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These farmers do it their own way

Christine and Mark York
1ST-GENERATION FARMERS: For the second year in a row, first-generation farmers have earned the Master Farmer award. This time it’s Christine and Mark York, Wabash, Ind.
Master Farmers 2018: Producers find unique ways to build successful farming careers.

Mark and Christine York are all about pigs. But they don’t operate the typical farrow-to-finish operation that they took over from one of their parents. In fact, their parents didn’t farm. Christine grew up in town. The Yorks, Wabash, Ind., operate wean-to-finish operations, raising pigs on contract; they don’t own a single sow. They’re first-generation farmers who have built a successful business and served the community at the same time, doing it their way.

The Yorks are one of four Master Farmer award winners selected for the 50th year of the modern program, which began in 1968. If their story sounds familiar, that’s because this is the second year in a row that a Master Farmer winner is a first-generation farm family. John and Kristi Kretzmeier, Fowler, Ind., were honored in 2017.

The Master Farmer program is co-sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture. The awards are presented during the evening program of the Indiana Farm Management Tour. As always, this year’s winners were nominated by their peers.

The judges for 2018 were newly named Purdue Dean of Agriculture Karen Plaut; Jim Mintert, director of Purdue’s Center for Commercial Agriculture; and Bill Pickart, a 1990 Master Farmer.

You can learn more about the Yorks and the other Master Farmer winners in upcoming stories later this week. Here are introductions to the other 2018 Master Farmers.

Barry Bishop, Campbellsburg, Ind., and his wife, Shelly, raise crops and cattle in the northeastern corner of Orange County. Bishop is known for his prowess at raising beef cattle, but he insists it’s the grain operation that consistently produces solid income for the farm. The judges were impressed with his ability to use conservation practices to get the most out of his land while also serving the community.

Jim Farris, Vincennes, Ind., and his wife, Karen, raise corn, soybeans and wheat, and run a large Pioneer seed dealership based on the farm. Farris once worked off the farm to supplement income, but has built the seed dealership into a thriving, full-time business. It’s a full-service operation, including treating soybean seed on-site using modern, sophisticated equipment. Learn how Farris still finds time to coach sports at the high school level and support other community causes.

If anybody has done it “their way,” it’s Carl and Sally Swinford, Hillsdale, Ind. They’ve changed how they farm over the decades, but both say whatever they’ve done, they’ve done it together. While they operated a farrow-to-finish hog enterprise for years, they now raise pigs from wean to finish. Their daughter, Christine Smith, manages the operation today. Learn how they have quietly served the community where they live.

Carl Eiche, Frankfort, Ind., is being named an Honorary Master Farmer. If you’re over 40, you know Eiche as “Indiana Ike” and likely wonder why he hasn’t been honored before. If you don’t yet know Eiche, retired senior editor at Indiana Prairie Farmer, you’re in for a real treat.

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