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Serving: IN
Putnam County Farm-to-Fork dinner Megan Earley, North Putnam FFA
DREAM COME TRUE: The first annual Putnam County Farm-to-Fork Dinner highlighted Putnam County, Ind., agriculture and raised funds for scholarship programs for the county’s four high schools.

Putnam County dinner shows what volunteers can achieve

A farm-to-fork dinner in Indiana raises scholarship money for four schools.

If you’ve got a dream for your community and you’ve got energy and time, the sky is the limit. Here’s an example Janice Fry of Putnam County, Ind., shared with us.

She and her husband, Phillip, raise beef cattle and grain, and are avid supporters of Putnam County agriculture, education and FFA. The county has four high schools: Cloverdale, Greencastle, North Putnam and South Putnam. Until recently, the county didn’t have a countywide scholarship fundraiser.

“I’ve been a member of North Putnam Dollars for Scholars since ’06, and I met with members of the other scholarship committees and the Putnam County Foundation for several years to try to get a countywide scholarship fundraiser going,” Fry says.

When she read about the Benton County Farm-to-Fork Dinner, a light bulb went off. She submitted a request to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture for a livestock grant.

“I figured getting the grant was a long shot, but I knew if I didn’t apply, we were sure not to receive any help,” she quips. “Getting the $1,400 grant was a huge help, and really put energy into our efforts. It also helped validate our plan to the community.”

Make it happen

So, they held their dinner the next month, right? Not hardly. What started was planning for the first Putnam County Farm-to-Fork Dinner, which would be the first countywide scholarship fundraiser.

Planning began in earnest in October 2018, nearly a year before the event. Finding sponsors was part of the planning process. Organizers procured more than 30 sponsors, including local businesses, county organizations and individuals.

“We also wanted to showcase Putnam County agriculture by using as many locally raised foods as possible,” Fry says. “Putnam County is all about agriculture.”

Legan Livestock and Grain, Brock Family Angus Farm, Chandler Farms and Neier Farms donated food for the dinner. The Putnam County Extension Homemakers made desserts. The decorated tables were loaded with Indiana-produced ag products that attendees could take home, ranging from goat soap to pumpkins to buttermilk pancake mix — all donated by people who produced them.

Other volunteers made sure there was entertainment. Carrie Hamilton directed the Putnam County Youth Choir, accompanied by Lori Miller. Two former recipients of scholarships provided by their own school groups explained how much financial help meant to them. Hats off to Mariah Huge, an ag major at Purdue University, and Cara Stanley Cash, now a teacher at South Putnam, for sharing their stories.  

Reach for the stars

“The event was a success,” Fry reports. “Each school received funds. Cloverdale Dollars for Scholars, the Greencastle Alumni Scholarship Committee and North Putnam Dollars for Scholars all award scholarships to students attending postsecondary programs. Each group selects its own awardees.

“This was special for South Putnam, because they’re working to start a Dollars for Scholars program, and this was their first fundraiser.”

Plans are already underway for the second annual Putnam County Farm-to-Fork Dinner in September 2020, Fry notes.

So, now you know it can be done. You can take an idea and turn it into an event that brings your community together, highlights agriculture and supports young people, all at once. Add in your own self-satisfaction, and it’s a grand-slam win.

Let us know about your own success story. We will share it.

Comments? Email tom.bechman@farmprogress.com.

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