. That applies to Indiana agriculture. After traveling the state for several days, visiting a dozen farms, I'm convinced there is no right or wrong way to farm in Indiana – there are just different ways.
The goal seems to be the one common bond: Make a living and support family members who also want to farm, while protecting God's resources at the same time.
I visited a poultry operation in Jay County with more than a million birds. Eggs come down a conveyor belt from two directions, two different houses, non-stop. In a matter of minutes, they're cleaned, checked, packed, and a stack of cartons is even wrapped in plastic. They might end up in your grocery store, or in Philadelphia or Connecticut. The process is so automated that human hands don't touch the eggs in most cases. It's MInnich Poultry, a family operation, and it will be part of the Indiana Farm Management Tour on June 23.
The next day I visited Steele Family Farms near Decatur. Their operation is all about family and diversity within their operation. Their chief enterprise is actually ag tourism, with a corn maze and school tours making up their busy season in the fall. They also feed out Holstein steers, and market several as freezer beef.
There Chris Steele walked into the hen house and gathered eggs by hand. His son, Cooper, picked a baby chick up out of the home-made brooder and held it proudly. It's also a family farm.
My travels took me to Rensselaer, where I met the Kohlhagen family, anchored by Richard and his wife, Carol. All six children were president of the local FFA chapter at one time. Four went on to be state FFA officers. Three boys and their wives farm with Richard and Carol.
Their grain bin system is impressive, especially when you find out they built it themselves. Literally, they erect the bins as a family. Even the younger grandkids help, putting in bolts and such. The family that puts bins together stays together? It works for them!
I also visited Hayhurst farms near Terre Haute. Several teenagers on spring break came out to work calves while I was there. Roughly a dozen kids can have a 4-H animal project, either a pig or a calf, because the Hayhursts believe 4-H is a valuable experience, and they want to help kids.
I'm not a political person, but I couldn't miss the irony – while I was traveling from family farm to family farm, big and small, diversified to all grain, some employing ethnic workers, from Amish to Hispanics, all the rage on the radio was over the recent bill the legislature passed and the governor signed about religious freedom.
We could debate why it set off a firestorm. I don't see the need. I already know all I need to know, and my trip proved it. Indiana is not only a welcoming place, it's a diverse place, even in, maybe especially in, agriculture.
It's a great place to raise a family – on the farm, in Indiana. And don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise!