Who knew? One of only a handful of four diamond restaurants in Indiana is located in tiny Roanoke in Huntington County. And the beef used at that restaurant is produced by owners of the restaurant on their nearby farm. The restaurant is Joseph Decuis. The farm is Heritage Farms, owned by Pete and Alice Eschelman. The farm itself is in Whitley County.
No less than Joe Kelsay, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and Tony Hahn, assistant director, attended a brief ceremony to mark Eschelman's completion of the Certified Livestock Producer Program, started in Indiana in 2008. Secretary of Agriculture Becky Skillman played a key role in pushing for the voluntary program. Producers who want to inform the public that they go above and beyond to protect their animals and the environment take the voluntary training, and carry out the necessary activities over time to earn this designation.
"This program is all about raising the bar to show consumers that you are the best of the best," Kelsay commented while at the farm. "If you go through the program, the goal is that you will learn how to do things a little bit better, even if you're already doing a good job."
Kelsay and his partners, his father, Merrill, and brother Russ, of Kelsay and Sons Dairy, Whiteland, were one of the first to complete the program. Others are in various stages of earning this designation, Kelsay says.
"There is a disconnect between producers and consumers," he continues. "Eshelman helps fill that void. He produces cattle and then sells food to consumers through his restaurant.
"If you're in the industry, you can relate to the need to go above and beyond on issues such as bio-security, safety and environmental issues," Kelsay says. "The Certified Livestock Producer award is all about recognizing people willing to do this."
Eschelman praises the program, saying it helped them especially in two areas- security, and bio-security. Part of the completion process involves meeting with the local fire department to work up plans in case of a fire or other calamity. "We have five red barns," Eschelman says. "We drew up a plan with the fire department that numbers the barns and indicates where different materials are located."
To complete the bio-security portion of the process, Eschelman and his herd manager and other employees brought their veterinarian to the farm. The vet became dialed in on the unusual Japanese-style of cattle that the Eschelman's raise.
"It has helped us become a much better farm operation overall," Eschelman concludes.