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Honoring Indiana ag teachers who paved the way

Hoosier Perspectives: Meet the former FFA advisor who guided a national officer and Master Farmer.

Tom J. Bechman

December 4, 2023

3 Min Read
 Janet Smith and Carl Scott sitting next to each other and smiling
CONNECTION TO THE PAST: The school at which he advised a student who became a state FFA officer, national FFA officer and Master Farmer no longer exists, but Carl Scott still remembers those days. He recently attended the annual retired ag teachers luncheon, accompanied by his daughter, Janet Smith. Tom J. Bechman

What happens when you gather well over 700 years of combined teaching experience in agricultural education in one room at the same time? You get a glimpse of the passion, dedication and character that has made Indiana ag education and the FFA what it is today. That was evident when retired ag teachers and FFA advisors gathered at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center near Trafalgar recently.

If there were an award for the oldest former ag teacher, Carl Scott, Elwood, Ind., would win hands down. Scott will turn 100 early in 2024. His daughter, Janet Scott Smith, Fishers, Ind., made sure he attended this special gathering. Just how far back did his teaching career reach? That’s where the web that makes the Indiana FFA and ag ed community a tight-knit group gets interesting.

Scott was the ag teacher at Walnut Grove, a rural high school in Hamilton County. It no longer exists as a high school, but the area is still rural compared to the rest of the county, one of the fastest-growing counties in Indiana. You can learn about the former school on Facebook at Walnut Grove School Friends.

If you don’t recognize the name Carl Scott, you might recognize the name of one of his former students at Walnut Grove. Jerry Rulon was Indiana FFA state secretary in 1955-56, Indiana FFA state president in 1956-57, and National FFA vice president in 1957-58.

Follow the thread

Rulon’s story doesn’t stop there. In 1993, he was named a Master Farmer by Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine. He and his wife, the late Carol Rulon, developed a successful farming operation. Today, Rulon still assists, but the large, no-till farming operation is managed and operated by his sons, Ken and Roy, and his nephew, Rodney, and their families.

Ken and his wife, Jane, were named Master Farmers by Indiana Prairie Farmer and Purdue College of Agriculture in 2013. Rodney was honored as the Supervisor of the Year for the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts in 2016. That award is sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer.

The story doesn’t stop there, either. The same day that Scott received applause for his dedication from fellow retired ag teachers in Trafalgar, Rodney Rulon and his daughter Dianna participated in a virtual meeting with leaders in Indiana agriculture working together to draft recommendations for voluntary, sustainable farming practices in Indiana. Dianna is now coordinator for this group, known as Solutions for the Land for Indiana.

From small rural schools in the 1950s to the National FFA Convention to Master Farmer recognitions, to leadership status in adapting soil conservation measures on the farm, all the way to virtual calls in 2023, that’s a long thread that links Carl Scott to Indiana agriculture today.

Here’s a shoutout to all the unsung heroes like Scott who labored at teaching and advising because it was their passion. There are hundreds upon hundreds of invisible threads linking Indiana agriculture, present and future, thanks to the foresight and hard work of those who made up Indiana agriculture in the past.

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About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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