Lakeshore Report

Ag Day a Lesson on Jasper Co. Economy

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April 4, 2014 — A recent national report shows when it comes to crop sales Indiana is in the top ten states. The figure may appear strong, but officials with one regional agriculture group say to keep that number high, they are planting seeds of information about farming beginning in elementary school.

“American agriculture is the backbone of the country,” says Brandon Culp of Grand ‘Ole Place Farms in Rensselaer, Ind. “If there’s no agriculture, there’s no country.”

In Jasper county, Ind. cows seem countless. According to the local Farm Bureau census numbers put the county atop all other Hoosier areas for dairy cow product-count and number three for beef cattle.

At ag-day at the Jasper County Fairgrounds, cattle farmer Brandon Culp says the 4th graders who corral around his beef cows are getting an education on the Indiana economy.

“It’s important that we get the younger generation not necessarily involved in agriculture but we advocate to them what we do and I mean it’s important that they know where their food comes from.”

Numbers show the food is coming from fewer farmers. A February USDA census shows the number of farmers is shrinking in a long-term trend.
Sharon Blasky a Purdue extension educator says although livestock is booming, an interest in agriculture is the aspect of Hoosier farms that could use a little more feed.

“[The day] is basically to give the 4th graders a taste of what agriculture means to the community,” she says. “What products are grown or raised in Jasper County. They just don’t understand agriculture. This is a chance to teach the kids, you know, you go to the store and you buy that pork chop or beef steak, where did it come from?”

Current farmers have seen a beefed up bottom line, with a Purdue University economics report indicating 2013 U.S. net farm income is set to be the highest on record. The labor behind those numbers is shouldered by an aging demographic, with the average principal farm operator being 58-years-old.

Abby: “I have my own steer,” says 10-year-old Abby Ahler. “My brother is studying agrigold and my other brother is too. And you know, my grandpa and my whole family is part of the farming industry.”

On days like this, Ahler, a 4-H participant, is in the minority. Blasky says the majority of students come from non-rural areas.

Purdue Extension officials say days like this help youth see the reflection of agriculture in everyday life. From what they choose to eat for breakfast to what they choose to wear, goods, home grown in Indiana, are all around.

“We had one station on breakfast foods,” Blasky says. “The kids don’t realize, oh gosh, the cereal [they] ate this morning we grew the grain here in Jasper County.”

Culp says he hopes the day gives students an appreciation for local goods.

“We actually sell meat at our local farmers market,” he says. “It’s important that these people can come here and see where their food comes from, and when they go buy local meat they’re like, we’ll I’m out here supporting the local economy and helping out neighbors.”

By:Hilary Powell

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