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April 1, 2013

Centennial of farming

Robinson family farm named one of 50 latest Hoosier Homesteads

DEACON — One of Cass County’s longtime farming families received statewide recognition last month at the semiannual Hoosier Homestead award presentation.

Indiana’s Hoosier Homestead award program recognizes families with farms that have been owned by the same family for at least 100 years. More than 4,300 families have been recognized for their commitment to agriculture and farming history since the program’s 1976 inception, according to an Indiana Department of Agriculture press release.

One or two families from Cass County have been recognized in each of the last three award cycles. Nick Robinson is the latest Cass County farmer to receive the award, one of 50 recipients statewide.

Robinson recalled growing up on the middle 80 acres owned by his family about one and a half miles outside the small town of Deacon. He now lives in the home his grandparents had, built in 1904, which he bought after returning from service in the armed forces during the Korean War.

“The main thing I remember was having to milk seven cows before I went to school,” he said. His father and grandfather were animal farmers, keeping several sows and 25 to 30 sheep on the three 80-acre parcels in southern Cass County.

He also recalls the house’s old gas lights, unused after electric wiring was installed early in his childhood.

Nick Robinson’s great-grandfather, John D. DeHaven, acquired the farm in 1879 from William Babb, passing it down to his daughter Ursula, who’d married Edgar D. Robinson. They passed it along to Nick’s father Clarence D. Robinson and then Nick took over the farm around 1952, he said, the same time he married Georgianna Rothermel.

That’s when he started moving away from cow and sheep farming and planted corn and beans.

“I was tired of milking,” he said, grinning.

Nick and Georgianna raised six children — two boys and four girls — in the old farmstead house and at one point had 40 to 50 sows having pigs each year. He got out of raising hogs when he went to work for the local Wilson’s meat packing plant, now Tyson’s, in 1968 at age 40.

Nick retired from Wilson’s after 22 years, about four years before Georgianna passed away in 1994. By then, one of their daughters, Tery and her husband Gary Scott, had gone into farming, too.

Tery and Nick recently reminisced about what they called a simpler time, when the children would often play imaginative games outside in the fields or in the 18-acre woods on the family property.

“We loved living on the farm and we used to go out in the field with Dad,” said Tery.

Nick countered that one of the less desired chores he had his children help with was cutting weeds out of the bean field.

“I don’t think the kids cared too much for that,” he said.

Now, Tery and Gary’s sons Kyle, 29, and Eric, 27, have begun farming in partnership with the elder Scotts. While Nick and Tery waxed nostalgic about their childhoods, they admitted that technological advances had made farming more efficient.

“You know what’s amazing,” said Nick, “when I started farming in ‘52, I used a little steel-wheeled, two-row planter.” Now his grandsons are using a 16-row planter, he said.

“I thought, he goes across and back and he’s planted 32 rows,” Nick exclaimed.

Nick’s four daughters and his companion of 17 years, Peggy Garner, joined him in Indianapolis for the March 22 Hoosier Homestead ceremony. Tery said her husband Gary had originally suggested nominating the Robinson farm for one of the awards, after a farm on his side of the family had been recognized a previous year.

“It was exciting,” said Tery, “to be able to do this for Dad — and the idea that it’s going to stay in the family forever.”

Nick, leaning back in his recliner inside the century-old farmhouse, said he was glad to have been part of the ceremony.

“It was quite an honor,” he said, “and I’d have to say I enjoyed it.”

Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151.

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