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Hoosier Perspectives: It’s time for fresh views and new leadership at Indiana Prairie Farmer.

Tom J. Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

April 1, 2024

3 Min Read
Allison Lund pictured with Tom Bechman
TRANSITION COMING: I will become Midwest crops editor and Allison Lund will move into the role of Indiana Prairie Farmer editor. Betty Haynes

The average age of Indiana farmers in 1981 was 52. Today, it’s around 57. Farming was always a blend of generations getting older and new generations stepping in. Even in 1981, farmers needed succession plans. Yet, it was and still is difficult. Who wants to admit they must turn the farm over to someone else someday?

It isn’t just farmers who need succession plans. Farm writers need them too. Trust me, it’s not any easier for someone who writes than it is for those who farm.

I started on my succession plan three years ago. That’s when I first met Allison Lund, a farm girl from Wisconsin. Under the tutelage of Mark Tucker, a Purdue professor, she blossomed. She joined Indiana Prairie Farmer as staff writer in January.

Memories and more

Why reference 1981? That’s when I became field editor for Indiana Prairie Farmer. To quote my friend John Otte, former economics editor for Farm Progress, upon retiring, “It’s been a good, long run.”

Indeed! Several people ask: “What was your favorite story?” Answering that fully would take this entire magazine. So many of you welcomed me onto your farms and into your homes.

Here are a few favorite memories:

Riding combines. One of the first yield monitors I watched in action was on Larry Stoy’s farm in Steuben County, Ind. It wasn’t sophisticated, but it clearly showed yield variation. Later, the yield monitor hit 300 bushels per acre while harvesting corn with Nick Wenning, Decatur County, Ind. More recently, I was in the buddy seat of Randy Kron’s New Holland combine cutting soybeans in Gibson County, Ind., when the monitor topped 111 bushels per acre.

Walking cornfields. “If I had a dollar for every cornfield I walked ...” In the late 1980s, I joined Bob Nielsen, then a young Purdue Extension corn specialist, and Don Kelso, then Wells County Extension educator, walking cornfields with 4-H kids. Why? At the time, Purdue believed specialists belonged on campus, not in farm fields. It was the only way Bob and Don could justify walking fields! Fortunately, Purdue’s view is 180 degrees different today.

Turkey on the table. Tim Sickman, friend and former editor of Kentucky Prairie Farmer, and I got the bright idea to set up cover shoots for November, one in Kentucky and one in Indiana. We convinced two farm families to prepare Thanksgiving dinner in September and invite us. The wives obliged, and we got our cover photos. But Sickman wouldn’t let me stay for dinner!

Poignant moments. In May 2012, I visited a family devastated by the 2012 Henryville, Ind., tornadoes. One gentleman I had interviewed two years earlier died in the tornado. What I didn’t know was that his daughter was there, arm in a cast. When she talked about the tornado ripping her little boy out of her arms — well, even grown men cry.

Next chapter

This isn’t farewell. I am not leaving. Instead, I am transitioning to become the first Farm Progress Midwest crops editor.

But I am passing the torch. Allison, along with our executive editor, Holly Spangler, will lead you into the brave new world of Indiana agriculture in the 21st century.

I hope your succession plan works too. If you don’t have one, just remember: No one can farm forever. Good luck and keep reading! And please stay in touch. Drop me a note or send me story leads at [email protected].

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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