When a pipeline company representative knocked on Louise Beaman’s door and informed her that a portion of her family’s farm would be condemned to make way for a natural-gas line, a neighbor suggested she call her congressman. She did. And more than 20 years later, Beaman is still making calls to Congress to speak out on behalf of agriculture.
“You have to stay involved,” she says of her tireless campaign. “We need to speak up and educate people about the importance of agriculture.”
Beaman stumps the halls of Congress as a Purdue-appointed delegate to the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET), a national grassroots organization that advocates for the land-grant university system and its programs. She rose through the CARET ranks, starting in 1990 as an area representative and then state representative to P-CARET—the Purdue-based state affiliate—before being tagged as a national representative in 1999.
From farm stock herself, Beaman married into a Johnson County farm family 50 years ago. She and husband Marvin raise corn and soybeans and run a farrow-to-finish hog operation with their youngest son, Jeff. When Jeff returned home in 1988 after earning a Purdue Agriculture degree, Beaman began splitting her time between working the farm and advocating for agriculture.
She runs both enterprises from her “operations center,” an office in the back of a 150-year-old farmhouse that overlooks the fields. The room’s perimeter is lined with desks, filing cabinets and bookcases that display the detritus of a working office. Plaques, framed awards and pictures that chronicle her service and leadership to numerous organizations at the local, state and national levels cover the walls.
She’s as comfortable on Capitol Hill as on her living room sofa, traveling to Washington to attend briefings and meet with Indiana’s congressional delegation about the importance of funding for agricultural research, academic programs and Extension. She can give personal testimony to the benefit of all three. Her talking points are quick and to the point: “Our biggest job is to convince the public that every grocery store has a back door, too.”
This refrain is repeated on the home front. Sandwiched between subdivisions, the Beamans’ good-neighbor policy has them providing hogs for local church fundraisers, hosting school groups and county leaders, and visiting with tourists who stop to see the farm’s century-old bank barn.
Grandmother, wife, farmer, community leader and agriculture advocate are all bound into a petite frame. She knows just what to say to any audience, whether she’s explaining to schoolchildren why pigs have their babies in crates, telling Congress why the weather in Brazil affects the price of soybeans in the United States or answering a TV reporter’s question about why a farm wife goes to Washington:
“Because farmers need to cultivate the Potomac as well as the soil.”