Honoring ag heroes

State Fair celebrates bicentennial with nod to Indiana’s farm families

Posted on Aug 04 2016 in Features, General

With a theme of “Celebrating Indiana’s Bicentennial,” the 2016 Indiana State Fair is acknowledging what makes our state great by honoring its agricultural heroes. As a follow up to last year’s Year of the Farmer promotion, this year 17 Featured Farmers will be recognized, one for each day of the fair’s run, from Aug. 5-21.

Each spotlighted family farm  has received the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s Hoosier Homestead award. That designation is given to farms that have remained in one family for 100, 150 or 200 years.

Here’s a day-by-day listing of the Featured Farms:

Aug. 5: Eliason Homestead

Eliason Family

Doug and Dustin Eliason

The Eliason Homestead in Centerville is the only featured farm to have received the Hoosier Homestead bicentennial award. It began in 1814, making it two years older than the state of Indiana.

The farm — operated by Doug Eliason; his wife, Jeanie; and their son, Dustin — is mainly a no-till operation that predominantly grows corn for market, plus soybeans, wheat and oats for seeds. Doug’s great, great grandfather originally purchased the Wayne County farm after traveling to Indiana from Delaware via covered wagon.


Mike and Sandy Rissler

Aug. 6: Rissler Farm

A sign that reads “River Friendly Farmer” is displayed on the driveway leading up to the farm home of Mike and Sandy Rissler of Reelsville in Putnam County. The statewide initiative recognizes farmers who use conservation practices to help preserve Indiana’s rivers, lakes and streams.

Rissler Farm has been in the family since 1827.

Aug. 7: TK Hattery Farms

Hattery photo

The Hatterys

Brothers Troy and Kendell Hattery and their families are proud of their century-old family farm in Peru. The Hattery brothers took over the Miami County farm from their maternal grandfather after he was no longer physically able to farm. They slowly expanded the operation to what it is today — a 3,000-acre corn, soybean, hay and wheat operation that also incorporates a small beef cattle herd.

Aug. 8: Springstun Farm


The Springstun Family

Debbie and Philip Springstun and their son, Logan, raise beef cattle and grow corn, soybeans and hay on land in Boonville that has been in Debbie’s family for 145 years.

Debbie’s great-grandfather, Heinrich Rauth, established the farm in 1871 after emigrating from Germany. After Debbie’s father, Frederick Rauth, retired from farming, the Springstuns took over the operation.

Aug. 9: Ramsey Farms


The Ramsey Family

Ramsey Farms in Shelbyville turns 150 years old next year. The Shelby County farm is currently operated by Phil Ramsey; his wife, Cindy; and their two sons, James and Joey. In addition to growing corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, the Ramseys also run an agriculture drainage business.

Sands Family

The Sands Family

Aug. 10: Sands Farm Inc.Though Sands Farms Inc. has grown considerably in its 170-year history, the Sands family continues to farm the original piece of land called Hill Lake Farm in Silver Lake.

The enterprise, now featuring the seventh generation of the Sands family, grows corn, soybeans, hay and wheat while maintaining a hog and cattle operation.

Aug. 11: Keiser Farms


The Keisers

Norm Keiser and his wife, Carolyn, both retired teachers, take great pride in displaying their farmland’s original lambskin deed — signed in 1839 by a representative of former U.S. President Martin Van Buren.

Keiser Farms passed down through the female generations of the family. Norm was the first male to inherit the farm, 105 acres of which are part of the original homestead in Poland, Indiana.

Aug. 12: Rulon Enterprises LLC


The Rulon Family

Rulon Enterprises LLC in Arcadia was homesteaded in 1869 and  passed through multiple generations to reach brothers Jerry and Doyle Rulon in the early 1960s. The next generation — Ken, Roy and Rodney Rulon — now run the Hamilton County farm with help from their family.

Aug. 13: Beard Family Farms LLC

Beard Farms

Beard Farms

Originally homesteaded in 1912, Beard Family Farms LLC of Columbia City in Whitley County has passed through four generations. Though Shawn Beard works a full-time job, he farms after hours. His goal is to eventually farm full-time.

Aug. 14: Kunkel Dairy Inc.


The Kunkel Family

Fred J. Kunkel and his son Fred W. Kunkel have more in common than their names. After graduating from Purdue University and pursuing careers outside of their 171-year-old dairy farm in Decatur, both were drawn back to the agricultural industry in which they grew up.

Aug. 15: Booher Farms

Booher Family

The Booher Family

High school sweethearts A.J. and Amy Booher of West Lafayette, each grew up on successful corn and soybean farms that have been passed down from generation to generation for more than 150 years.

Now, A.J. and Amy have a successful operation of their own, farming land from both sides of their families.

Aug. 16: French Lick Winery


The Dotys

John and Kim Doty established their eight-acre Heaven’s View Vineyard — which produces wine grapes for their French Link Winery — in the spring of 1998 on a farm overlooking the White River Valley in Martin County. The operation now includes an Indiana artisan distillery.

Aug. 17: Dull’s Tree Farm and Pumpkin Harvest


The Dull Family

Tom Dull’s family farm was founded in the early 1900s. Located in Thorntown, the operation evolved from a grain farm to a year-round agritourism business.

“When I graduated from Purdue University and came back to the farm, we were raising hogs, cattle, corn, soybeans, and wheat, and we decided to further diversify by growing Christmas trees,” Tom said. “We were able to bring our son, Lucas, and his wife into the farm by expanding into pumpkins and increasing our focus on agritourism.”

Aug. 18: Maple Farms


The Maples

Five generations of the Maple family in Kokomo have farmed the same parcel of ground since the early 1900s. Clifford and Edna Maple and their four children started the operation in the 1930s. Over the years, the Maples expanded the operation to the 6,000-acre corn, soybean and wheat farm it is today.

Aug. 19: The Browns Inc.


The Brown Family

Operating the family farm, which had is origin in 1864, the approach of The Browns Inc. in North Judson involves grooming each generation of farmers by matching skill sets to the farm’s needs.

Current owner Phillip and his wife, Kathy, both hold master’s degree from Purdue, and have two sons — Josh and Jared — who farm full time them and have agricultural degrees.

Aug. 20: Hammelman Farm


Randy Hammelman

The Hammelman family — Randy, Ramona, and Linda, Randy’s mother — grow corn, soybeans and wheat on their farm in Edwardsport. They also own 20 head of cows and a few 4-H pigs.

The farm’s original owner, Heinreich Hammelman, emigrated from Brennan, Germany, to Indiana in 1864. He passed the farm to his son Gottlieb and then to his grandson Edgar (Randy’s grandfather). Edgar’s son Ronnie Hammelman joined the family farm when he married his wife, Linda, in 1961, and continued to operate it until Randy joined the business.

Aug. 21: Bishop Farms


Bob and Waneta Bishop

Bob Bishop and his wife, Waneta, not only run a 5,000-plus acre farming operation in Leesburg. They organized the “No Child Should Go Hungry in a Farming Community” program to encourage farmers to donate a portion of their grain profits each season to the local food bank

From this grassroots effort, the AgCares Fund was born. AgCares provides funds to anyone in need in the ag community.

For more information about the Indiana State Fair, go here.