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4 farm families finish out Indiana State Fair as daily hosts

Giant cheese sculpture at the Indiana State Fair.
STATE FAIR FUN: You never know what you will find at the Indiana State Fair. This sculpture is made out of cheese.
These farmers were chosen to match the food of the day at the state fair.

Four more host families will do their Featured Farmer duties before the 2017 Indiana State Fair ends. They represent perhaps the most varied group of farm family hosts yet. Enterprises range from timber and sawmill operation to managing 300 beehives.

Dow AgroSciences sponsored the Featured Farmer daily host program for the third straight year. This year, a different food item is featured each day, as well. The host family is somehow tied to the food.

Here are the final four farm families that will each host a day at the Indiana State Fair.

Day 14
Aug. 17: Steve Leibering and family, Lamar
On-a-stick foods/hardwoods

This family raises timber, with some woods in both the American Tree Farm System and the Indiana Tree Farm System. Located in Spencer County not far from Ferdinand, the family also operates a sawmill and manufactures hardwood flooring and cabinet parts.

“We also buy timber of private landowners and do logging work,” Steve Leibering explains. “We don’t raise enough timber of our own to keep our businesses going.”

As if they need more to do, the Leiberings have a commercial tree planting venture, planting large quantities of seedlings on both private and public lands each year.              

Dow AgroSciences

LUMBER IS THEIR LIFE: The Leibering family relies on timber and lumber for their livelihood. Several generations are represented in this family operation, which includes a sawmill.

Day 15
Aug. 18: Steven and Shawna Humphrey, Salem
Turkey legs

Steve and Shawna Humphrey have raised turkeys for eight years. “We have four barns and have 50,000 turkeys at a time,” Shawna says. They raise turkeys on contract for Farbest.

“We own the barns and equipment, and Farbest provides the birds, feed and medications,” she adds. “One barn is a brooder house where we raise 25,000 baby birds from 1 day old to 7 weeks. Then we walk the birds to the three grow-out barns, where they stay until they reach market weight.”

The Humphreys also raise Angus cattle, quarter horses and grass hay, Shawna notes. Their children are Lydia, Josiah, Ava and Nora.

Shawna Humphrey

TONS OF TURKEY LEGS: Turkey legs are the food of the day at the state fair on Aug. 18. The Humphrey family, Salem, produces thousands of turkey legs each year.

Day 16
Aug. 19: Jonathan and Amanda Lawler, Greenfield

“We have a diversified crop farm, and our biggest crop is tomatoes,” Jonathan Lawler says. They raise tomatoes for fresh-market sales and stake about 78,000 tomato plants per year.

“We plant with a transplanter, but it’s all hand-harvest,” he says. Besides tomatoes, they produce bell peppers, zucchini and a number of other vegetables.

“We’re kind of a nonprofit hybrid business,” he explains. “About one-third of what we grow we sell wholesale. Another third is sold retail, and another third is outright donated, primarily to help feed the hungry in Indianapolis.”

Of the third sold retail, some of it is sold at reduced prices, working through community partnerships. Much of the produce the Lawlers donate feeds into Indianapolis in areas where urban food deserts exist and people don’t have easy access to fresh vegetables, he notes.

Dow AgroSciences

GROW IT LOCAL: Jonathan and Amanda Lawler grow a variety of vegetables on their farm near Greenfield. From left are Jonathan, Amanda, Daniel and Elijah Lawler.

Day 17
Aug. 20: Roger and Juanita Graham, Morgantown

If you’re driving down Indiana Route 135 toward Brown County, you may want to check out Graham’s Bee Works in Morgantown. Roger and Juanita Graham manage close to 300 hives and have put together a diversified business.

“We sell honey, but we also sell bee equipment and woodenware,” Juanita says.

“One of our specialties is raising Indiana queens for beehives,” Roger adds. “We ship queens to several states outside of Indiana, including Arkansas and Tennessee.”

Graham’s Bee Works is a place beginning beekeepers can go and get the supplies they need, plus some sage advice from veteran beekeepers. 

Dow AgroSciences

HONEY AND MORE: Roger and Juanita Graham sell honey, but they also sell much more. Their lineup includes bees and woodenware.
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