By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune
---- — Gary Raber has wanted to get a Hoosier Homestead award for the past 15 years. He was able to reach that goal and receive recognition, along with 57 other Indiana farming families, in celebration of their 100-plus-year commitment to Indiana agriculture.
To be named a Hoosier Homestead, farms must be owned by the same family for more than 100 consecutive years and consist of more than 20 acres of produce and more than $1,000 of agricultural products per year, a press release said.
“I’ve been looking forward to it,” Raber said.
Raber’s great-grandfather purchased the property in Miami County in 1900. After he died, it was passed on to three of his children, including his grandfather. In 1948, it went to Kenneth, his father, before it went to Raber and his sisters. Raber bought the property in 1988.
Today, grain farming is done on the property, but Raber remembers having hogs, dairy and chickens in the past.
Growing up on the farm, Raber remembers driving a tractor at 6 years old.
“I just have dirt in my blood,” Raber said when recalling driving tractors and running equipment.
Over the years, plenty has changed in farming, including the machinery and technology. Raber, who has spent almost 40 years in the farming equipment industry, said he recalls planting corn with a two-row corn planter and now has someone harvesting corn for him with a 12-row combine.
Of the families named a Hoosier Homestead in early August, 42 families received centennial awards, 14 families were recognized with sesquicentennial and two families had more than 200 years on the farm.
Six local families were recognized from Carroll, Miami, Pulaski and Fulton Counties.
One of those is a close friend and neighbor to Raber.
The farm in Miami County was purchased by Eugene Mills in 1907 and has been in the family ever since, Curtis Mills said. After that, the farm went to Leroy Mills.
Today it is owned jointly between Linda, Curt, Kent and Janice, and Curt and Kent work on it. They’ve owned the property since 2011.
Farming done on the property includes hogs, corn and some hay.
For Curt, there are a lot of memories with the property. He can recall having family gatherings on the farm while he was being raised. They still have family gatherings there today, Curt said.
More than 500 people attended the presentation in the Farm Bureau Auditorium at the Indiana State Fair.
Similarly, there are a lot of memories that come with a farm located in Rochester. The farm, now owned by Lois and Stephen Rans, was purchased in 1906 by Harley and Etta Rans, Stephen’s grandparents.
His parents bought it from them in 1964. Stephen Rans grew up on the farm and has been farming since he was 13 years old, Lois Rans said.
Lois and Stephen Rans bought it in 1994. Today, they farm corn and soybeans, Lois Rans said.
“When he was growing up, there were a lot of memories,” Lois Rans said.
Lois recalls being a crop scout, and walking the fields to look for insects or diseases on the plants. She also ran equipment.
The couple has three daughters and expect they’ll keep the farm in the family name.
“They’re scattered all over the country, but it’s important to them too,” Lois said.
The Rans went to the celebration at the state fair and said it was nice to see other people go up. They were the only people from Fulton recognized.
“You could tell it meant a lot to the people,” Lois Rans said.
Two farming families from Carroll County were recognized. One farm in Bringhurst was purchased in 1905 by Dr. Frank P. and Julia Lyons. After Dr. Lyons passed away, the farm went to Esther Shanks and Millie Cromer before Mary and Joe Scott purchased it in 1979. Today, their son, Dean, and their grandson, Jordon, farm the land together.
There are corn, beans, wheat and hogs on the farm. The Scott family received the centennial award and had 11 family members with them when they were recognized, Mary said.
“It felt like you were honored to be among all those other people in the state,” Mary said.
Another family in Carroll County was also recognized. When Jason Scott looked in to the history of his farm, he found his great-great-grandfather, Will, had purchased it 125 years ago in 1888. The 80-acre farm is owned by Richard Scott, Susan Trueblood and Steve Scott.
An original homestead building is located on the property. Today corn and soybeans are grown on the farm.
Richard Scott, Steve Scott and Jason Scott do the farming today. Jason describes it as a family effort. Being recognized as a Hoosier Homestead at the state fair was different for them, but was a nice accomplishment, Jason said.
“We try not to get attention drawn to us; we just try to do our own thing,” Jason said. “We’re glad to be a part of Indiana history.”
A farm in Pulaski County received a sesquicentennial award for its family ownership of at least 150 years.
More than 5,000 Hoosier families have been recognized since the program’s 1976 inception.
Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.