By Sarah Brooks
For The Tribune

A record number of Indiana farm families, including four from Jackson County, received Hoosier Homestead Awards on Aug. 12 at the Indiana State Fair.

The Klosterman family of Seymour was presented the sesquicentennial award for keeping the farm in the family for more than 150 years. They were represented at the ceremony by Mabel Klosterman and her son, Allen Klosterman, and his wife, Janet, along with other members of the family.

Two of the county’s three centennial awards went to the same family. They are the Hackman Farm of Brownstown and the Duwe/Hackman Farm of Seymour.

The Miller-Kasting-Trimpe-Keller family of Seymour received the county’s other centennial award.

Brian and Lora “Buff” Hackman live on the Hackman Farm on County Road 400S, south of State Road 250. That farm has been in Brian’s family since at least 1911.

Lora Hackman said she decided to apply for the award and sought the help of Blake Hackman, who received a centennial homestead award a year ago for his family’s homestead just up the road.

It took some scrambling to get the application ready because by the time she decided to enlist Blake’s help, the deadline was about two weeks away.

“We didn’t have an abstract,” she said, so they spent a lot of time at the courthouse tracking down information.

She said she felt it was important to Brian because his father, Hubert, would have appreciated receiving the award.

“It was something he had been wanting to do for a long time,” Lora said. “But this is not just for us. We live here, but this is for all of the Hackmans.”

Family business

Hubert was one of seven children of Amos and Katie Duwe Hackman, and they all were raised on Hackman Farm, Lora said. The Duwe/Hackman Farm comes through Katie’s side of the family and has been in the same family since 1900.

She said it’s possible the homestead actually has been in the family for 150 years, and her plan is to do some more research to determine the length of time the family has owned it.

Lora and Brian have lived there for 29 years, and she said it’s their hope it will remain in the family for another 50 years.

The Miller-Kasting-Trimpe-Keller Farm in the Cortland has been in the family of Mary Elisabeth Keller and her daughter, Anne Keller, since 1903, while the Klosterman Family Farm has been in that family since 1853.

Hoosier Homestead Farms must consist of 20 or more acres and produce more than $1,000 of agricultural products in a year.

Ted McKinney, director of the Indiana Department of Agriculture, and Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who also serves as Indiana Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development, presented centennial or sesquicentennial awards to 92 Hoosier families.

“Farming families are the heart of Indiana’s story, and the values they have passed down, from generation to generation, are just as strong today as they were 200 years ago,” McKinney said in a news release. “It was an honor being able to recognize their legacy, which was built around one of Indiana’s longest and most notable industries.”

Purdue Extension Jackson County director and horticulturist Richard Beckort said in his 28 years, he has been proud to see the younger generation come back to work on the family farms in the county after college graduation.

“This county has a lot of multigenerational farm families. I see strong family ties and strong communities,” he said.

Young farmers in Jackson County

According to the USDA, from the most recent reports in 2012, there were 744 farms in Jackson County. There was a total of 183,878 acreage among those farms. And the average size of a farm in Jackson County was 247 acres.

“Here in Jackson County, I have seen an increase in young farmers,” Beckort said. “In this county, the average age of a farmer is in his upper 50s, so that tells me we have to get younger people involved to keep farming viable.”

Over the past 100 years, farming has evolved into an industry, and technology has given the farmer a faster rate of return, Beckort said.

“Farming has changed from a small operation to a large feeding operation,” he said. “Labor is one of the biggest expenses in farming now. Farming is the only business that when a farmer goes to market, he or she asks the buyer, ‘What are you paying for this today?'”

He said technology has been a daily part of the lives of the younger generations.

“And so what I’ve seen in Jackson County is that when this generation comes back to their family farm after college graduation, it can be a challenge,” he said. “Those college grads come back home, bringing new ideas of how to improve the family farm by using a new sprayer or different herbicides. And it’s hard for Dad or Grandpa to accept those ideas.”

Beckort said now that farming has evolved into the big business of more acreage and bigger output, technology has allowed tractors to yield more produce in a faster turnaround time.

“This generation enjoys using the power of technology, and they are using it to the best of their ability,” he said. “High school kids who want to work full time on the family farm, I encourage them to go to college first. When they go to college, they are able to talk to professors and other people about the latest technology and to be able to look at different perspectives of farming.

“And then when they go home, they can sit down with Grandpa and say, ‘We will get a better profit if we do this.’ Communication is vital when adding another generation to the farm.”

The Hoosier Homestead Awards program is in its 40th year. Awards are presented in March and August of each year. Over the years, more than 5,000 Hoosier families have received awards.