The New Hoosier Farmers
Indiana remains one of the top farm states in the nation. And although our current agrarian class has an updated look, its members—introduced here in six up-close profiles—are still independent, hardworking, resourceful, and, above all, bold.
You probably have some vague idea of what a “Hoosier farmer” is, perhaps a sun-brown man in dusty overalls and a seed-company hat, with 50 acres and a rusty tractor.
That guy is a dying breed. Early next year, the USDA will release the 2012 agricultural census. If it’s like the last one, it will confirm that mom-and-pop farms, the historic backbone of Indiana agriculture, continue to decline at an alarming rate.
But other farmers are thriving. The state ranks as the nation’s fifth-largest grain producer and reaps an estimated $38 billion a year from agriculture.
The success stems in large part from “conventional” agribusiness, industrialization, and technology, a food system that exists across a philosophical divide from a grassroots coalition of natural growers and activists intent on reform. From Big Ag to organic, rural to urban, and scientist to traditionalist, the following profiles highlight the diverse attitudes and approaches of Indiana’s current agrarian class. Meet the New Hoosier Farmers.
Kip Tom farms 20,000 acres, hobnobs with cabinet members, and gives ag advice to hedge funds. Not bad for a country boy who grew up driving a tractor.
Amy Matthews built her southside vegetable farm from the ground up—literally. And she’s taking urban farming in Indianapolis to another level.
Matt Ewer and Beth Blessing of Green B.E.A.N. Delivery brought fresh, locally raised organic produce right to your doorstep. Now they’re growing it, too.
Jim Bing of Dow AgroSciences is quietly engineering super corn in a laboratory on the northwest side of Indianapolis. And one day, it might take over the world.
Hugh Bowman took on Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, and fought the global agri-giant all the way the Supreme Court. But he doesn’t have a problem with GMOs. He was just trying to save a few bucks.
Chris Baggott made a mint at ExactTarget. Then he started a farm where he and partner Mark Farrell think the country air makes for happier—and tastier—animals. —by Brandan Alford
Photos by Tony Valainis
This article appeared in the September 2013 issue.