When you check the fact box about Stan Poe, you may not believe his age. It’s accurate. Poe is 81, even though he could easily pass for 15 or more years younger.
What’s this Master Farmer’s secret to staying healthy and active? Some might say it’s his passion for everything he believes in. That’s a long list, and includes his family, the sheep industry, agriculture, his community, and 4-H and FFA youth.
Poe has a different explanation. “I have always eaten plenty of lamb and drank lots of sweet tea,” he quips. “If I have a secret, that’s it!”
Poe’s history with sheep dates back to 1945, when 11 bred Hampshire ewes arrived at the farm. He and his father continued to raise sheep as Poe attended college and later worked off the farm. The scope of the sheep operation really ramped up when his son, Stanley II, returned to the farm in 1988. Poe allowed his son to cull hard and put together the type of flock he thought could be most productive and profitable.
Grow the flock
Today the flock consists of over 500 ewes. The farm sells breeding stock and 4-H club animals, and also markets lambs for meat. Embryo transplants have helped the Poes improve bloodlines in their flock, as has artificial insemination.
AI in sheep is no easy task. The most successful method involves a surgical procedure. With Stanley II doing a lot of the homework, father and son put together their own facility so they could artificially inseminate 100 head in a day. A veterinarian does the surgical procedure.
AI has become such a big part of what the Poes do that besides artificially breeding many of their own ewes, they also provide the service for breeders from several states, including Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois Michigan and Oklahoma. They constructed a separate building just for AI and embryo transplant work.
The flock is co-owned and managed today by Poe, wife Carol, and two of their sons. Stanley II and Kalen and their families are co-owners and managers.
Poe also worked off the farm until he retired from Elanco Animal Health a few years ago. During his career, he displayed his passion for agriculture and youth as an Extension 4-H educator, on the management team of Indiana Farm Bureau, and as a manager with important responsibilities for international animal health business for Elanco. His job with Elanco took him all around the globe.
“But I was always glad to get back here and connect with the family and community,” Poe says. “I was home enough to be on boards and support activities in the community, and I’ve always remained active helping on the farm.”
That hasn’t changed. Retiring from off-farm work just means Poe has more time to work on the farm and serve in the community. Depending on the time of year, you may find him raking hay, delivering a breach lamb for a neighbor, doing daily chores or assisting on the days when ewes are artificially bred.
“I try to put in a full day every day,” he says. “Most of the time it’s on the farm. Once in a while it’s attending meetings. It’s nice to have sons in the operation so they can cover for you, and then I cover for them when they’re gone.”
If you stop by for lunch, don’t be surprised if lamb and sweet tea are on the menu.
What makes Stan Poe tick
Location: Franklin, Johnson County
Education: bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Purdue University; doctorate in animal science from University of Kentucky
Crops: corn, soybeans, hay and pasture
Livestock: 500-ewe flock; sells breeding stock and 4-H club animals; provides artificial insemination services at the farm for sheep flocks from several states
Employees: sons Stanley II and Kalen — no other full-time employees; trades work with farmer Joel Parker, Shelby County, and hay operations with son Keegan, who has his own beef cattle operation
Tillage methods and more: minimum tillage, such as disking, in most situations; hay is primary part of the business, and they use large equipment for mowing, raking and baling for efficiency
Children: Stanley II, wife Jenna and infant son, Kipton; Keegan; Cameron; Kalen and wife Chelsea
Leadership roles: past president, Indiana 4-H Foundation; former member, Indiana FFA Foundation Board; 28-year member, Franklin Community School Board; Indiana director to board of directors, American Sheep Industry; past president, Indiana Sheep Association; current member, past president, Indiana State Fair Board; Indiana Livestock Breeders Hall of Fame, 1990; Purdue Animal Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award, Lifetime Career, 2011; Distinguished Alumnus from University of Kentucky Department of Animal and Food Science, 2016
Notable: never in FFA, because there wasn’t a chapter at his rural high school; 12-year 4-H member
Check out the slideshow below to learn more about Poe's operation.