Barry Lahman, owner of Lahman farms, is a third generation farmer in Rochester. He grew up watching his father, Dean, work on his father’s farm in Fulton County.
“My parents moved here to this farm in 1969. I was just starting kindergarten when they moved here,” Lahman said. “We farmed a few hogs and a few cattle on and off, but mainly focused on grain.”
But in all that time, he can’t recall a planting season quite like this one.
“Everyone knew it [the weather] was going to change. When it quit raining, it was going to turn up the heat and we were going to start burning up. That happened in about a two-week time frame. And with all of our sandy soils around here we are irrigating almost non-stop now.”
Barry grew up helping his dad on the farm and in 1989 took all of his years of experience and started his own farming business. Barry and Dean then farmed together for 16 years before his father’s passing. Barry has taken what was a 2,000-acre farm and increased it to more than 6,000 acres today. “We just celebrated our 50th year here at this farm,” Lahman said.
Lahman raises corn, soybeans and specialty crops. Ten percent of the corn he raises is seed corn, which is strictly sold to farmers to produce yellow dent. He’s been raising seed corn for 26 years for Pioneer Seed Co. and explained that the goal with seed corn is to change it genetically to create a better hybrid. For instance, if a male cornstalk stands well, isn’t prone to disease, but doesn’t produce a very big ear, Lahman will breed it with a female cornstalk that may not be very strong, but does produce a big ear. Sometimes it takes 6-7 years to produce the right hybrid.
Lahman has also raised potatoes, popcorn and pickles. He explained that Fulton County’s sandy soil is ideal for growing specialty crops. One disadvantage is that it requires a lot of irrigation.
“We [Fulton County] are highly irrigated,” Lahman said. “We are the second- or third-most irrigated county in Indiana because of the sand. The sand doesn’t soak up the water like dirt, therefore the need for more irrigation.”
He went on to describe this season’s difficulties with getting his crops planted.
“This spring was the wettest spring I can remember. Many older farmers don’t remember having anything quite this wet. This year we planted in April, May, June and replanted in July. It took four months to plant what usually takes six weeks. There was only one other time in my career when I wasn’t able to plant all of the acres.”
Lahman says the biggest change in the farming business from when he was a young boy is the technology. Computers are in the tractors. The tractors steer themselves and can map exactly what was just done in the field.
One new piece of technology on the Lahman farm is a new John Deere planter called an ExactEmerge. It can run up to 10 mph with accurate seed placement, planting 24 rows at at time. With this planter, Lahman says he can get 2-3 times more work done in a day than what he used to with the same size planter.
Lahman also owns his own fleet of semi tractors to haul grain. “I have my own men and semis to move the grain,” he said. “As many bushels as I handle, I need to be able to move the grain when I need to move it.”
Barry’s wife, Phyllis, helps with day-to-day operations on the farm. His brother, Brad, helps on the farm during the planting and harvest seasons, and Lahman has two full-time and several part-time employees on the farm.
Barry’s son, Bryce, is starting at Purdue this fall seeking a bachelor’s degree in farm management. In four years, he plans to come back to the farm and be a part of the operation, continuing the family’s farming tradition for another generation.