What better way to wrap up a successful 2015 Indiana State Fair than to have two distinctly Indiana families hosting those last two days. It's all part of the Year of the Farmer theme which has played out during this year's 17-day run of the Indiana State Fair. The Year of the Farmer program is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences.
Hosting on Saturday, Aug. 22 are Cathy and Ashley Richards, sisters-in-law who own and operate their own locally grown produce business. Their farm is located near Greenwood in northern Johnson County.
While their husbands do grain farming, Cathy and Ashley grow produce, including a wide variety of crops. They sell at the farm, at farmer's markets and also supply their locally-grown produce for restaurants. Sometimes, they also sell their produce wholesale.
You can learn more about their operation and how to order produce online at: indyfamilyproduce.com.
Ed Bell of Hagerstown and his wife Debbie will host on Sunday, Aug. 23. They represent fruit growers, particularly strawberry growers. Like the Richards, they also represent the growing segment of Indiana farmers who market at least some of what they raise directly to consumers, either from their own retail outlet or from a spot at a farmer's market.
Ed and Debbie raise primarily strawberries. "Wet weather is hard on strawberries, but we still had a decent year," Ed says.
While u-pick methods where consumers come to the farm and pick their own fruit or produce tend to trend up and down, this was a good year for u-pick for their farm, Ed says. He estimates that they sold over 50% of their strawberries u-pick this year. Most of the rest were sold retail at the farm.
Ed sustained a major injury early in life and has overcome disabilities. He takes the opportunity to speak about his situation and overcoming disabilities whenever he gets the chance.
Much of the equipment he uses on the farm was built for someone with disabilities. Many people like Ed have found help through the AgrAbility program, started by Bill Field at Purdue University. It is now a nationally funded program.
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