Indiana State Fair Featured Farmers: August 20-23
The Indiana State Fair is the greatest showcase of the past, present and future of Hoosier agriculture and the Indiana State Fair – Year of the Farmer presented by Dow AgroSciences proudly dedicates your Great Indiana State Fair to the farmers who make it happen.
To honor and celebrate those who have committed their lives to innovation in agriculture, each day of the 17-day Fair will highlight a different farmer/farm family who represents a different element of Indiana agriculture. These farmers, who were selected in collaboration with Indiana agriculture stakeholders, will be featured on daily highlight sheets for the Fair as well as participate in various events and exhibits all around the Fair.
We wanted to take the time to highlight these farmers and share a bit more about what makes them love agriculture. Take a moment and get to meet the Featured Farmers that will be at the Indiana State Fair from Aug. 20 – Aug. 23
David & Mary Howell – Tomatoes, August 20
David and Mary Howell, along with their two sons, Aaron and Adam Howell, own Howell Farms of Crossroads, LLC in Middletown, IN (Delaware County). The family farm includes daughters-in-law, Keri and Katy Howell, and daughters Amanda Howell and Audrey Behrendt, and son-in-law Mike Behrendt, along with 10 energetic grandchildren. The Howells have been growing tomatoes for Red Gold for the past 20 years. Tomato production has grown over that time into a significant portion of their total production which includes traditional corn and soybeans along with several hundred acres of jack-o-lantern pumpkins. David and Mary are the first generation on their farm and consider themselves very fortunate to have survived the agriculture depression of the 1980s. Mary attributes this survival to “the grace of God.” They believe they are blessed to have the second generation now managing the family business.
The Howells added fruit and vegetable production to their crop mix in the late 1970s after a farrowing barn was destroyed by fire. They started with half an acre of strawberries and now their fruit and vegetable production provides nearly half of total revenues even with the rapid increase in acreage of the traditional row crops. The tomato production is marketed exclusively to Red Gold, corn is shipped primarily to local ethanol plants, soybeans to crushing facilities which produce oil and meal, and the pumpkins are sold nationwide to major retailers.
The Howells place great importance on a good education as a foundation on which to build their business. Their university degrees generated career opportunities outside of agriculture but they, instead, chose production agriculture as their life’s work. Their family farm is unique in that no one works off the farm; income for all the families is derived solely from their farm. To Adam and Aaron this simply makes the most sense. They combined their business and agronomic skills with their love for the land to grow the farm into a thriving family business designed to exist through multiple generations.
“Growing with Gratitude” is the farm’s motto with an obvious double meaning. Their business is growing and growing is their business. They seek to remain ever grateful for the God-given opportunity to work together every day doing what they love and making a living for their families.
The Howell family will be at the Indiana State Fair on August 20 and will participate in a Live Chat at 2:30 p.m. in the Glass Barn presented by Indiana Soybean Farmers and attend the 6:30 p.m. evening parade.
• Who: David, Mary, Adam, and Aaron Howell and families
• Where: Middletown, IN (Delaware County)
• Type: Tomato – plus pumpkins, corn and soybeans
• Day: Thursday, August 20
• Fun Fact: The Howells raise enough tomatoes to fill almost 35 million cans
Wappel Family – Mint, August 21
Wappel Family (L-R): Larry Wappel Jr, Larry Wappel Sr, Eric Wappel
Wappel Grain and Herb is a family farm in San Pierre, IN (Starke County), owned and operated by Larry Sr. and Debra Wappel and their sons’ families, Larry Jr. and Katrina, and Eric and Laura. Started in the 1930s by Ed Wappel, the farm raised hogs, swamp grass, and strawberries. Today, as a third-generation farm, the Wappels primarily produce mint, corn, soybeans, cucumbers, and various other herbs and small grains.
Each family member has a main focus on the farm; Larry Sr. specializes in land management and marketing; Larry Jr. in the mint operation and soybean production, and Eric in irrigation operations and corn production. From GPS controlled equipment allowing inputs to instantaneously vary, to using wireless irrigation controls and monitors, to real-time record keeping, the latest technology is implemented at every possible opportunity. In times of tight margins plus faming in an area with greatly varying soils, the Wappels feel these technologies really keep them ahead.
Farming a specialized crop like mint always keeps things interesting. “Even though some of the challenges you would rather not have, like excessive rain, or insect problems, it’s never boring,” said Larry Jr. Each year seems to bring a new hurdle for mint farmers to jump. Being such a close-knit group, the mint farmers in Indiana help each other out when new problems arise. They all work together and promote mint farming with the Indiana Mint Growers Association, which holds regular meetings.
Larry Sr. says, “It isn’t easy to run a mint farm, you have to be adaptable and flexible.” For example, many pieces of mint equipment are so unique, they must be fabricated by the mint farmers or welding shops. At Wappel Grain and Herb, the farm shop is a vital tool in keeping the mint production on track. Repairing, modifying, or building from scratch are things that are constantly happening in the shop. The mint production could not happen without a great team of employees, working hard to do their part and ensure the oil gets in the barrel. The Wappels enjoy farming mint, and realize it’s their families’ future. Next time you brush your teeth or chew a piece of gum, think of the natural flavor coming from Indiana farmers like the Wappels.
The Wappel Family will be at the Indiana State Fair on August 21and will be featured in a live chat at 2:30 p.m. in the Glass Barn, presented by the Indiana soybean Farmers, and will also be attending the 6:30 p.m. parade.
• Who: Larry Sr. and Debra, Larry Jr. and Katrina, and Eric and Laura Wappel
• Where: San Pierre, IN (Starke County)
• Type: Mint, corn, soybeans, cucumbers, and other herbs and small grains
• Day: Friday, August 21
• Fun Fact: The Wappels enjoy volunteering in the community: Larry Sr. is on the county Merit Board, Larry Jr. is part of the Indiana Mint Grower Board and Eric is a firefighter in North Judson.
Cathy & Ashley Richards – Vegetables, August 22
Cathy and Ashley Richards and Keegan Ramey
Cathy and Ashley Richards, who are sisters-in-law, along with colleague Keegan Ramey, manage Indy Family Produce in Greenwood, IN (Johnson County). If there is a fruit or vegetable crop, Indy Family Produce has most likely grown it. Indy Family Produce is a part of Indy Family Farms, a 5th generation grain operation which launched a produce division in 2014. Naturally grown, Indy Family Produce prides itself on quality with 100 percent of their products harvested by hand. “In this business, our hands are our most valuable tools,” said Cathy.
At Indy Family Produce, vegetables are grown using organic methods based on demand for product, which changes every season. Cucumbers, squash, eggplant and peppers are just a few of the plants grown, and every year they try something new. For example, this season bok choy, an Asian cabbage seen in Chinese take-out, along with banana peppers, cilantro and brussels sprouts are all being grown.
Technology helps in this process as their greenhouses allow them a head start on seeding, growing and transplanting crops by providing a stable, climate-controlled environment to handle Indiana weather. The irrigation system helps water when Mother Nature does not, which of course she’s been more than generous this season and modernized equipment such as their trans-planter, allows them to get crops in the ground more efficiently.
To Indy Family Produce, agriculture gives them a chance to give back to the community by participating in county 4-H programs, providing food pantries with produce and offering educational tours, u-pick strawberries and convenient online “farm stand” sales through their website. The Richards agree they love seeing the satisfaction people have when they receive fresh produce. “That’s really exciting for us because we have put so much effort into getting the vegetables into our customer’s hands,” said Ashley.
Ashley and Cathy Richards will be at the Indiana State Fair on August 22 participating at the Dow AgroSciences booth and will be featured in a Live Chat at 2:30 p.m. in the Glass Barn presented by Indiana Soybean Farmers.
• Who: Cathy Richards, Ashley Richards and Keegan Ramey
• Where: Greenwood, IN (Johnson County)
• Type: Produce
• Day: Saturday, August 22
• Fun Fact: They have a favorite crop! Ashley and Keegan love the Rainbow Swiss Chard for its colors while Cathy loves the eggplant for its elegant growth process.
Ed Bell – Strawberries, August 23
From strawberries to puppies, something is always growing at Bell’s Strawberry farm, owned and managed by Ed and Debbie Bell. Located in Hagerstown, IN (Wayne County), the Bells manage 72 acres with a primary focus on strawberries and asparagus. In addition to their crops, the Bells have raised Doberman puppies for more than 20 years. Starting out by selling berries on the roadside and at farmer’s markets, Ed pursued his dream and is now successful at getting customers to come visit him on the same land he has lived on since he was seven-years-old.
Farming is never easy, and Ed shows great determination with extra challenges he has overcome. After a violent crime left him paralyzed from the waist down, it took years of physical rehabilitation and therapy before Ed could get on a tractor again. Ed’s parents traded in one of their larger tractors for a smaller one they thought might be better for him. Ed said, “Once I got on the tractor, it helped me come out of the slump,” as he returned to working the land. Today, Ed farms using hand controls and works with the USDA’s AgrAbility effort and Purdue’s Breaking New Ground program as a consultant for farmers and people with disabilities.
For the Bells, agriculture is about the people who enjoy it. Ed said, “Our crop really isn’t about the strawberries – it’s the people.” He continued, “We’re cultivating the crops, but we’re cultivating people because without the people, our crops are worthless. It’s all retail here so they’re paying for what I raise and the experience of it.” Ed and Debbie say their mission in life is to “cultivate the soil, cultivate people.”
Ed and his family will be at the Indiana State Fair on Sunday, August 23 and will be featured in a Live Chat at 2:30 p.m. in the Glass Barn presented by Indiana Soybean Farmers and at 6:30 p.m. in the evening parade.
• Who: Ed Bell
• Where: Hagerstown, IN (Wayne County)
• What: Strawberries
• Day: Sunday, August 23
• Fun Fact: Strawberries can be bruised by raindrops, making them not marketable.