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Serving: IN

Nugents excel at managing their land

Photos by Tom J. Bechman Tom and Carol Nugent
HERITAGE MATTERS: Both Tom and Carol Nugent, Elnora, Ind., can trace their roots in farming back generations. They value their agricultural heritage.
Understanding their soils helps Indiana Master Farmers Tom and Carol Nugent make cost-effective management decisions.

If your neighbors were Tom and Carol Nugent and an emergency happened at your farm, they would be two of the first people in your driveway, offering help. That’s one fact neighbors emphasized when writing letters of support for the couple for the Master Farmer award, co-sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue College of Agriculture.

These same neighbors also stressed that no one gets more productivity out of the land than Tom Nugent. That’s because he pays attention to details, including walking fields to hoe and pull weeds. It’s a dying practice in the Midwest, but not on the Nugent farm. He even carries bags on the combine to fill with johnsongrass seed heads, should he find any.

Related: Welcome Indiana’s new Master Farmers

Tom graduated from Purdue University in 1975 and returned to the farm to work for his father. But he soon had the opportunity to buy land. Ignoring advice most Purdue ag economists were offering, promoting renting land rather than tying up capital buying land, Nugent purchased 80 acres from his grandmother. It included the house, built in 1911, where he and Carol live today, in Elnora, Ind.

“I always figured it made sense to own as much of your own land as you could, and that’s what I’ve tried to do,” Tom says. He and Carol own about two-thirds of the land they farm today.

Related: What others say about Tom and Carol Nugent 

Tom and Carol were married in 1989. She taught school for 22 years and then became a full-time mom.

Tom decided that to get the most productivity from the land they owned, he needed to improve soil drainage. Some soils in their area are sandy, but they’re often included in a landscape featuring other soils that need tiling.

Tom bought a tile plow several years ago. His goal is to pattern-tile as much as he can afford each year. He typically grows wheat in fields that he wants to tile, and then begins tiling after wheat harvest.

In 2020, Tom decided to invest in a new corn planter. He made the decision long before crop prices improved.

“It seemed like the right thing to do, looking toward the future,” he explains. “Our son Thomas works with us, and I wanted a planter that would carry us well into the future.”

Because much of their land includes those pockets of sandy soil, he wanted the ability to change hybrids on the go with the new planter. Father and son spent the winter of 2020-21 building the planter from scratch, starting with a toolbar and four pallets of parts. Since they don’t have a large shop, they assembled the machine in neighbor Rob Dove’s shop.

They’ve planted with it for two seasons, and while Tom is still determining how to make the best use of the multi-hybrid capability, he’s convinced it was a wise investment.

Sharing equipment

The Nugents and Doves do more than just share shop space. They also trade work with equipment, with Tom planting most of Rob’s crops and Rob doing a large share of Tom’s spraying. The Nugents own the corn planter and Rob owns the sprayer. Rob and his wife, Karen, also have been named Master Farmers this year.

“We started working together over 20 years ago, and it works out well for both of us,” Tom says. “We settle up once we’re done, but only for out-of-pocket expenses either one of us might have. We don’t charge each other custom rates. Instead, it seems to balance out, and helps both of us.”

Tom Nugent stands in his machine shed

ECONOMICAL STORAGE: Tom Nugent says this inexpensive machine shed makes low-cost storage space.

Tom and Carol Nugent at a glance

Age: 69 (Tom)
Location: Elnora, Daviess County, Ind.
Beginning: Tom farmed with his dad after graduating from Purdue University. He soon bought his grandmother’s farm, which included their current farmhouse.
Farm today: Tom and Carol raise corn, soybeans and wheat. They own about two-thirds of the acreage they farm. Their oldest son, Thomas, is employed full time on the farm. Tom’s goal is to install pattern-tile after wheat harvest if the field needs tiling. The Nugents invested in a custom, state-of-the-art corn planter before the 2021 season.
Children: Thomas, Elnora; Lewis, mechanical engineer, Jacksonville, Fla.
Full-time employee: Thomas Nugent
Leadership: Tom is vice president of Premier Co-op and was president of the White River Co-op board before it merged with Premier Co-op in 2021. He served on the North Daviess Community Schools Board for 12 years, and served two terms on the county community foundation, helping bring the Lilly Scholarship to Daviess County. Tom and Carol helped start an endowment for FFA scholarships. Tom and Carol were active in the former North Daviess Young Farmers Chapter. Tom is a longtime volunteer firefighter, and the Nugents established a perpetual fund for the Elnora/Elmore Township Volunteer Fire Department. Tom serves on the First Savings Bank Advisory Board and the Smothers Creek Drainage Board.
Nominator: Gary Stuckey, Odon, retired vocational-agriculture teacher, North Daviess High School
Notable: The Nugents held a field day in 2021, featuring tiling demonstrations and their custom-built planter. Nugent Farms is a Hoosier Homestead Centennial Farm, with Tom and Thomas being the fourth and fifth generations, respectively. On Carol’s side, the Gainey-Greenwood-Miller acreage is a Hoosier Homestead Sesquicentennial Farm, with Thomas as a sixth-generation farmer.


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