2018 Indiana Master Farmer Barry Bishop took the FFA Creed to heart, whether he realized it or not. How he approaches family, farming, his community and life, in general, are reflected in the fourth paragraph of the creed.
It reads: “I believe in less dependence on bargaining and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so, for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.”
E.M. Tiffany wrote those words in 1928, and no doubt Roger Robinson, Bishop’s vocational agriculture teacher at Orleans High School, related them to Bishop many years later. Perhaps “playing square” and helping others best describes Bishop.
“I had to make a big decision when I graduated high school,” Bishop recalls. “My ag teacher encouraged me to go to Purdue, but I knew opportunities were opening up at home. If I went away for four years, some of those opportunities to help Dad expand wouldn’t be there when I got back.
“I chose to start farming with my dad, Donald, out of high school. Since then, Shelly and I have set goals and bought land as we could. We’re not a big farming operation, but we do our best.”
“I couldn’t have done it without my partner, Shelly,” Bishop says. “She has been instrumental in supporting what we’ve done on the farm over the years and in reaching our joint goals.”
For the first 20 years of his farming career, Bishop and his dad diversified with a farrow-to-finish operation. Over the past 20-plus years, Bishop traded the hogs for beef cattle.
Today, the Bishops have a 75-cow beef herd, with about one-third registered Angus and the rest Angus-based breeding. Most of their calves are marketed through United Producers at Little York. They also sell a few 4-H club calves and several head of freezer beef each year.
Cattle help make use of rougher land on their farm, including some acres best devoted to permanent pasture.
“We enjoy the cattle, but year in and year out, it’s the grain operation that has provided the most consistent income for the farm,” Bishop says. He raises corn and soybeans and has a grain center at a separate location to store most of the corn he produces.
People who know Bishop say he does a good job taking care of the natural resources on his farm. That includes putting in water and sediment control basins in rolling fields to break up the slope and get water into tile under the surface.
“Dad and I began putting in those years ago,” Bishop says. “Some of them are steeper, but some that we installed more recently we can farm over. They really help reduce soil erosion potential.”
Bishop primarily no-tills both corn and soybeans. No-till also helps reduce soil erosion on his rolling soils, made up primarily of gentle or B slopes, but it’s not the only reason he no-tills.
“We are lean on labor here,” he says. “My family helps part time, but we don’t have any full-time employees. No-till is a real labor-saver which allows me to get crops planted on time in the spring.”
His conservation ethic carries over into the cattle operation, as well. Bishop cooperated with the local soil and water conservation district to fence cattle out of a pond. As part of the same project, he installed a concrete watering tank fed by the pond.
Barry Bishop at a glance
Location: Campbellsburg, Orange County
Education: Orleans High School
Crops: Corn, soybeans, hay
Livestock: 75-cow beef operation
Employees: None (part-time family help, including nephew Matt Denton)
Tillage methods: Primarily no-till; makes use of other conservation practices, including WASCOBs and livestock management practices
Children: Jennifer Keller, helps part time on farm with husband Richard and son Aiden; Kristen Bishop, engaged to Cameron Smith
Leadership roles: Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor, 1980s; Orange County 4-H Council, ’84 through ’88; Orange County 4-H Beef Committee, 30 years and counting; Orleans Community School board of trustees, on and off as term limits allow for more than 19 years — currently serving on the board and has served as board president multiple times; helped oversee installation of a unique solar project at school to generate the school’s own electricity during the past year; member and former deacon of Carters Creek Christian Church
Nominator: Loran Wilson, Orleans
Notable: Tornado leveled main barn and outbuildings at home farm in 2017; Bishop rebuilt cattle barn patterned after Loran Wilson’s barn