If you’re 40 or older, you likely remember “Indiana Ike.” If you’re younger than 40, you’re about to learn why Carl Eiche, better known as Indiana Ike, was key in telling the story of Hoosier agriculture to two generations of farm families.
Eiche, retired, lives in Frankfort. In fact, he and his wife, Harriet, still live in the same house where they moved after he became an editor in February 1959, writing for the Indiana edition of Prairie Farmer. This year, he is the Honorary Master Farmer.
The following conversation between Indiana Prairie Farmer and Eiche illustrates both his sense of humor and his role in telling Indiana agriculture’s story.
Why did you decide to settle in Frankfort? I heard they had a good golf course!
Come on, Carl, you didn’t take up golf until much later. Why Frankfort? The editor told me to locate near the center of the state. Frankfort was about halfway between Purdue University and Indianapolis. We’ve really enjoyed the people here — that’s no joke.
You’re not from Indiana originally, right? No, I grew up in Atchison, Kan. I attended Kansas State University, majoring in ag economics. I took a required course in ag journalism, but I didn’t get a journalism degree. Before coming to Indiana, I had similar positions for Kansas Farmer and Missouri Ruralist. (Editor’s note: Both are Farm Progress publications today but were owned by a different company then.)
Where did the name “Indiana Ike” come from? I hadn’t been here too long and Jim Thomson, managing editor of Prairie Farmer, told me I should write a regular column. I asked him what I should call it. All my friends had called me “Ike” instead of Eiche for years. He said, “Just put ‘Indiana’ in front of your name and go with it.” So the column became “Indiana Ike.”
That column added personality to the magazine at a time when many magazines didn’t do those types of personal stories. What did you write about? My main task was to travel the state, interviewing farmers and key ag leaders and specialists. While doing those interviews, funny things would happen or I would find something interesting at a farm. That’s what I would write about. People liked reading about people they had heard of or knew personally.
In the early days, you did picture pages about individual counties. Where did you get your sources? I contacted the county Extension agent, and they were more than happy to help. It gave them a reason to go out and visit people in the community. I went along and took pictures, and wrote about what I saw to give readers a flavor for the county. I intended to do every county, but the editors stopped the feature before I finished.
Then there’s the Master Farmer program. What was your role? The editor decided to restart the program in 1968. I was involved from the beginning and wound up in charge of it until I retired in 1994. Then they talked me into being a judge, so I’ve had a hand in it since the modern era started. This year I said I was too old and didn’t judge.
And you’re still involved — congratulations on being named an Honorary Master Farmer!