Posts Tagged With: Indiana Ag

Eating your fruits & veggies in 2014

A few weeks ago, the Indianapolis Star published an article by Karen Fernau about new year’s resolutions and eating.  Fernau noted that diet resolutions often focus on foods we shouldn’t consume, and she goes on to recommend a different route.  Instead of focusing on foods to cut out of one’s diet, why not strive to incorporate new, healthier foods into your daily eating habits?

Photo credit: Christman

Photo credit: Christman

In the article, Fernau encourages people to add kale, canned sardines, garbanzo beans, tofu and almond milk.  While all those are practical suggestions worth noting, I started to wonder what Indiana agricultural products I should focus on adding to my diet.  Indiana is home to more than 30 fruits and vegetables that would make healthy additions to almost any diet.  Here are my top five.

Blueberries: Blueberries are the perfect low-calorie, antioxidant-packed snack.  In 2011, Indiana produced 1.6 million pounds of these scrumptious berries.  Best Health notes that blueberries help reduce the risk of colon cancer, prevent hypertension, reduce belly fat and fight off disease.  Sprinkle blueberries on your cereal, munch on them at work and/or mix them with some plain yogurt and drizzle with honey.

Watermelon: Obviously, Indiana watermelons won’t be found on the grocery store shelves this time of year, but make sure they’re on your list this summer!  Indiana is a top producer of this crispy pink fruit.  Watermelon is a personal favorite and helps keep me hydrated during our hottest months.  Not only is watermelon an excellent source of vitamins A, C and B6, it also has the highest concentration of lycopene of any fresh fruit or vegetable, according to Discovery Fit & Health.

Apples:  An apple a day keeps the doctor away… or so the saying goes!  But what are the health benefits of the apple?  Eating Well  explains that apples aid weight loss, help keep the heart healthy and serve as a source of soluble fiber.  In 2011, our state produced more than 20 million pounds of apples.

Tomatoes: As a leader in tomato production, look for Indiana  tomatoes throughout the summer and don’t forget to purchase Red Gold tomatoes (an Indiana ag-business) for your canned tomato needs.  Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, and cooking tomatoes enhances their nutrients.

Cucumbers:  Full of vitamins C & K and potassium, cucumbers are a refreshing and hydrating vegetable choice.  Personally, I enjoy slicing up half of a cucumber and putting it in a cold pitcher water for a satisfying beverage option.  Cucumber is also a great dipper for hummus.

These are some of the fruits and vegetables that I’m planning on eating more of this year.  What foods are you interested in eating more of in 2014?

Categories: From the Field to Your Fork, Informational | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

3 take-aways from our radio appearance

Black and white photograph of a Neumann U87 mi...

Black and white photograph of a Neumann U87 microphone | Wikipedia Commons

Last Tuesday, my colleague Jordan Seger appeared on WFYI’s “No Limits” radio show.  Jordan is the director of ISDA’s soil conservation division.  The topic of the show was the future of agriculture, and Jordan was joined by Kim Ferraro of Hoosier Environmental Council and Laura Henderson of Growing Places Indy.  John Krull of Franklin College moderated the conversation.

I had the pleasure of listening to the show live in a WFYI studio with the show’s producer and engineers.  It was also great to meet Laura and Kim and visit with them briefly before and after the show.

Throughout the show, a variety of topics surfaced, from legislation to farmers’ markets to community development.  Here were my key take-aways from the show.

Like Laura Henderson said, the future of agriculture needs to be polyfaced.  Agriculture is a multifaceted field with many players, issues and concerns.  There is not a “right” farming method, way of approaching a problem, or solution to the issues we see surfacing.  We need CAFOs and the farmers’ markets.  In September, I interviewed Kip Tom on my blog and he put it this way: “I and many in agriculture embrace all forms of food production, whether organic, natural, local or commercial modern agriculture.  We need them all for today and tomorrow.”

Radio is a place to gain an introduction to complex topics.  There were several “hot topics” brought up on the show, including the “Ag Gag” and “Right to Farm.”  These are subjects that were introduced on the radio, but couldn’t be fully explored.  Before you make a decision on either of these topics, talk to a farmer, read some literature from both sides, and call your senators and representatives to see where they stand.

ISDA wants to help agribusinesses and farms of all shapes and sizes as we explore the future of agriculture.  Our division of soil conservation works with farmers throughout Indiana to implement stewardship programs.  In the radio program, Laura Henderson mentioned our economic development team’s efforts to assess the viability of “food hubs” (or virtual farmers’ markets)The goal of our grain warehouse licensing branch is to foster a sound grain marketing infrastructure so that Indiana can continue to be a standard in grain production.  ISDA recognizes that Indiana is a global leader in agriculture, and we want to make sure that continues into the future.

Have you had an opportunity to listen to the radio show?  If so, what questions did you have?

Categories: Farming in the 21st Century, Informational | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facts & Figures of Indiana Ag

October is National Farm To School Month.  Check back every Monday of the month for a post about how to incorporate agricultural themes into the classroom.

Agriculture is an important aspect of Indiana’s cultural and economic identity.  As we talk to students about farming and agribusiness, we need to make sure we’re not merely talking about the science of the industry, but the social contribution of agriculture to our communities and state.

Below is a fact sheet about the agriculture in Indiana.  As you read through the handout, remember that each fact and number represents families, farms and agribusiness throughout Indiana.

Indiana Agriculture

Fact Sheet by Indiana State Department of Agriculture

Categories: Agriculture in Indiana, Farming in the 21st Century | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

5 tips for picking the right pumpkin to carve | Guest Post


Logan at Governor Pence’s Pumpkin Patch on Tuesday

Logan Garner is a program manager for ISDA’s environmental stewardship team.  Today, he shares his “Top 5” for selecting a good carving pumpkin.  Enjoy!

Logan’s tips for selecting the perfect pumpkin

5. Make sure it’s free of disease.           

No one likes a knobby, spotty pumpkin–unless you just feel sorry for it (or you’re going for that Boris Karloff look).

4. Look for one with a healthy stem and a flat bottom.

I like my pumpkins to sit level (or even look up a tad) and have a strong stem for grabbing and opening the top.  Some folks like to carve out the bottom and place the opening directly over the candle, which eliminates the “flat bottom” issue, but I was raised on the “lobotomy” method: scoop out the brains and guts from the top.  It just feels more Halloween-y that way…or maybe I’m just afraid of change.

3. Go for that nice bright (but light) orange.

A uniformly-colored pumpkin is a no-brainer, but also keep in mind that pumpkins tend to darken as they expire (a process which speeds up big time once you’ve carved your Jack-o’-Lantern and exposed its insides to the air).  A deep yellow-orange is my go-to color to ensure that I don’t have a rusty looking pumpkin hiding in the dark by Halloween.

2. Go big.

This one’s pretty simple but very important, at least to me.  I like big pumpkins because they aren’t as tedious to gut or carve.  They also have more seeds, and I love roasted pumpkin seeds!  Why let them go to waste?

And finally the most important tip…

1. Choose a good canvas!

That means after carefully narrowing down your selection, choose the pumpkin with a flat, wide “face” on it to carve, well, a face!  Maybe it’s the lazy-man’s approach, but I find that by avoiding really rounded or bulbous sided pumpkins, I don’t have to worry about that pesky problem of potentially disproportionate facial features (read: I’m not an artist and need all the help I can get).

 Need a place to pick a pumpkin with your family? Check out this post from Indy with Kids.

Categories: From the Field to Your Fork, General, Informational | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Happy autumn!


By: James Whitcomb Riley

Photo by: Cline | Tipton, Ind.

Photo by: Cline | Tipton, Ind.

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,

And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,

And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,

And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;

O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,

With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,

As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

Photo by: Cline | Tipton, Ind.

Photo by: Cline | Tipton, Ind.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere

When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here–

Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,

And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;

But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze

Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days

Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock–

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.


Photo by: Springstun| Warrick County, Ind.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,

And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;

The stubble in the furries–kindo’ lonesome-like, but still

A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;

The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;

The hosses in theyr stalls below–the clover over-head!–

O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Photo by: Springstun | Warrick County, Ind.

Photo by: Springstun | Warrick County, Ind.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps

Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;

And your cider-makin’ ‘s over, and your wimmern-folks is through

With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …

I don’t know how to tell it–but ef sich a thing could be

As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me–

I’d want to ‘commodate ’em–all the whole-indurin’ flock–

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Photo by: Cline | Tipton, Ind.

Photo by: Cline | Tipton, Ind.

We’re excited to share this post AgChat’s “Harvest” Pinterest Board.

Categories: Agriculture in Indiana, Informational | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Why ISDA started a Pinterest page

Did you know that ISDA has a Pinterest account managed by yours truly?  Why are we on Pinterest, you ask?PinterestScreenShot

I firmly believe in the classic maxim of showing versus telling whenever possible.  Agriculture is a field that lends itself to showing, and Pinterest encourages visually capturing content.  On ISDA’s Pinterest board, I want to show Hoosiers:

  • The men, women, families and businesses that make agriculture possible,
  •  The impact sound conservation principles have on the environment and the bottom line,
  • Photographs that depict the beauty and diversity of Indiana Ag,
  • Opportunities to enjoy our state while learning about farming and agribusiness, and
  • The many ways that agriculture can be incorporated into the classroom, whether at home or school

If you haven’t checked out our Pinterest page yet, you can do so here.  I’m always looking for new board ideas and pinning suggestions.  If you have any, shoot me an email at

Categories: General | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Talking with an Indiana Farmer | Part 2

Kip Tom

Kip Tom

Today, I’m finishing up my interview with Kip Tom of Tom FarmsClick here to read Part 1.

AM: Like every job, I’m sure yours has ups and downs, good days and challenging ones.  What aspect of your job do you find most gratifying?  What has been the most challenging experience you’ve encountered as a farmer?

KT: One of the most gratifying experiences is 1.) seeing committed young people come into our business (or another farm) and engage in the work with a desire to make a difference, and 2.) having the opportunity to help them along the way.

I also enjoy opportunities to transfer knowledge of production agriculture and give others the opportunity to change their lives and businesses.  It’s exciting to ignite the spirit of entrepreneurism that is embedded in some people and watch it flourish.

One of the challenges I face is attempting to make a significant impact in consumer awareness of modern agriculture systems.  Another challenge is attempting to change and improve global food security when those in developing countries want to engage, but politics, governance or cultures do not allow it to happen.  It starts with our youth, and one person at a time.

(Photo by Borden)

(Photo by Borden)

AM: In the profile about you in “Indianapolis Monthly,” you said something about GMO crops providing millions of meals served to a starving world while noting there has not been one hospital visit reported because of GMO use.  Can you expound on that? How is modern agriculture and biotechnology helping to feed a starving world?

KT: First off, I will say that I and many in agriculture embrace all forms of food production, whether organic, natural, local or commercial modern agriculture.  We need them all for today and tomorrow. 

My reference to biotechnology was in respect to concerns about food safety.  Since 1996, the global population has consumed 17 trillion meals without one documented overnight hospital stay that was verified and attributed to approved biotech crops.

Biotechnology has delivered crops that have improved yields and productivity, including new advanced molecular breeding techniques and the ability to ward off pest more effectively.  The biotech changes have reduced the impact of pesticides to humans and the environment. 

Up to this time, most biotech crops benefits were focused on improving production.  Going forward, there has and will continue to be significant investments in developing seeds and traits that benefit the diets of consumers and livestock.  We will build coordinated supply chains that will deliver more value, and improve agriculture systems and those that agricultural systems support.

As the world’s population climbs to 9.3 billion people in tandem with improved diets, we will need to double the worlds food supply by 2050 with the same or fewer resources we have today while protecting the environment.  We are (and will be) merely using science in food production, just as we do in so many other areas of our human existence like medicine and technology.

Thanks Kip for some great insights into Indiana agriculture.  Do YOU have any questions about ag that you’d like to see answered on this blog?  If so, email me at Thanks for reading!

Categories: Farming in the 21st Century, The Faces of Modern Agriculture | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Talking with an Indiana Farmer | Part 1

Kip Tom

Kip Tom

Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to Kip Tom.  Kip is the CEO of Tom Farms, a family-owned business located in Northern Indiana.  Tom Farms was established by Everett and Marie Tom in 1952 and is currently one of the largest suppliers of seed corn to Monsanto.

Kip kindly agreed to do an email interview with me discussing sustainability, agriculture in the 21st century, and family business.  Enjoy the first part of the interview today, and check back for the rest of the interview on Thursday.

AM: Obviously, your family’s connection to agriculture is deep and important to you. How does your family’s farming history impact the way you think about the Ag industry?

KT: Our family settled in our community 176 years ago this summer, about seven generations before my children joined the business.  Each of us who have a role in this business must take responsibility to assure that the business continues.

AM: Sound economics and business principles are key components of running an operation that can last for multiple generations.  Why is it important to run a family farm using sound business principles?  How does a sound business model contribute to the overall livelihood of an operation?

KT: Oftentimes financial decisions have been made on the farm in the past with little-to-no due diligence.  A business can only survive through good and challenging times if the financial impact of all decisions is clearly understood prior to making the decision.  It is critical that leaders understand where the income and cost centers are, and how the contribute to the business’s bottom line.

AM: As I listen to the conversation surrounding agriculture, I hear a lot of talk about sustainability.  What does sustainability mean to you? How is an operation like yours sustainable?

KT: Sustainability is a word that can span many conversations, but to our business it means:

  1. Succession of the family business;
  2. Protection of all resources spanning generations; and,
  3. A systems approach to our manufacturing processes.

AM: You’ve spent many years on your family farm, and have also chosen to be actively involved in the national and international discussion about agriculture.  In other words, you have the knowledge and experience of working on the farm while also understanding the various dynamics of national and international Ag concerns.  From your perspective, what are the top three challenges farmers are facing in the 21st century?

(Photo by Roberts)

(Photo by Roberts)

KT: The first challenge I see is a failure to recognize that production agriculture is a manufacturing business and that we need to invest in developing a systems approach to producing the products that we “build” on our farms to feed the growing global demand.  Farm structures will be much different in the future as they are in essence a “biological manufacturing plant” producing food, fiber and energy.  Success in this endeavor will require extensive capital investments, coordinated supply chains, and talented management and staff.

Additionally, education will continue to be the differentiator in the future as it is now.  The successful farm business will need to have qualified leaders in the management positions as well have educated technical staff to operate the complexity of the “manufacturing plant”.

Finally, agricultural advocacy will continue to be a challenge with less connectivity between consumers and the farm.  It is the responsibility of our industry to step up from all levels and engage in local and global discussions.  We also have the responsibility of engaging with policy makers to ensure we are helping the food insecure.

Check back here on Thursday to hear more from Kip!

Categories: Agriculture in Indiana, Farming in the 21st Century, The Faces of Modern Agriculture | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Worth a thousand words

Fall Cover Crop by Smith

Fall Cover Crop by Smith

To say that farming has changed over the last 200 years would be an understatement.  We all know it’s happened, but what do these changes look like? 

Every year, ISDA sponsors a statewide photo contest that allows participants to submit their best photos of agricultural life in Indiana.  Categories include Conservation, On the Farm, Faces of Agriculture and Agritourism.  Each of this year’s 13 winners offer a glimpse into what farming in the 21st century looks like.  Below are three of my favorite photos with a bit of my personal commentary.

 Fall Cover Crop, taken by Evan and Jessica Smith of Kokomo, Ind., captures a modern application of cover crops.  Indiana is quickly becoming a leader in the use of cover crops.  Cover crops are simply crops that are grown between the rows of traditional crops like soybeans and corn. This practice, which dates back to ancient India and China, reduces wind and rain erosion, improves soil structure and reduces the soil compaction.

Taken at Turkey Run State Park by Scott Roberts, In the Pouring Rain shows the natural beauty that can be found throughout our

In the Pouring Rain by Roberts

In the Pouring Rain by Roberts

state.  As I look at this photo, I’m reminded that a key element of agriculture is conservation.  Like it says on our website: “Stewardship of the environment is key to the continued viability of agriculture for generations to come.”  Farmers and agribusiness know that better than anyone and strive to serve as wise stewards of the land and preserve beautiful places like this nook at Turkey Run.

At the heart of farming and agribusiness is community.  That’s what’s communicated in Kristie Spear’s photo Honor System.  Without a doubt, a vital component of agriculture is economics and sound business principles.  But deeper than that is a desire to serve one’s neighbors and contribute to the welfare of the local, national and global community.  And for one farmer in Parke County, that means putting her vegetables on a table and trusting people to pay what’s due into a tin can.

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  And these three photos do much to describe the beauty and innovation of modern agriculture.

Are there any photos that you think capture the essence of farming in the 21st century?

Honor System by Spear

Honor System by Spear

Categories: Farming in the 21st Century | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is this (agri)Cultured Foodie?

It’s a story my friends know well.  On a humid, sunny Tuesday morning in August, I walked into my first agricultural class as a student of agriculture.  I began my freshman year at Purdue in speech pathology, but eventually switched to agricultural communication because of my interest in all things food and words. 

That is how I found myself sitting in an animal science class my sophomore year of college.  The professor introduced himself, then projected an image of sheep onto the screen and asked the class which breed they were.  While I sat dumb-founded at my desk, my boot-clad classmates shouted out the answer.  I then realized there was more to agriculture than I initially thought, and I decided I would immerse myself in exploring the field.

Living on the outskirts of Indianapolis, my childhood was an odd combination of knowing the distinct smell cow manure and frequenting the theaters and museums of downtown. I grew up knowing the difference between corn and soybeans, but not understanding what happened to the crops once they were harvested.

Indiana Soy | Bryan Ballinger

Indiana Soy | Bryan Ballinger

During my undergraduate years at Purdue, the world of agriculture went from being an impersonal industry, to my desired vocation.  My interest in food morphed into a zeal for the people, places and practices that are responsible for feeding us. 

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to meet the people, explore the places and learn about the practices involved with getting food from the farm to the table.  I have talked with farmers who work from sunrise to sunset in the spring to make sure their crops are planted in time.  I have traveled to a multi-generational dairy farm and talked to the cows’ caretakers to understand how the animals are monitored and kept healthy.  I have visited a soybean processing plant to learn how a bean is separated into oil for our salad dressings and meal for livestock feed.

As the assistant director of communication at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, I connect the people of agriculture with the consumers they serve.  My goal is to help people who don’t work in agriculture see how their food is tied to farmers, ag economists, food scientists, etc.

“The (agri)Cultured Foodie” is my blog for the ISDA where I discuss and highlight the various facets of agriculture that impact the food we serve on our table.  I’m looking forward to interacting with consumers and farmers, both in person and on this blog.

Is there an aspect of agriculture and/or food that you’d like me to write about?  Comment below and I’ll add it to my list of ideas.  Thanks for stopping by!

Categories: Informational | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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