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Serving: IN
Lance Sommer
MODERN TECHNOLOGY: Lance Sommer and his family farm near Berne, Ind. They use robotic milkers to maximize efficiency in the dairy portion of their diversified operation.

State fair Featured Farmers raise variety of products

Corteva Agriscience’s program highlights diversity in Indiana agriculture, including fish, tomatoes and popcorn.

Jeff Martin describes himself as an entrepreneur. His latest venture is raising the profile of aquaculture in Indiana. He breeds and raises tilapia near DeMotte in northwest Indiana.

“We’ve been at it for about three years, but we’re just really getting going,” Martin says. “I spent a year doing my due diligence, spending time with producers everywhere, including in Indiana and all the way to Florida.”

Martin and Triple B Tilapia will be the featured farm at the Indiana State Fair on Aug. 9. The Featured Farmers program is sponsored annually by Corteva Agriscience. If you’re at the fair, you can catch up with the Featured Farmers each day at 2:30 p.m. at the Indiana Soybean Alliance Glass Barn.

“We’re raising a hybrid tilapia, and we’re a one-stop shop,” Martin says. “We can supply fish for about any purpose. Our fish are pretty to look at, but they’re also bred for meat.”

Martin hopes to open a processing facility for fish someday. He has most of the equipment he needs, but isn’t ready to hit the “go” button on the project just yet.

Here are six operations that will represent agriculture during the middle of the fair, which runs Aug. 2-18 in Indianapolis:

Aug. 7, Gelfius family. Justin Gelfius is a third-generation farmer near Hartsville. He worked as an engineer for seven years before returning to the farm. His grandfather Bob and father, Bill, developed a strong operation. They were co-hosts for the 1992 Farm Progress Show near Columbus and hosted the Indiana Farm Management Tour in 2008.

Today, Justin spends a lot of time with their wean-to-finish operation, which they added to diversify the farm three years ago. The Gelfiuses also raise tomatoes for Red Gold. Justin and wife Chatney have four children.

Aug. 8, Arnholt family. Brian Arnholt and his wife, Jackie, are all about conservation on their farm in Bartholomew County. They no-till crops when possible and have found that cover crops help water-use efficiency on irrigated fields. The Arnholts’ crops include food-grade corn.

Brian farms with his dad, Keith, and his uncle Garry; he also farms separately with his business partner, Caleb Wolff.

Aug. 9, Jeff Martin. Read about Jeff Martin and Triple B Tilapia in the introduction of this article.

Aug. 10, Jill and Brian Houin. Homestead Dairy near Plymouth installed robotic milkers in 2017 to milk its large herd of cows. The dairy is a family business involving several generations.

Lena and Elmer Houin established the farm in 1945 as a dairy. Two of their sons, Dan and Floyd, bought the farm in 1979, expanded to 110 cows and officially established it as Homestead Dairy. The third generation provides the management today, including Brian and Matt Houin, Joel Gawronski, and Ryan Rogers — with the fourth generation coming up the pike, notes Brian’s wife, Jill.

Aug. 11, Lamb family. The Lamb family is slated to represent popcorn at the state fair. If you partake in caramel corn or just good old-fashioned popcorn during your visit, it might have come from their farm.

Bob and Diana Lamb share the farm today with sons Don and Dean and their wives, Jodie and Debbie. They also raise seed beans, high-oleic soybeans and waxy corn. One of their most rewarding ventures, the Lambs note, is helping people around the world grow their own food through a program they started in 2012 called AgriStewards.

Aug. 12, Sommer family. Cows at Sommer Farms near Berne were just settling in with new robotic milkers when the Indiana Farm Management Tour visited in 2015. Today, Lance Sommer says the switch to robotic milkers bore fruit.

“We feel that it not only saves labor, but it’s more efficient,” he says. “Use of this technology allows us to get maximum production from our cows.”

Economics have been tough on dairy farmers lately. However, Sommer says a good mix with crop farming has helped them move forward. The operation includes Sommer, his father, David; and his brother-in-law Kevin Girod, plus their families.

Learn more about these operations at indianastatefair.com. Watch the Indiana Prairie Farmer website next week to meet the rest of the 2019 Featured Farmers.

Editor’s note: Corteva Agriscience and the Indiana State Fair provided information for this story.   

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