John Nidlinger planted the bug in Brad Kohlhagen’s ear to nominate Max and Karen Beer for the 2020 Indiana Master Farmer award. John and Nan Nidlinger, Decatur, Ind., were named Master Farmers in 2016. “I felt there were farm couples in our county much more deserving than Nan and me, but we graciously accepted the honor,” Nidlinger says. “One of those couples is Max and Karen Beer.
“I have known Max for most of my adult life and have always admired the way he manages his farm and continues to excel. Many adjectives could describe Max — farmer, entrepreneur, great business manager, or most of all, fantastic father and grandfather.
“Max and Karen have raised a family based upon Christian values and a strong work ethic. It has been a pleasure watching their children grow and develop into leaders in our community.”
Kohlhagen, the Purdue University Extension ag educator who nominated the Beers, adds, “The ability of [this] family to work together, along with their faith in God, has proven to be the reason Beer Farms Inc. has survived, succeeded and continues to grow.
“They would be considered one of the most proficient livestock farming operations. Whether it is at the local 4-H fair or greeting them at a county ag workshop, the way they conduct business and [their] work ethic is unmatched.”
Harry Pearson, Hartford City, Ind., watched Max and Karen grow as young Farm Bureau members in his position as president of Indiana Farm Bureau, a post he held for many years.
“I was privileged to visit with Max and Karen in the ’70s as they began their farming career together,” Pearson says. “I watched as they faced many of the same obstacles other young farm couples encountered. Their faith was unwavering, and they embraced strong family values. They made tough decisions on the farm, adjusting their dairy operation to pursue those specialized production areas that offered better opportunities.
“They have progressively established goals during their farming career and have been passionate in successively pursuing those goals.”
Kent Leichty, president and CEO of the First Bank of Berne, offers insight into how this couple approaches their role in the community.
“The Beers have demonstrated a teamwork approach to coordinate and manage people involving our local service and community organizations in a manner which exhibits a high level of maturity and commitment to excellence,” he says. “They are viewed by many throughout our state with a high level of respect, and are always willing to reach out to the nonfarm food consumer to tell the story of our farmers providing a safe, stable, inexpensive food supply in a manner of sustainable resource stewardship.”
Sometimes the proof is in actions more than words. Don Lehman, executive producer of Indiana Dairy Producers, offers this example.
“There was a family in another community that lost every building on their dairy farm in a tornado last year,” he says. “When I spoke with one of the family the next morning, he told me that Max showed up that Sunday night, made some phone calls, and semis started showing up to haul cattle. Max spent the whole night working with them, sorting, separating and finding a home by the next morning for nearly 1,000 cows. I spoke with Max later. His comment was, ‘That’s just what you do.’”