Professional Improvement Tours

Indiana has a lot to showcase for our active members during Professional Improvement Tour day.  Corn and soybeans will be celebrated with visits to Pioneer, Beck's, Louis Dreyfus, and others.  We'll share with you insights into our egg, mint, and dairy industries.  We also have offerings for those with an interest in horticulture and forestry with stops at Pike Lumber Company, Roberta's Greenhouse and Clearspring Produce Auction to name a few.

Tour 1 - Milk, Malted Barley, & Agritourism

Supported by SARE

This tour will travel to Boone County, IN with ventures in bottling milk, malting barley, and agritourism with Christmas Trees. Dandy Breeze Creamery began milking over 30 years ago, but only began bottling their own pasture based Jersey milk in mid-2017. Sugar Creek Malt Company is located about 40 miles North of Indianapolis and is a third generation farm. In 2015, they diversified their 1,400 acre corn, soybean, and wheat farm to include malting barley. Now they malt barley for many family farms within a 200 mile radius to provide locally sourced barley to breweries across Indiana. Our last stop will be to Dulls Trees in Thorntown, IN.  This second generation agritourist destination begin planting Christmas trees in 1985.  When their son decided to come back to the farm in 2013, the Dulls’ planned to start a pumpkin patch and fall maze.  Both ventures have continued to grow and they have continued to share their agriculture knowledge with everyone who visits.

Tour 2 - Lumber, Ag Equipment Manufacturing, & Beef

Northern Indiana is home to some of the best hardwood species in the world. The forest contains a diverse mix of hardwood species including fine quality White Oak, Walnut, Cherry and Poplar. Pike Lumber Company is Indiana’s largest manufacturer and distributor of quality kiln dried lumber. We will be visiting this community minded company’s main mill in Akron, IN. Next, what started out as a man working in his garage has developed into a 4th generation family team manufacturing a variety of springs for agriculture use. They provide springs for John Deere, New Holland, Polaris and many more. You may be using some of their springs. When you take a strong agricultural background and combine it with a Purdue Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering, you will end up with a different approach to a beef feedlot. Ault Farms finishes 3000 Holstein cattle yearly and incorporate handling facilities inspired by modern animal handling principles. Lunch will be at the Fulton County Historical Museum home to a round barn and various historical treasures.

Tour 3 - Berries & Gardens

Tour 3 will begin with the Indiana Berry and Plant Company in Plymouth, IN. Established in 1993, Indiana Berry and Plant has been providing premium bare root plants for home and commercial growers for over 25 years. Today, they provide rootstocks from many fruits, including multiple berries, grapes, currants, asparagus, rhubarb, and a variety of novelty plants. We will then travel to Dogwood Hills Tree Farm, established in the mid-1990s by Todd and Cindy Lederman. After a few years, they began selling trees at local tree auctions, and realized the potential for a local retail tree nursery operation. In April of 2017, a new chapter began as long-time employee Curtis Bontrager and his wife Melody purchased the business. The third stop will be at the Wellfield Botanic Gardens designed by the Elkhart Rotary Club as a community service project in 2002. The project was officially handed over to the Board of Directors in 2005 when construction began on the 25 themed gardens and event spaces. Thirty-six acres in size, half of which are water, Wellfield inhabits a historical piece of property originally known as the “North Main Street Well Field.” The property has been a source of hydraulic energy and drinking water for the City of Elkhart since the mid-1800s with 13 active wells still on the site. The last stop for this tour will be at Kercher Sunrise Orchards in Goshen, IN. For 96 years, through 5 generations of Kerchers, they have continued to “proudly grow fruits and vegetables for ourselves, our community and our world.” Throughout the summer and fall they offer tours of the apple and pumpkin areas, u-pick pumpkin and apples, or offer a large variety of pre-picked fruits and vegetables at their on-site farmers market.

Tour 4 - Alternative Agriculture

We will begin this tour with a stop at Wappel Grain and Herb in Pulaski County, IN.  Their farm began in 1940 and has continued on to the fourth generation of family farmers, Larry Jr and Eric Wappel. They have greatly diversified their field crops to include not just corn and soybeans, but sunflowers, milo, various herbs, and mint.  The Wappel’s mint is distilled on the farm for the essential oil in the leaves. The peppermint grown at Wappel Grain & Herb is used to flavor many products we are familiar with. Our next stop is at Lambert Farms.  While similar to Wappel’s, growing mint has long been a part of the Lambert operation.  “My grandfather started growing mint in the 1930s so it has been a staple of Lambert Farms since the beginning,” Ed Lambert, third generation mint farmer says. The Lamberts grow sterile hybrid mint varieties that originate from root plantings. As part of their sustainable cropping practices, they dig and replant roots on other acres in rotation with corn and soybeans. The third stop of the day will be to Black Gold Farm in Winamac, IN. Black Gold is the largest potato grower in Indiana. Black Gold supplies the late summer and fall demand for chip potatoes. A modern grading facility was built in 2000, enhancing efficiency and capability. The final stop of the day is to Hoosier Shrimp Farm. The Troikes discovered shrimp farming after spending many years wanting to live closer to family and be part of a farming operation. After several tours, classes, and a business proposal later, Hoosier Shrimp Farm was born.  The land was purchased in 2013, the first two shrimp tanks went in on September 15th, 2014, and their retail sales began in the end of January 2015. Today, they raise Pacific White Shrimp, using 16 indoor saltwater tanks, which hold between 6000-7000 shrimp in each tank.

Tour 5 - Potatoes, Production, & Produce

Supported by SARE

Lennard Ag is a leading grower and distributor of potatoes in the Midwest. Having started over 70 years and two generations ago, Lennard Ag has been a leader in potato handling, building the first refrigerated potato storage facility in Indiana and more recently developing a system of tracking devices to improve customer satisfaction.  They store potatoes year round for use as chips, fresh pack, and processed. Oxbo International develops, manufactures, supplies and services specialized agricultural equipment worldwide. They offer equipment for pesticide, nutrient, waste application, berries, coffee, commercial corn, fresh market vegetables, forage, jatropha, olives, processed vegetables, seed corn and vineyards. Moving on to the Clearspring Produce Auction will allow tour participants a chance to see one of the local produce auctions in action.  Clearspring nets more than $1 million annually through its sales of fresh produce, flowers, and other products from more than 700 acres of land.  Our last stop for the day will be to the Shipshewana Corn Maze.  The Shipshewana Corn Maze has 11 acres of corn featuring almost 5 miles of trails with 3 different mazes.  Other activities are offered to make this a yearly fall venture for many families.

Tour 6 - Northeast IN Industry

This tour will begin with an Amish steel fabricator with custom machining and welding. D.A. Hochstetler and Sons began in 1950 on the family farm.  Over the years their business increased and the wooden buildings aged, so in 1999 they expanded by removing the old buildings and building a spacious steel building.  All of their manufacturing is in one building now, increasing their work capacity with more space overall. The next stop will be to E&S Wood Creations.  E&S Wood Creations has been crafting quality furniture in rural Indiana since 1987. At first, custom kitchens and custom furniture were their main focus. In the late 1990s as the wholesale market became a factor they adapted accordingly; adding bedroom furniture, office and living room furnishings. We will follow with a stop to Miller Carriage Company. Miller Carriage Company, in Shipshewana, IN, has been the area's premier carriage manufacturer for over 40 years. They not only carry needed carriage and hard to find parts, but also manufacture and wholesale carriage and buggy parts. The last stop of this tour will be to Highland Ridge RV. Highland Ridge RV was formed in March of 2014 when Jayco purchased assets of Open Range RV, which had started manufacturing RVs in 2007. Highland Ridge set out to develop RVs that were more spacious on the inside and weighed less than the competition. With features such as the outdoor patio and the flush floor slide, Highland Ridge RV has pioneered many of the advancements seen in the RV industry.

This tour will include moderate walking, participants MUST wear close-toed shoes, and pictures/videography are not permitted at few stops.

Tour 7 - Alternative Livestock

Supported by SARE

This tour will feature several farms raising livestock in a non-traditional manner.  Gunthorp Farms is a leading producer of pasture-raised poultry and hogs.  They also have their own USDA inspected processing plant on-farm, so they can get the product to their customers faster and to their own standards of perfection.  Their meat is featured in many restaurants throughout Chicago, Indianapolis, and the Midwest.  Cook's Bison Ranch began in 1939 when Grandpa Everett Cook purchased an 83-acre farm, complete with house and barn, for a grand total of $5,000. After being told it was the worst investment he had ever made, he paid it off with two good years of popcorn. Today, that "worst investment" has become a third-generation dream with the purchase of 30 bison in December of 1998.  The herd has since grown and the Cook’s have enjoyed educating the public about bison, the benefits of the meat, and the heritage behind it.  Wolcottville Organic Livestock Feed Cooperative (aka WOLF’s) is the next stop.  WOLF’s began as a venture for 80 local organic producers in 2011.  They offer organic feed and minerals for many types of livestock in Northern Indiana.  Lastly, participants will visit Steve Hooley’s organic dairy.  He is one of only a few “Englishmen” in an Amish dominated community that has transitioned his dairy to fully organic.

Tour 8 - Family Farm Sustainability

Supported by SARE

This tour will look at 3 farms of varying size and how their families are fully involved in the entire process. The first farm visited will be RiverRidge Farms. They are a small 3 1/2 acre family farm with eight young children. They grow approximately 1 1/2 acres of naturally grown vegetables and small fruits and provide year round seasonal produce by way of high tunnel greenhouses. They market their crops through the Wabash Farmers Market, the local community schools, and at a retail store directly on the farm.  The second stop will be to Hawkins Family Farm. They are a fourth generation farm that raises poultry, hogs, cattle, and vegetables on 99 acres. They maintain a very active CSA with participation of members each week.  They strive to maintain the same health and wholeness of the soils started over 50 years ago. The last stop will be to Seven Sons. In the late 1990s they embarked on a radical journey to transition a conventional farm to a regenerative pasture based farm. Due to overwhelming support from loyal patrons, their vision was eventually realized as a farm-to-fork food venture that serves thousands of families with nutrient-dense foods grown from healthy regenerative soils. All seven sons have helped diversify the farm with different ventures.  They have become a leading name in networking natural and organic foods across the Midwest.

Tour 9 - Poultry: Eggs, Ducks, & Automated Livestock Systems

This tour will begin with a visit to Chore-Time Brock, Inc., a leading global designer, manufacturer, and marketer of systems and solutions for preserving grain; producing poultry, pigs, and eggs; processing poultry; and for various equestrian and industrial applications. Founded in 1952, they have been a Berkshire Hathaway company since 2002, helping to spread their product further around the globe. The second stop on this tour will be at Egg Innovations. This family owned and operated company has been providing specialty eggs for over 25 years. They are currently America’s largest originator of 100% free range and pasture raised eggs. The third stop on this poultry themed tour will be at Creighton’s Crazy Egg Cafe & Coffee Bar. Creighton Brothers have been in the egg business since 1925 and are now in their fourth generation. They produce almost 1 billion eggs each year, managing every level of the egg from hatch to shipping to the store. They also farm over 8,000 acres, providing a portion of the food their hens eat. The final stop of the day will be to Maple Leaf Farms. Founded by Donald Wentzel in 1958, Maple Leaf Farms produced just 280,000 ducks. By 1964, Maple Leaf Farms quickly grew its annual duck production to more than 1 million. Today, the fourth generation has joined the family business and together the Tucker family continues to set the direction for the company. 

No photography (including cell phone cameras) is allowed inside plants. Exterior photos are okay. Tour participants should wear closed-toe shoes -- no flip flops or sandals are permitted. Tennis shoes are fine.

Tour 10 - Agriculture Production

This tour will begin with a visit to the Pioneer Seed Corn facility in Plymouth, IN, which broke ground in 1988. As of 2013, they had 90 full-time employees and over 115 contracted growers that produce over 3 million bushels of seed. The Plymouth facility is one of Pioneer’s major production plants, providing seed to much of the US and Canada. The second stop for this tour will be to Tom Farms. Tom Farms is a multi-generation, family owned organization that has evolved into a global crop production, sales and service company. Today they are one of the leading suppliers to the DEKALB seed production, shipping more than 30 million pounds of seed corn, 100 million pounds of corn, and 13 million pounds of soybeans each year. They farm over 17,000 acres across 7 counties in Indiana plus Argentina. We will then visit Chore-Time Brock, Inc., a leading global designer, manufacturer, and marketer of systems for preserving grain; producing poultry, pigs, and eggs; processing poultry; and other industrial applications. Founded in 1952, they have been a Berkshire Hathaway company since 2002, helping to spread their product further around the globe. The last stop of the day will be to the Northeast Purdue Agriculture Center (NEPAC) in Columbia City, IN. Established in 1991, NEPAC is the newest Purdue Agricultural Center. Recognizing the agricultural importance of the northeast part of the state, as well as its unique characteristics, Purdue acquired three tracts of land totaling almost 440 acres.  Here, researchers are able to do trial plots along with full scale field trials on new and continued research of corn, soybeans, wheat, and cover crops.

No photography (including cell phone cameras) is allowed inside plants. Exterior photos are okay. Tour participants should wear closed-toe shoes -- no flip flops or sandals are permitted. Tennis shoes are fine.

Tour 11 - Dairy, Beef, & Camels

We will start this tour with a stop at Homestead Dairy. The dairy operation, owned by Floyd Houin, began in 1945 when Elmer and Lena Houin bought 216 acres and began milking nine cows. Fast forward to today, when Homestead Dairy manages 3,800 dairy cows (3,200 in milk and 600 dry cows) at three dairy farms, as well as 4,000 replacement heifers at their owns farms and at contract grower locations. They updated their milking parlors in February 2017 to robotics.  Currently 36 robotic milkers are running.  They also installed a methane digester in October 2013 that turns their manure into enough electricity to power 1,000 homes. The second stop of the day will be at Double Bar R Ranch in Plymouth, IN. Double Bar R Ranch is one of the largest Angus producers in the Midwest. At any given time, they have ~900 head throughout their 900 acre spread. They are leaders in seed stock utilizing DNA testing, artificial insemination, and in vitro fertilization. They also have their own auction ring where they hold a bull sale in the spring and a female sale in the fall. Our last stop will be to River Jordan Camel Dairy. Their love with camels began in the summer of 2015. What started as a simple desire to raise camels to ride (and mow the grass), quickly grew as they learned more about the numerous health benefits that camel milk and camel milk products can provide. Today, they own 4 camels and make a variety of soaps and lotions.

Tour 12 - Transforming Corn & Beans

Tour 12 will begin with a visit to Louis Dreyfus. The Louis Dreyfus location at Claypool is a manufacturing facility, comprised of a soybean crush plant, a biodiesel plant, and a glycerin refinery. They began marketing USP Food Grade Glycerin in 2015 with the addition of a new onsite refinery. They are currently the largest North American producer of USP Food Grade Glycerin that is both kosher and halal certified, with a production capacity of 80 million pounds per year. The second stop on this tour will be at POET Biorefining. POET began as a small experiment on a family farm in South Dakota in 1986 and has since grown to one of the largest producers of ethanol, feed solutions, and other oil replacement products in the world. Their North Manchester plant began operations in September 2008. The state-of-the-art ethanol production facility uses approximately 24 million bushels of locally-grown corn to produce 68 million gallons of ethanol annually. The final stop on this tour will be at Clunette Elevator, which was founded in 1951 by three brothers and has been family owned since. From its beginning as a small grain elevator, Clunette has since expanded into one of the largest agricultural retailers in Northern Indiana.

Tour 13 - Grapes, Wine, Organics, & Spirits

Tour 13 will begin with a stop at Dulcius Vineyards. Soon after Austin Fergusson received his Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from Purdue in 1971, he bought a 100 acre farm in Noble County, IN. Growing tired of corn and soybeans, Austin founded Dulcius Vineyards in 2012 to cultivate extraordinary wine grapes. At 19 acres and more than a half-dozen varieties of grapes, Dulcius Vineyards is the largest vineyard in Northern Indiana.  The next stop will be at Country Heritage Winery and Vineyard.  Constructed on their family farm, owned for over 100 years, Jeremy and Jennifer Lutter opened their winery in 2011. Since opening, Country Heritage Wines have won 182 medals, been chosen Best of Class 11 times, and received 4 trophies at the world renowned Indy International Wine Competition, including the Indiana Farm Winery of the year two years in a row and the prestigious Indiana Winery of the Year in 2017.  The third stop on this tour will be at Wood Farms.  Wood Farms is a 500 acre organic farm that produces organic forages for dairies and maintains an organic Angus beef herd, providing quality meat to local restaurants. The final stop on this tour will be at Three Rivers Distilling Company just blocks from the Convention Center. ​As a veteran-owned and operated company, Three Rivers Distilling makes a high-quality alcohol by only bottling the best cuts off of the still. Every aspect of the spirit is locally grown and made, from the organic, non-GMO grain sourced from within 30-miles of the distillery to the barrels that are sourced from a Fort Wayne cooperage.

Tour 14 - 1/2 Day Tour - Labs & Gardens

The first half day tour features A&L Great Lakes Laboratories and the education gardens maintained by the Allen County Master Gardeners. A&L Great Lakes was established in 1976 to provide agricultural analyses to the Great Lakes region. Originally, A&L Great Lakes was part of a network of A&L laboratories that included nine different facilities around the country. In 2002, they became their own independent lab, but still enjoy a cooperative relationship with the original labs of the A&L group. Since 2002, they’ve continually expanded their testing and analytical capabilities to include all of the latest technologies as well as a wide variety of sample matrices including soils, plants, feed, fertilizer, manures, and composts. Master Gardener volunteers serve Allen County in various ways including: answering gardening questions on the Master Gardener Hotline, delivering garden seminars, assisting teachers with school gardening programs, teaching children about gardening, attending tours and workshops, and working with others to maintain the display gardens at the Extension office. We will get to take a look at the display gardens and how they are used to educate the public.

Tour 15 - 1/2 Day Tour - Feeding Northeast IN

This half day tour features the prominent Community Harvest Food Bank, their innovative Preservation Center, and the CookSpring Shared Food Kitchen. Community Harvest Food Bank was established in 1983 as a response to the closure of the International Harvester plant that sent tens of thousands into unemployment. During the first year of operation, Community Harvest distributed 200,000 pounds of food to the hungry. Today, they are the regional food bank for northeast Indiana, serving the counties of Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells, and Whitley. Annually, they distribute nearly 13 million pounds of food to an average of more than 90,000 unique individuals. In August 2015, Community Harvest became the first regional food bank in America to open a blanch, chill, and freeze produce preservation facility. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Produce Preservation Center allows them to preserve the bountiful harvest to distribute to hungry families year round. The CookSpring Shared Kitchen at The Summit in Fort Wayne, IN, is a 4800 square foot commercial/commissary kitchen for rent to culinary entrepreneurs. Established in 2015, CookSpring currently serves 24 culinary entrepreneurs, including caterers, food trucks, and pastry chefs, among others, and is the only one of its kind in Fort Wayne. Most members pay a monthly membership fee and can choose storage and usage options that best fit their needs. The kitchen is also available for hourly rental for companies and individuals who just occasionally need commercial kitchen space.

Tour 16 - Glass, Beck's, & Peppers

This tour will begin with an exciting tour of Kokomo Opalescent Glass (KOG). KOG has been in continuous operation at their current location in Kokomo, IN since 1888. The primary product first produced was sheet glass, with the excess glass being used for electric insulators for Edison General Electric. They continue to be a source for restoration glass. They still have and mix many of the same “recipes” that originally made them a premier glass manufacturer. The second site for this tour will be to Beck’s Hybrids in Atlanta, IN.  In 1901, Lawrence Beck purchased an 80 acre farm where the headquarters of Beck's Hybrids is still located. In 1937, he and his son Francis each planted a three-acre allotment of hybrid parent seed corn offered by the Purdue Botany Department. This corn became the first crop of Beck's Superior Hybrids. Today, Beck's Hybrids is the largest family-owned, retail seed company in the United States, serving farmers across 11 states. The final stop for this tour will be at G and G Peppers in Gaston, IN. G and G Peppers, LLC is a pepper processing facility founded, owned, and operated locally by Gary Reichart and Greg Cox since 1992. At G and G Peppers, they grow, process, and store 5 varieties of peppers. Currently, Gary and Greg raise over 150 acres of peppers using drip irrigation to ensure a uniform and top-quality pepper with consistent heat levels. The seedlings are raised in Greg’s greenhouses and then transplanted into fields that are just a short distance from their processing plant and greenhouses. 

This tour will include moderate walking, and completely enclosed shoes are required. Also, if you have your own safety glasses, we ask that you bring those for the glass tour.  The Glass tour may also get quite warm as the building is not temperature regulated.  

Tour 17 - Grain, Manufacturing, & Chemicals

Tour 17 will begin with a visit to IOM Grain in Portland, IN. In 2003, IOM Grain opened their doors with a goal to supply the highest quality food grade grain worldwide. Today, they specialize in cleaning and packaging high quality Non-GMO soybeans for domestic and international food manufacturers. Their state of the art facility built in 2014, is now able to process 35,000 pounds of beans per hour. They currently have contracts with more than 200 farmers within roughly a 100 mile radius of the plant. The second stop of the day will be at J&M Manufacturing in Fort Recovery, Ohio. J&M Manufacturing Co., Inc. has been a leading manufacturer of grain handling equipment for over 50 years. Starting in 1961, they built their first gravity wagon, holding 110 bushels, for a local farmer. Today their grain carts have grown in size and unloading speed - up to 1,500 bushel capacity with a 22" diameter unloading auger, delivering over 600 bushels per minute. The final stop on this tour will be to Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC in Huntington, IN. Founded in 1957, Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC has grown to be one of the nation’s leading agricultural and specialty companies in the United States. Products and services offered include Crop Protection Products, Fertilizer and Application Services, Specialized Nutrients, Seed and Seed Treatments, Financial Services, and Precision Ag Services.

This tour will include moderate walking, and closed toed shoes and long pants are required. No pictures or video recording on portions of this tour. 

Tour 18 - Produce, Pickles, & Community Partnerships

This tour begins with a visit to Kurtz Family Farm in New Haven, IN. The Kurtz Family Farm is operated by the 5th Generation of Ralph and Diana Kurtz with over 1,400 acres of corn and soybeans, along with 50 acres of fresh vegetables and pumpkins. Open three seasons of the year, they offer fresh vegetables throughout the summer, pumpkins in the fall, and fresh cut and live potted Christmas trees during the holidays. We will continue the tour to Sechler’s Pickles in St. Joe, IN. Family-owned since 1921, Max Troyer, company president says, “We’re the only family-owned pickle company in the state of Indiana.” Creating varieties ranging from spicy to sweet, Sechler’s Pickles produces a total of 54 varieties of pickled products. You will tour their processing line, visit their 1,000 bushel cypress aging barrels, along with the cutting and packing rooms. The third stop will feature the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Produce Preservation Center operated by the Community Harvest Food Bank. Opened in August 2015, this facility takes produce waste elimination to the next level with the ability to blanch, chill, and freeze fresh produce. This center has the distinction of becoming the first regional food bank in America to open a facility for the purpose of preserving the harvest. This tour will finish at the Johnnie Mae Farm in Fort Wayne. The Johnnie Mae Farm is a partnership between the City of Fort Wayne, Purdue Extension - Allen County, Vincent Village, Community Harvest Food Bank, the Renaissance Pointe YMCA and Neighborhood Association. Following an historic renovation of a former fire station in 2015, this site boasts a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, community meeting space, and three-quarters of an acre of community garden space. Johnnie Mae’s location is perfect for serving a market that for years has had very little access to the fresh produce necessary for a healthy diet.

This tour will include moderate walking, and closed toed shoes are required along with no dangling jewelry.

Tour 19 - Conservation & Agritourism

Tour 19 will begin with a stop at Brand Dairy Farm. Family owned since 1972, Brands have become a leader in conservation farming practices and Holstein genetics. They practice the 4-R’s technique, meaning applying the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. As a result of their generations-long practices, they have been awarded the Fertilizer Institute’s 4R Advocate Award, as well as earning the Indiana River Friendly Farmer Award and the Conservation Farmer of the Year Award. The family grows corn, soybeans, wheat and hay on 2,500 acres and milks 400 Holstein cows three times daily. Our second stop for the day will be to Hartland Winery, 2018 winner of the prestigious Indiana Winery of the Year. Since beginning with homemade wines in 2011, they have won 37 medals and been chosen Best of Class 5 times at the world renowned Indy International Wine Competition. What began as a hobby in 2006 slowly came to fruition in 2016 when the official winery opened. Their vineyard is planted on 4 acres with 6 varietals planted. They specialize in creating small batches of wine with lots of care and thoughtfulness poured into them. By doing so, Hartland can have a wider variety of wines that are produced at the peak of flavor and freshness. The final stop of our day will be at Ridenour Acres in Angola, IN. The Ridenour family operates an 11-acre corn maze, pick-your-own pumpkins, straw maze, hayrides, corn box, and other family-fun activities throughout the fall. Even though they are only in full operation just 6 short weeks of the year, they see over 10,000 people take part in their corn maze and fun fall activities. 

This tour will include moderate walking and closed toed shoes are required.

Tour 20 - Cover Crops, Bees, & Pressed Oils

Supported by SARE

Participants in this tour will be treated to one the region’s leaders in cover crop advocacy, extensive knowledge about honey bees, and harvesting of sunflowers and the pressing process to make oil.  Jamie Scott, owner of Scott Farms, has been a cover crop advocate since the early days.  He also sells cover crop seed and services in northern Indiana, southern Michigan, and northwestern Ohio. The service includes a “turn-key” aerial seeding operation. Today, all 2,000 tillable acres are no-tilled or strip tilled and have had cover crops planted for years. The family has implemented many conservation practices earning them recognition as the IASWCD Conservation Farmer of the Year and regional and national Conservationist of the Year awards from the American Soybean Association. Our second stop to Shenefield Bees will give participants a glimpse of the honey industry and all the intricacies it entails. Shenefield’s are owners of the largest honey bee operation in Indiana, keeping over 3,000 hives at a time. Their venture began in the 1950’s as a hobby.  Since then, Don has specialized in queen rearing and transporting bees across the US in different seasons. The last stop will be to Healthy Hoosier Oil owned by Mark Boyer. Mark is the sixth generation on his farm. In 2014, the farm diversified by starting to raise and cold-press canola and sunflowers. Then in 2018 he began experimenting with Purdue University on pressing hemp seeds for oil.

Tour 21 - Greenhouses, Glads, & Gardens

The first stop on this tour will be to Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants in Litchfield, Michigan. Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants started in the Fall of 2017 when Roberta’s Unique Gardens, supplier of plants and flowers to QVC, purchased C. Raker and Sons Greenhouses, a leading commercial wholesaler of custom-grown young plants. Through seed and vegetative propagation, Raker-Roberta's supplies over 3,000 plant varieties to greenhouses and nurseries around the world. They also maintain 4 acres of trial gardens examining over 3,000 plant varieties. The next stop will be at Great Lakes Glads. Great Lakes Glads has been a major producer of cut flowers in the region since 1971, producing over 1,200 acres of field grown fresh cut flowers a year. We will then travel to the ParGil Natural Resource Learning Center. ParGil is a 40 acre property donated by Paul and Evelyn Gilman to the LaGrange County Soil & Water Conservation District in 1993. The Gilman’s purchased the property in 1964, when it was a row crop farm and by the early 1990’s had planted most of the property to trees, including areas of hardwood and evergreens. Today, the property operates as an environmental learning center. This tour will finish with a stop at the Chain O’ Lakes Correctional Facility. In 2010, the Noble County Master Gardeners teamed up with Chain O’Lakes Correctional Facility to offer the inmates an intensive 80 hour training program in Horticulture and Landscape Design. The idea was to teach the inmates skills that would help them secure jobs when they were released. The initial class wanted to do more hands-on, and using only donated hand tools, tended a 75’ X 75’ gardening plot that netted over 1,100 pounds of produce to local food banks its first year.  Since then, the program has grown each year, having over 120 individuals graduate from the training, while raising over 11 tons of produce on almost an acre of land now.

Tour 22 - Livestock Production

Tour 22 will take us through 3 different livestock product facilities. The first is Millers Poultry in Orland, IN. Miller Poultry has been family owned since 1942, beginning as Pine Manor Farms where they began hatching, raising and processing turkeys. In 1974 Pine Manor began raising broiler chickens, then they started raising ducklings for Culver Duck Farms in Middlebury, IN by 1985. In 1992, they took over Booth Poultry, processing 16,000 chickens per week at that time. Today, the increased capacity in their new plant allows them to process 35,000 chickens per day. The second stop of this tour will be to Clemens Food Group in Coldwater, Michigan. Based in Hatfield, PA, Clemens Food Group is a sixth-generation family owned company that continues to be an industry leader in customer solutions. Clemens Food Group is a vertically coordinated company that includes hog farming, food production, logistical services, and transportation. Their newly opened facility in Coldwater is a 550,000 square-foot pork processing plant. The final stop of this tour will feature MOO-ville Creamery in Nashville, Michigan. MOO-ville Creamery is family owned and operated.  They milk 200 cows with robots. They believe in producing high quality milk and processing it as little as possible. They bottle their own milk, make their own ice cream, cheese, and butter, all under the MOO-ville logo. Their products are sold in 2 personal retail locations along with almost 100 other stores throughout mid-Michigan.

Tour 23 - Cars, Cortlands, & Chambourcin

Tour 23 will begin with a guided tour of the historic Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. The ACD Museum offers over 120 cars on exhibit. Nine automotive themed galleries exhibit everything from classic cars, to Indiana built cars, to the original Auburn Automobile Company showroom and company offices. You will be allowed time to go back and visit favorite cars you have seen or delve further in to the history of these gorgeous cars. The second stop will be to Orchard Hill Farms in Kendallville, IN. This corn and bean farm became an apple orchard when the Meyer family planted the first 600 trees by hand in 1969. Over the years, approximately 3000 trees were planted this way, with another 750 more recently planted with machine. When Orchard Hill Farms was established in 1969, there were nine existing farmers market orchards in the Kendallville area. In 1995, when the last orchard of the original nine closed, Orchard Hill added their own farm market, offering 26 apple varieties. Today, the second generation of Meyer’s provides customers with over 50 varieties of fresh fruit throughout the year. The final stop of this tour will be to Byler Lane Winery in Auburn, IN. Byler Lane is a joint venture between two adjoining neighbors, the Byler’s and the Lane’s. Their facility first began construction by adding on to Mr. Byler’s concrete shop on the property. The beautiful and vintage look was achieved by using old barn wood salvaged from four local barns. Since their opening in 2016, they have won 41 medals and taken home 4 Best of Class distinctions at the world renowned Indy International Wine Competition.

 

Tour 24 - Reading the Farm

Supported by SARE

This tour will visit Hoffman Certified Organics to implement principles learned in the “Reading the Farm” Super Seminar sponsored by SARE and the Sustainable Ag Committee. The goal is to take an in-depth look at a farm--including production, marketing, and finances--and make recommendations on how the farm could become more sustainable based on the farm’s unique context, goals, and resources.

Hoffman Certified Organics is a USDA Certified Organic farm located in Huntertown, Indiana, just 12 miles north of downtown Fort Wayne. They are the only USDA certified organic farm in Indiana specializing in pasture-raised certified organic poultry. Hoffman Certified Organics is a family company ran by brothers Ben and Don Hoffman.  They produced nearly 8,000 broilers in 2018, with a goal of further expanding production in the coming years. Additional enterprises include pasture-raised turkeys and pork. Future enterprise developments include a pork aging facility and greenhouse-based vegetable production.

Note: Limit of 50 participants and must have participated in Wednesday SARE Sustainable Agriculture Super Seminar.

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