From the road, it's obvious that activities at the Morehouse farm are not typical for a spring day during planting season. Cars and trucks turn the yard into a makeshift parking lot, musicians play in the barn, and guests eat pork barbecue and sit on bales of hay.
Doug Morehouse moves through the crowd, greeting friends and neighbors. He sighs with relief as he surveys the festivities on his property. Thankfully, he says, the last of his crops were in the ground by 6 p.m. the day before.
The Morehouse farm in Brookston, Ind., was the first of several sites to host events in May for the public rollout of a new strategic plan for Indiana agriculture.
"Agriculture is a central part of the state's economy," says Andy Miller, director of the new Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA). "Globally, people are interested to see where Indiana is going in this sector. The opportunities are immense."
Andy Miller leads state efforts to expand economic opportunities
for Indiana agriculture. (Photo by Tom Campbell)
Upping the stakes
In May, Indiana ag officials barnstormed the state to unveil Possibilities Unbound: The Plan for 2025, which outlines strategies to make Indiana a global center for food and agricultural innovation and commercialization. The plan is a roadmap to expand agriculture in many directions, guided by seven key goals.
- Increase the cost-competitiveness of Indiana's hardwood products.
- Maximize the state's advantages in bioenergy production.
- Ensure that agricultural regulation is science-based and does not
impede economic development.
- Double pork production in the state through new technologies and
- Enhance the economic viability of farms of all makes and sizes.
- Innovate new food products that use Indiana agricultural commodities.
- Help formulate federal farm and trade policies that keep agriculture
"Indiana is going through the next agricultural revolution," says Miller, who earned a degree in agricultural economics from Purdue in 1992. "In 20 to 30 years, we are going to see great changes in agriculture."
One change occurred earlier this year, when the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill to create ISDA. As the agency's first director, Miller describes his role as an advocate for agriculture. "I can help be a catalyst for change and speak from a bully pulpit when it's vital for agricultural policy and innovation," he says.
The concept of a "central authority" to drive agriculture-related economic development was led by Indiana Farm Bureau. It was also endorsed by BioCrossroads' Agriculture Advisory Board in a report released last year. BioCrossroads, a public-private partnership that includes Purdue University, was formed to help attract life sciences industries to Indiana. The board recommended that the state integrate agriculture into its overall economic development strategy.