ROCHESTER, Ind. — For more than 50 years, the Smith family has called Fulton County home. What started as a 420-acre farm west of Rochester has grown not only in acreage and crop production, but manpower.
The Smith's farm, one of the largest in the county, first began in 1965 when Dale and Millie Smith moved to the area from LaPorte County. Now, the farm has extended to three generations, with Dale and Millie's two sons, four grandsons and two nephews employed.
"I'm very fortunate that they were interested in wanting to continue the operation," Dale said about his family. "The opportunity is there to take it, and I'm glad that some of them are taking it."
Dale started working at a farm right out of high school near LaCrosse in 1954. Farming was always in Dale's genes, and fortunately, he said, it helped to marry a farmer's daughter. Millie not only kept the books in order for the farm, but she also spent each fall harvest running the combine. On May 31 of this year, Millie died unexpectedly at the age of 77.
"She did everything, from feeding hogs and cattle to raising kids. Everyone that would need to be done," said Dave Smith, the eldest of the three Smith kids.
When Dale and Millie married in 1957, they rented a farm about 4 miles away from her father near Valparaiso in LaPorte County. Dale said moving to Fulton County gave the family more opportunities to expand their farm, especially for growing specialty crops.
Most of the land is close to the Tippecanoe River, which is good land for vegetables, Dale said. Kevin Smith, the younger Smith son, said they started irrigating the land in 1975. That allowed them to add popcorn, seed corn, potatoes and green beans to the typical corn and soybean production. Kevin said about one-third of Fulton County farms grow specialty crops.
The Smiths also have their own grain elevator at the farm, where they store about 400,000 bushels of specialty soybeans that are mainly used for consumer oil. The bulk of that, Kevin said, is sold to Nestle for its Coffee-mate creamer.
"We all need to be diversified a little bit. That's what the specialty crops have done for us," Dave said. "When the corn and soybeans isn't profitable, then hopefully some of those other vegetable crops and other things we do are."
Both Dave and Kevin bought their first farm at the age of 16.
"I always knew what I was going to do," Dave said. His and Kevin's sons both worked on the farm after school as teenagers, but they weren't sure if their sons would continue on the farm. Dave said one of his sons studied business in college and also works as a commodity broker.
As now a three-generation farm, the industry has changed as technology has advanced. It involved much more physical labor than it does now.
"It's shameful really," Dave said. "You sit on your can 16 hours a day."
Kevin said he and Dave spend more time now on business planning and finances.
The Smiths have GPS-equipped equipment that maps out how much seed is needed based on the crop, soil type and irrigation. Dale said though it's hard for him to keep up with technology, the automation has saved the family money and supplies them with so much information.
"We don't wear out many shovels now," Dale said, with a laugh.
Over the years, Dale has collected 26 antique tractors, mainly John Deeres, reminding him of the long tradition of farming for him and his family.
"We kinda have a collection," he said.
Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, http://bit.ly/2tG96qj
Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com