Threats to Farming
Area farmers want the rural life to
continue for future generations
They are concerned over society
views opposing agriculture
(July 2013) – Summer tables laden with ripe tomatoes, sweet corn and juicy watermelon testify to the efforts of the local farmers. Marc and Gabrielle Hubbard of Madison, Ind., rise early and work long into the night to provide such feasts.
When asked about their farm life, Marc notes, “There’s not a better place to raise a family and teach about life and responsibility. Everything runs on a natural cycle. We love the laid back lifestyle.” The couple lives on a 100-acre farm in southern Jefferson County, Ind.
Marc and Gabrielle Hubbard row crop 100 acres and are partners in a 85 head brood cow operation in Madison, Ind. They are pictured above with daughter Baylor, age 16 months, and are expecting a second child soon.
Yet, they worry that farming’s days might be numbered. Rising land and equipment prices, stiff competition and lack of community support all combine to challenge farming efforts. “Quite frankly, the community doesn’t seem very thrilled about (farming),” says Hubbard. “I hope we can educate the community on how valuable farmers are to this area. Hopefully, that will make a better future possible.”
Hubbard helped found the local chapter of the Indiana Farm Bureau Young Farmers group to create a network dedicated to supporting young farmers and to educating the community about their efforts. The group meets monthly to share tips on current trends in farming, mentor each other about the latest techniques, and to encourage one another when the going gets tough.
“No one should try to break into farming without a mentor,” says Hubbard. “One mistake can cost thousands of dollars. A mentor shows the ropes and guides you through the first few years. We offer that network to help others get started.”
The group also engages in community projects such as River Sweep, food drives and bringing agricultural information to local classrooms. “We want the community to realize all we are doing to make a better life for everyone,” says Hubbard.
Brad Ponsler, the Farm Bureau representative for southeastern Indiana, lauds Hubbard’s efforts. He points to the resources available through Farm Bureau to support farmers throughout the region. “We are in the business of promoting agriculture, educating the public about agriculture and working with legislators to make sure proposed rules and regulations aren’t going to have a negative effect on farmers or agriculture,” says Ponsler. “The Young Farmers groups advance those efforts in the local areas. These grass roots groups make the organization operate.”
Several local farmers have been recognized by Farm Bureau for their efforts. Brad and Amanda Briggs were runners-up for Farm Bureau’s Excellence in Agriculture Award (given to farmers whose primary occupation is off the farm), while Dave Ferguson won Farm Bureau’s Achievement Award (given to farmers whose primary occupation is farming) – both at the state and national levels for his excellence in farming methods.
Farmers’ greatest challenge is the constant pressure to produce more food on fewer acres. “By 2050, the population of the planet will be over 9 billion people. We have to feed them even though we lose land every year,” says Hubbard. He points to advancements in technology as the key to meeting this demand. “People should be very grateful for colleges like Purdue and Ohio State. They produce the best minds in agriculture, such as developing genetically modified crops which raise production levels. We have the healthiest food in the world because of them. We couldn’t produce the amount of food people eat without these innovations.”
Hubbard knows there are voices in the community that raise concerns about farming innovations. He understands those concerns but wishes people would talk to farmers before taking a stand. “We know they aren’t making any more land, so we try to be good stewards. We use environmentally friendly practices such as no-till and keeping phosphorus out of the water. Technology helps us, too. We use GPS for planting, which helps us get the rows tighter and saves fuel costs. The new seeds help with production and weather challenges. I was able to raise 80 bushels of corn last year, even without rain for six weeks. To meet the demands of today, we can’t go back to 1950s farming,” says Hubbard.
He believes much opposition is based on misunderstanding and fears that decisions based on misperception will make farming too difficult to continue in the area. “People have a right to know where their food comes from, so come talk to us.”
He hopes those conversations enhance support for innovations in farming. Hubbard points to Indiana’s rank of fourth largest soybean producer in the nation. “We should be as proud of that as we are of Regatta. If we encourage young couples to come back and give them the support they need, we have a positive future in farming.”
Ponsler believes that farming will flourish in Jefferson County. “A lot of family farms work hard to produce food, fiber and fuel for Indiana. There are a lot of niche farmers going into the local markets, while technology is helping to make the larger farmers more competitive. That’s all good for farming.”
Ponsler notes that Farm Bureau “is involved at the local, state, and national levels to protect those efforts. I hope nobody ever takes for granted where their food comes from. We have the safest food supply in the world thanks to our farmers. We want to give them the support they need,” says Ponsler.
“We love farming,” says Hubbard. “It’s a great feeling to know you are part of something much bigger than yourself and your family – helping others by growing food. We want the community to appreciate what we do, and we want to help others be part of this.”
• For more information on Farm Bureau or joining the Young Farmers Group, call Brad Ponsler at (812) 592-2121 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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