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Serving: IN

Mint growers travel from Starke County to Indiana State Fair

Mint growers travel from Starke County to Indiana State Fair
The Wappel family proud to be part of the Year of the Farmer celebration.

When you brush your teeth in the morning with a mint-scented tooth paste or chew mint-flavored gum today, think of Larry Wappel, Sr., and Larry Wappel, Jr. They thank you in advance for using mint products. It's one of the major crops they grow on their farm in Starke County.

Related: Tomatoes rule the day Thursday at the Indiana State Fair

Both families will make the trek down to the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Friday, Aug. 21 to represent farmers in the Year of the Farmer program at the Indiana State Fair. The program is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences.

Mint operations: The crop looks different and the machinery used to grow it is different. But mint is a big part of Indiana agriculture in certain northern counties.

Larry Sr., and wife Katrina, live near San Pierre. Larry Jr. farms with both his parents and his wife, Debbie. The Wappels also raise corn, soybeans and other crops.

"Mint is an important crop for us," Larry Jr. says. They have all the specialized equipment required to harvest mint. That includes big wagons to collect mint from the harvester and processing equipment to produce valuable, concentrated mint oil from the vegetation which they harvest. They raise both peppermint and spear mint on their farm.

Mint has handled the wet season better than many other crops, Larry Jr. notes. The low-growing plant resembles forage if you drive by a field, but has quite different growing habits. Mint is marketed in barrels after being distilled on the farm. Mint markets are quite complex compared to markets for commercial corn and soybeans.

While they didn't have a great issue with too much water for the mint this year, that doesn't mean there weren't other challenges, Larry Jr. says. One challenge was battling a new insect which had not bothered their mint before. Since it caused defoliation, it was a threat to the crop. The first part of knowing how to manage it was identifying it and understanding its life cycle.

Expect the Wappels to be excellent representative of both the mint industry and agriculture during their day to host the Indiana State fair on Friday, Aug. 21.

See a full list of family farmers and links to their stories as they appear on the Indiana Prairie Farmer website: Indiana Soybean Alliance's Glass Barn will feature 'Year of the Farmer' hosts

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