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Troy and Lisa Furrer embrace learning on their farm

This Indiana Master Farmer couple’s willingness to try new things is to credit for their farm’s success.

Allison Lund, Indiana Prairie Farmer Senior Editor

June 25, 2024

7 Min Read
Lisa and Troy Furrer, Wolcott, Indiana
WELCOME IN: Lisa and Troy Furrer, Wolcott, Ind., open their shop and home to friends, neighbors, their church community and others.Photos by Allison Lund

At a Glance

  • Troy and Lisa Furrer have adopted many environmentally friendly practices.
  • The Furrers incorporated solar panels to power their entire operation.
  • They believe that remaining sustainable is vital to preserve the farm for their grandkids.

Becoming stuck in one’s ways is a destination where many folks will arrive. However, Troy and Lisa Furrer have kept an open mind about adopting new practices on their farm. The couple are not afraid of a little change.

Above that flexibility to try new things is their faith. Troy and Lisa recognize that God has provided them with many blessings. This year, they are being honored as Indiana Master Farmers.

The Furrers got their start with Troy’s father, Don, in 1989. Without Troy’s parents’ help, the couple say they would not be where they are today.

When Lisa’s parents sold out in 1989, they picked up most of the ground that Lisa’s father was farming. In the fall of 1990, they moved to their current homestead and continued to grow the existing hog operation into what it is today.

The idea of embracing change spans their entire farming career. One of the practices they adopted right at the start was no-till, which was yet to be widely adopted in their area.

“We saw things could be more sustainable,” Troy says. “So, we just went straight no-till in 1990, and about 10 or 12 years later, we started strip-tilling our corn.”

They now strip-till all their ground going to corn and no-till all soybeans.

Even though the land is flat, the pair noticed wind erosion all around them that was exacerbated by the heavy tillage common at that time. They thought adopting some forward-thinking practices would be a way to make things better.

Related:Welcome next class of Indiana Master Farmers

A little over a decade ago, the Furrers decided to add cover crops to the mix. Troy explains that he wanted to do his part in building soil organic matter and improving soil health, leaving it better for the generations behind him.

The results of these efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“Erosion is basically zero,” Troy adds. “We don’t have dirt blowing. Soil structure is much better. Soil health is much better, and we have a lot of earthworms, so we get better water infiltration into our soil.”

Adopting practices of today

Since 2018, the Furrers’ farm has been 100% solar-powered. This means their panels generate enough electricity for the entire hog operation, their house, their shop and one of their grain drying facilities. Troy explains that this has cut virtually all their electric expenses.

“Our bill for our hog farm used to run about $3,000 each month,” Troy says. “Now, we pay $33 for each of our two meters. We pay the minimum to have our meters because the solar provides all the power.”

Troy researched solar for several years beforehand because he was curious about how it could help him cut back energy costs, and eventually, a friend who sold panels gave him a call. Troy explains that the price of the panels came as a shock, but he received a grant and federal tax credit that brought down those initial costs. He then took out a loan that he will have paid back in seven years, thanks to the savings from the panels.

Related:All good things: What people say about the Furrers

The Furrers say they have seen no downsides to powering their farm with solar energy. While they do have to rotate the panels manually a few times each year to make the most of the sun throughout the different seasons, Troy says that task only takes about 45 minutes. The panels are located right by their shop, which makes this process even easier.

Their panels are also set up for net metering through the energy company. This means they can track how much energy they produce and how much is used, which allows them to build a reserve they can use in the winter from excess energy generated in the summer.

Looking ahead

Incorporating solar into the operation is one way the Furrers are trying to improve the farm and natural resources so future generations can enjoy them.

“Long term, I want to be sustainable and protect things for the future,” Troy adds. “I want my grandkids to be able to survive here.”

Protecting the farm is a top priority for Troy and Lisa.

“When we bought this place, we bought 16.5 acres,” Lisa remembers. “And the guy who we bought it from said he’d sell us as many acres as we could buy at $2,000 per acre. And we did all we could.”

Troy echoes that memory, adding, “You look back and say, ‘Why didn’t we buy more or do more?’ But we couldn’t afford it. The prices then look cheap now, but the interest was high, and we didn’t have much money. We’re thankful we’ve been able to grow over the years.”

Working with their son, Joshua, Troy and Lisa still value each acre just as much as that original plot. Keeping that appreciation for the land front of mind is what motivates each decision to try something new and better the land for their grandkids.

“I always say I want to leave it better than I found it,” Troy says.

2024 Master Farmers Lisa and Troy Furrer,lounging in chairs

Becoming a biosecurity trailblazer

Behind the Furrers’ hog barn doors is another world of routine safety measures and protocols. They’ve found what works best for them over the years to contribute to a healthy operation.

The first step they take in protecting their hogs is limiting access to the barns. They mainly allow family and employees into the barns; anyone else who plans on entering the barns must be away from hogs for at least two days prior to visiting. Troy adds that they implement shower-in and shower-out procedures as well.

The limited access does not stop at humans. Since 2006, only one group of hogs has been added from outside of the farm. They now only use artificial insemination, and they raise all their own grandparent stock and replacement gilts.

“We don’t bring in any live animals, and we don’t let any visitors in unless I approve it,” Troy says.

As the hog operation expanded, Troy says they implemented more safety measures. Another consideration is having himself or his employees tackle any repair work that needs to be done in the barns to prevent unnecessary visitors. They also block off any traffic from driving around the hog buildings.

Raising and grinding all their own feed is just one more safety measure the Furrers employ. Troy says he grows all the corn for the feed, and their son-in-law, Tyler, grinds the feed. This prevents feed trucks that have visited other hog farms from entering their farm and possibly introducing diseases.

They also haul and use all their manure on their nearby fields.  

Troy and Lisa Furrer at a glance

Age: 56 (Troy) and 55 (Lisa)
Location: Wolcott, White County
Beginning: Both Troy and Lisa grew up on farms and had a desire to stay close to farming. They moved to their current location in 1990, knowing they would have to update the existing hog buildings. The couple have since continued to grow the hog and grain operations.
Farm today: The Furrers farm with their son, Joshua, raising corn, soybeans and wheat. Conservation practices are key to the cropping operation, where they implement no-till, strip till and cover crops. They also own a 450-head sow farrow-to-finish operation. They prioritize biosecurity measures in the hog enterprise, limiting visitors and not bringing in new animals. Troy and Joshua are Beck’s seed dealers.
Family: Their children are Joshua Furrer and wife Jennifer, Michelle Earney and husband Tyler, Laura Maynard and husband Cole, and Angela Furrer. They have eight grandchildren.
Employees: Full-time employees are Joe Chamberlain and Jaimi Smith. Part-time employees are Tyler Earney and Nathan Pritts.
Leadership: Troy serves on the Keystone Cooperative advisory board and the White County board of zoning appeals. He previously served as an Indiana Pork Delegate from 2019 to 2021. Other past positions include the Saint Joseph College advisory board and the Peoples Feed Mill board of directors. Troy and Lisa are both active in their church, serving as Sunday school teachers. Troy served as a church trustee and helped with the ushers, and Lisa served as the church hospitality leader. Lisa also is a Harvest Call sewing leader — a church group that makes comforters to donate — and was a White County 4-H scrapbook leader.
Notable: Troy and Lisa constructed a new shop with a full kitchen for hosting church, family and community gatherings.

Read more about:

Master Farmers

About the Author(s)

Allison Lund

Indiana Prairie Farmer Senior Editor, Farm Progress

Allison Lund worked as a staff writer for Indiana Prairie Farmer before becoming editor in 2024. She graduated from Purdue University with a major in agricultural communications and a minor in crop science. She served as president of Purdue’s Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. In 2022, she received the American FFA Degree. 

Lund grew up on a cash grain farm in south-central Wisconsin, where the primary crops were corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Her family also raised chewing tobacco and Hereford cattle. She spent most of her time helping with the tobacco crop in the summer and raising Boer goats for FFA projects. She lives near Winamac, Ind.

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