After marrying into a family with connections to two multi-generational family farms in Indiana, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what agriculture was “really like” in our state. However, my most recent HCLA day focused on agriculture, and I learned so much more about the impact of agriculture in Hamilton County as well as our entire state. Did you know that Indiana is the 10th largest farming state in the country? Or that 96% of the 585 farms in Indiana are family owned and farmed? Can you believe that the average age of the Indiana farmer is 56 years old and that those same farmers now produce 2X more food than was produced by their parents who worked the same land!? These facts that we learned from Susan Peterson, Director of Purdue Extension Service of Hamilton County laid a foundation of our awareness around agriculture in Hamilton County and set the stage for this simple truth: Agriculture is changing rapidly and impacts all humans on our planet.
The highlight of Agriculture Day for me was the incredible talk from Mitch Frazier followed by a deep dive into the thriving business of Beck’s Hybrids (who was also the generous sponsor and host for our day of learning). As the current CEO of AgriNovis and former CEO of Reynold’s Farm Equipment, Mitch not only shared with us the incredible impact that agriculture has on our state’s economy, but also left me inspired about the future of innovation and opportunity that exists right here in Hamilton County in the agriculture business sector. Before this HCLA day, when I thought of ag in Hamilton County, I envisioned the farms north of Westfield. What we learned is that ag is SO MUCH MORE in this county. The five sectors of Indiana’s agbioscience economy that have a whopping $58.1B overall economic impact on our state include: Value-Added Food & Nutrition, Animal Health, Plant Science & Crop Protection, Ag Equipment/Tech/Systems, and Production Ag. More impressive than the overall economic impact is the rapid growth, innovation, and opportunity that exists within the ag sector. Hamilton County is a hotbed for this innovation with global companies relocating their company headquarters to our county and creating jobs with six-figure income potential.
One of those impressive companies is Beck’s. As we toured Beck’s, we got an inside view into an incredible family-owned business that has a global impact. Seeing how Beck’s helps farmers be more successful with tailored hybrid lines of seed, unparalleled customer service, and innovative technologies that undergird every step of their business was inspiring. This culture-forward company has grown from a small, family business to the third largest seed company with nearly 900 employees. They are helping farmers navigate the three key trends that Mitch shared will shape the future of ag in our county. Those include:
- Biofuels being a major part of the energy transition
- Labor challenges that will remain and drive technology innovation
- Agtech consolidation will accelerate as that innovation grows.
These trends impact big and small ag organizations. We shifted gears at the end of the day at Teter Organic Farm in Noblesville. Katy Rogers, farm manager, educated us on the very local challenges that exist around food insecurity and how she’s working to establish a local model that could be implemented by other not-for-profit organizations who have land and want to help those in need. My take-away here was that labor challenges don’t just impact big companies like Beck’s. They impact Katy and her ability to find volunteers. While farmers will have to innovate in order to produce more food per acre to keep up with the world’s population, another angle is to produce locally to provide healthy food options for those locally who need it.
So, whether you’re a professional looking for high-growth, high-earning employment in a growing sector or a citizen who wishes to help feed those in need in our local communities, Hamilton County offers many opportunities to contribute a meaningful impact. What an incredible and inspiring day at HCLA!