FFA project-turned-career headlines Farm Management Tour
Some farmers are born into farm families and carry on the tradition. Others grow a few crops and watch the enterprise blossom into a career. Still others build an agricultural business piece by piece. A farmer featured in this year's Purdue Extension Farm Management Tour embodies all three.
Sam Erwin, owner and operator of Indiana Berry and Plant Co. of Plymouth, will talk about how he turned a high school FFA project into one of the state's largest fruit, berry, vegetable and horticulture businesses. His agricultural conglomerate is among four Marshall County farms visitors will learn about during the 80th annual tour June 20-21.
Other farms on the tour are Homestead Dairy/Legacy Dairy, Stackhouse Farms and the Marvin and Charlie Houin Farm. Tour stops are free to attend, and a complimentary lunch will be served June 21 for those who register in advance.
The Indiana Prairie Farmer Master Farmer Banquet takes place June 20 and costs $25 per person.
The tour offers an up-close look at successful farms and how they operate, said Alan Miller, Purdue farm business management specialist and tour coordinator.
"The host farmers will share their insights on the challenges and opportunities of managing a modern family farm," Miller said. "They will share information about the management practices that have made them successful and the innovative management practices they are evaluating. Learning from their experiences as managers is a great way to pick up ideas that might be useful in your own operation."
Erwin represents that entrepreneurial spirit. Although he was raised on a farm, Erwin did not want to grow commodity crops like corn and soybeans. In 1969 Erwin planted blueberries and established a U-pick operation to complete an FFA requirement. Within 10 years, Erwin's Pickin' Patch Inc. was incorporated and he began expanding into other fruit and vegetable crops.
Today, Erwin continues to operate the U-pick farm, as well as businesses that sell supplies to specialty crops operations and machinery for horticultural production.
Those who attend the Indiana Berry and Plant Co. tour stop will hear an inspiring business story, said Craig Dobbins, a Purdue agricultural economist and tour stop host.
"This is the story of how an individual assembled his strengths and the strengths of people around him together to do successful things," Dobbins said. "Sam's story is about identifying opportunities where other people see problems and how one provides focus for a business to keep it moving forward. And it will demonstrate the importance strategy has in running a successful business."
The Indiana Berry and Plant Co./Pickin' Patch tour stop is at 3 p.m. EDT June 20. The farm is at 2811 U.S. 31 North.
Other tour times, stops and activities:
* June 20, 1 p.m., Homestead Dairy/Legacy Dairy, 11505 13th Road, Plymouth. The family-owned dairies headed by Floyd Houin operate as a single farm with 3,800 dairy cows, 4,000 replacement heifers, 3,500 acres of mostly corn for silage and manure nutrient recycling. Tour visitors will learn about the innovative use of information technology, crop and forage management, milking operations and cow housing.
* June 20, 5 p.m., Indiana Prairie Farmer Master Farmer Banquet, Christos' Banquet Center, 830 E. Lincolnway, Plymouth. This event recognizes outstanding agricultural producers and community members and is co-sponsored by Purdue's College of Agriculture. To register, contact the Purdue Ag Alumni Association at 765-494-8593 or firstname.lastname@example.org by June 8.
* June 21, 8 a.m., Stackhouse Farms, 6808 9B Road, Plymouth. Brad and son Kyle Stackhouse market non-genetically modified and identity-preserved grains for specialty markets worldwide. Visitors will learn about the farms' unique business structure, land ownership trusts for farm succession and pivot irrigation. They also will tour a geothermally heated and cooled shop building and examine farm equipment the Stackhouses have modified.
* June 21, 10:30 a.m., Marvin and Charlie Houin Farm, 7563 Plymouth-Goshen Trail, Bremen. The Houins operate a 3,000-acre corn and soybean farm. Marvin and son Charlie will talk about their different roles in the operation, and how family relationships and resources have helped them expand their farm through land acquisition and cutting-edge crop technology. They also will share about the challenges of farming on the fringe of a suburban area.
A sponsored lunch follows on the Houin farm at noon, and Purdue agricultural economist Chris Hurt will present an agricultural outlook at 1:30 p.m. Registration is required by June 14 and can be completed by visiting the Farm Management Tour website at http://www.agecon.purdue.edu/commercialag/progevents/tour.html . The website also contains additional information about tour stops and a map to the farms.
Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics hosts the Farm Management Tour.