Celebrating our communities through stories of perseverance, passion, and love of the land.

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The story of local agriculture is quite amazing. The farmers we serve have navigated these decades like heroes, overcoming challenges through innovation, dedication, and a passion for ag.

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Ceres Co-op
2112 Indianapolis Road
Crawfordsville, IN 47933

Central Phone: 765-362-6700
Wabash Phone: 260-563-8381
Email: info@ceres.coop

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© 2024 Ceres Co-op. All rights reserved.

Mt. Etna Fire Department

Huntington, Indiana

Guardians of Community Safety

The Mt. Etna Volunteer Fire Department plays a vital role in the close-knit fabric of the Huntington County community, safeguarding the well-being of the nearly 3,300 residents who call this area home. For decades, these dedicated volunteers have invested their time and energy in ensuring the safety of their community.

Fire Chief Adam Couch follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfather—carrying the responsibility with deep commitment and perseverance. A resident and farmer in Huntington County, Adam has devoted 25 years to the volunteer fire department, serving as chief for the last decade.

Reflecting on the evolving nature of his role and the department, Adam acknowledges the constant changes in responsibilities and the increasing demands of the job. The Mt. Etna Volunteer Fire Department handles nearly 250 runs per year, emphasizing the importance of reliable resources.

Inside the department’s premises, approximately 25,000 gallons of water are stored alongside the emergency response vehicles. The facility also doubles as a warming shelter during cold winter months, highlighting the critical need for a steady supply of propane.

“When our trucks are on site for long periods of time, CountryMark brings the fuel truck to them and fills them up so they can keep working,” Adam explains. “When it gets too cold, lower quality fuel means our trucks may not make it to the emergency, and that’s just not an option.”
“When it gets too cold, lower quality fuel means our trucks may not make it to the emergency, and that’s just not an option.”
Adam emphasizes the significance of community care, noting the natural willingness of him and his fellow volunteers to assist, even as demands increase.

“The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to care for our community,” Adam shares. “We are surrounded by a great group of individuals who are willing to take time out of their day to help people. It’s a noble thing, and it’s not always easy to find.”

For Adam, the pillars of faith, family, farm, and fire guide his priorities. With the right support, he and his dedicated team are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of the community, even in the face of evolving challenges.

“We’ve been here for generations. You know everyone and you don’t want to let them down. It’s service and it’s what’s most important to community.”

Fervida Farms

Milford, Indiana

There’s something different in the air at Fervida Farms. The unmistakable aroma of freshly-grown mint surrounds this 2,400-acre property in Milford, Indiana—where Fervida Farms has been for more than 150 years.

Four generations have worked on the family farm, raising livestock and growing corn and soybeans. And in 1943, they tried their hand at mint. Today, Fervida Farms is operated by Jeff Fervida, who says there are some major benefits to farming mint.

“It smells much better than the livestock,” Jeff said. “There was a lot of mint grown in Indiana back then, and it helped the family diversify operations.”

Mint farming was a much more common practice across Indiana in those days—hundreds of farms scattered statewide. By the 1950s, markets shifted, and many Midwestern mint farmers turned their focus to other crops, including the Fervida family.

It would be 40 years before the Fervida family would plant mint again. In 1995, markets were shifting back, and Jeff decided it was time to dust off the old equipment and start again.

“Prices had improved, so we decided to try our hand at it again; however, we quickly realized our old equipment was no longer viable,” Jeff said. “We basically had to start from scratch and build all our own equipment.”

Not only was equipment becoming harder to find, so were other mint farmers. By the mid-1990s, only 40 mint farmers were left in the state. Today, only eight remain—including Fervida Farms.

“Mint farming is a complex process that’s taken generations to perfect; one constant is we’ve always been able to turn to Ceres with any questions along the way.”
Most of the mint is distilled into mint oil and eventually winds up in Colgate oral care products—one of the only oral care companies to still buy mint oil from U.S. growers.

“Our equipment is everything, so keeping it up and running is key,” Jeff said. “The oil is in the leaves so after it’s mowed, it’s chopped into steel wagons, pulled to the mint still, and steam carries the oil back into the still where it’s separated from the water.”

From supplying all of the fuel to operate the machines to making sure the fields are taken care of, Ceres is there to support Fervida Farms, every step of the way.

“Mint farming is a complex process that’s taken several generations to perfect, but we’ve always been able to turn to Ceres with any question we need answered,” Jeff said.

The Fervida family knows all too well that change is always on the horizon. It is the only way to stay successful. They’ve started crafting small batch mint oil and say it’s quite versatile.

“You can make ice cream, tea, even aromatherapy oils,” Jeff said. “We’ve started selling some of that online, and who knows, maybe one day that’s where you’ll find us.”

Widmer Farms

West Lafayette, Indiana

Embracing the Future: How Technology and Partnership Are Shaping the Legacy of Widmer Farms 

Widmer Farms stretches across more than 5,000 acres of land in West Central Indiana, producing abundant yields of corn and soybeans. Managing this sprawling operation, which spans 60 miles, is a monumental task. Yet, for Chad Widmer, the farm is more than just a business; it’s a family legacy. 

Chad found himself at the helm during a pivotal time in the farm’s history. In 2005, he lost his father, and a decade later, his uncle retired. These significant family changes coincided with a major period of technological transformation in the farming industry. But Chad was ready to embrace change.  

Having worked with Frank Lucas from Ceres for years, Chad knew he had the right partner to navigate these new waters.  

“It’s always been a struggle having data and information on different platforms, but now we can get every piece of the puzzle in one place,” Chad said, crediting tools like FieldView and Agworld for streamlining operations. 

FieldView offers a comprehensive view of the farm’s operations. Meanwhile, Agworld serves as a planning tool, allowing Chad and Ceres to share and transfer data seamlessly, all from the convenience of an iPad.  

“Agworld has become a crucial part of keeping our data centralized. We’re optimistic about the results we’ll see this fall,” Chad said. 

The integration of these tools has had tangible benefits. Real-time notifications inform Chad when work orders are complete, reducing confusion and risk while speeding up communication.  

“My team knows exactly what needs to be done in the field. If something doesn’t add up, we know there’s an issue. Having a well-laid-out plan has been a game-changer for the operation,” Chad said. 

The data collected doesn’t just facilitate day-to-day operations; it’s also shaping the farm’s future.   

“We can transfer data from one platform into another that we’re using to make recommendations,” Frank said. It’s the record-keeping and the statistics that help make Chad’s farm more profitable and productive.”

“We’ve got the data there; no need to sift through a file cabinet full of papers.” 

Chad is a father to three daughters and a son, and he’s keenly aware that the decisions he makes today will impact the farm’s legacy for generations.  

“If my son comes back to the farm a few years from now, he’ll have options. There’s more than one way to do things,” Chad said. 

Open to change and advice from trusted partners, Chad is optimistic about the future. “We’ve gone full force with Agworld in 2023, and we’re excited to see our end-of-year reports,” he said. “We’ve thought this through, and with Frank on our side, if things don’t go as planned, we’ll adjust and learn for next year.” 

“We’ve been partners for 30 plus years,” Frank said. “If Chad is successful, I’m successful. It’s been a very good partnership, and I’m very honored to have been a part of that.” 

In a rapidly evolving industry, Widmer Farms stand as a testament to the power of embracing change, fostering partnerships, and planning for the future. It’s a legacy in the making, built on a foundation of innovation and trust. 

Post Farms

Coldwater, Michigan

At an early age, Andy Post understood the value of hard work. In 1990, his father Bill established Post Farms in Coldwater, Michigan, while still working a full-time day job.

Andy and his brother Corey would spend their teenage years working alongside their father, farming corn, soybeans, and sometimes wheat. After high school, Andy ventured off to college, earning a bachelor’s degree and his master’s along the way. After 10 years away from home, Andy missed what he left behind—and returned to Post Farms—where you’ll find him today.

Now, Andy and his father Bill are managing ~ 900 acres of corn and soybeans, farming the land with support from younger brother Corey. But things operate a bit differently today than they did in those early days, with technology and innovation now playing a bigger role than ever before. For Post Farms, leveraging technology has made a world of difference, speeding up operations, improving efficiency and outcomes.

“We’re always up against the clock,” said Andy Post. “We need to spread a field and know when the work is done, but we don’t always have the time.”

“Getting alerts right on our phones has been so helpful,” said Andy. “We also get scouting reports, stand counts, and even notifications about disease issues thanks to Ceres.”

“We lean on Ceres for so much—but with all this information in the palm of your hand, you feel confident knowing you’re always making the right decision.”
And for Andy and his father, being able to make decisions in seconds instead of hours has made a world of difference. And when they aren’t sure which decision is the right one, they have a few places they can turn.

“You only know what you know, but my dad knows so much; so working alongside him and having such a great resource like Ceres, it’s like having access to the most comprehensive book of knowledge you need,” Andy said.

Andy spends a lot of his time looking at markets, reading articles about herbicide, farm futures, and soybean varieties, but he’s still waiting to say whether his boys will spend their future on the family farm.

Andy has three boys of his own—and he says whether they decide to become the third generation of Post Farms owners, will be entirely up to them.

“It was never pushed on me and there was never a burden to take over,” Andy said. “My hope is, if they’re interested, that they keep it going. But I won’t steer their path. This path is mine.”

Country Dairy Farm

New Era, Michigan

A Commitment to Excellence, Innovation, and Compassionate Care

At Country Dairy, four generations of family have made an extraordinary commitment to ensure they provide the highest-quality dairy products possible—and they’ve done that through focusing on the health, comfort, and care of their 1,050 cows.

“Taking care of our cows is the number one priority,” said Country Dairy owner Rob Eekoff.

Rob is the fourth-generation to run this family-owned dairy farm in New Era, Michigan. They’ve been processing and bottling milk since 1983—though they’ve been around much longer. Today, Country Dairy is well-known for its fresh dairy products and bottled milk, but at the heart of the operation are the cows who call this land home.

For decades, Country Dairy has dedicated itself to providing their cows with the best possible care, ensuring the herd is happy, calm, and comfortable. Whether that’s investing in technology or making facility upgrades, they understand the vital role compassionate care plays in the entire process.

The barns are specifically designed to the cows’ needs—recently rebuilt to include taller and wider stalls, and sand bedding, which third-generation Country Dairy owner Wendell Van Gunst says the cows prefer.

“In order to get the herd to produce, you have to have comfortable cows,” said Van Gunst. “The sand is tough on the equipment, that’s for sure, but it’s what’s most comfortable for the cows, and that’s what matters.”

From structural changes on the property to technological advancements—caring for the cows also helps drive innovation at Country Dairy. They’ve integrated advanced tools into their daily operations, like the Lely Robot milking machine, which has improved life for the herd while streamlining the entire milking process.

“The technology is better for the cows because it lets them just be cows,” Eekoff said. “They’re out in the barn and they don’t have to be running up to a parlor three times a day. They can be themselves and that’s what we’re looking to do—make them as comfortable as we can.”

“There is so much information we can gather from our robots that helps us
manage our cows.”
These machines go beyond simplifying the milking process—they allow the cows to live a more natural lifestyle and provide crucial data that helps the farmers make better-informed decisions.

“There is so much information we can gather from our robots that helps us manage our cows,” Rob said. “We can identify changes in the cow’s health and get them treated and healthy faster, which keeps them in the herd longer.”

A healthy, happy herd makes all the difference—and by remaining focused on compassion and innovation, they’re committed to giving their cows the best life possible.

“In the end, if we take good care of the cows, they’re going to treat us well, produce quality milk, and that’s what we strive for.”

Brock and Tom Schwenk

Schwenk Farms • Rochester, IN

There’s a certain responsibility that comes with being a steward of the land; a responsibility to protect and preserve a farm, not only for today, but for future generations.

Since 2008, Brock Schwenk has worked alongside his father, farming corn and soybeans at Schwenk Farms. Several generations of the Schwenk family have called this land home, and in recent years, Brock has watched the farm grow and evolve.

“We’re doing more work, but we’ve become more efficient,” Brock said. “VR technology helps us make sure we aren’t overapplying,” he said. Variable rate technologies help farmers ensure they put product only where it’s needed. Brock adds, “By now, the Ceres Solutions team knows our ground just about as well as we do.”
“We’re the ones taking care of it, making sure it’s there for the next generation. It’s just so important for all of us.”
For Schwenk Farms, implementing new sustainability methods such as increased VRT has been key to successfully managing growth and optimizing every acre. The family focuses on new tools to help streamline their operation and investments that protect long-term sustainability.

“We’ve been budgeting every year to do a pattern tile project,” Brock said. “That allows the water to soak into the ground, preventing fertilizer, product and wasted water from running downstream.”

While he may not be able to control the weather or global grain markets, Brock embraces his responsibility to protect the land.

“We’re the ones taking care of it, making sure it’s there for the next generation. It’s just so important for all of us.”

Terry and Dayton Merrell

Merrell Bros, Inc. • Kokomo, IN

For Merrell Bros, Inc., opportunities grow from deep roots.

In 1982, two Central Indiana brothers, Ted and Terry, began their small family hog operation. They experienced all the challenges of the early 1980s, and one challenge, manure management, consistently created headaches.

An idea became a business plan, and the company began evolving to help themselves and others manage manure waste more effectively. With a little assistance from their father, Dayton, the boys expanded into a manure application and recovery operation—serving farmers and communities.

Today, Merrell Bros, Inc. has rapidly grown its biosolids sector—with more than 100 trucks serving the Midwest, Florida, and municipalities across the country. And they continue to incorporate new technologies to remain a leader in the industry.

The Merrell family is rooted in faith. No surprise—so is their business. Each day begins with a team safety meeting, which starts with a prayer for each employee. Faith and family keep the company grounded.

“I like to tell every employee to try harder each day,” Terry said. “Make each day a little better. Get better at what you do and what you want to accomplish.”

Strong roots help success grow. A new investment in solar greenhouses is helping the brothers explore how to dry product and market to new customers. Make each day a little better—it’s the business strategy and life strategy that works best for Merrell Bros., Inc.

Debbie H.

Terre Haute

The best way to serve is to solve.

Twenty-five years ago, Debbie H. of Terre Haute faced one of the most difficult challenges of her life. The young mother lost her husband in a tragic accident and was not only grieving, but also picking up the pieces to begin life as the primary head of the household.

“What I remember now, and how I became a Ceres customer in the first place, is the team at Clay City just took care of everything for me,” Debbie said. “They switched our accounts to me and trusted me to be as reliable in paying bills as my husband was.”

In her words, they stepped up to solve, so she did not have to think about it.
“They take care of things. Life is hectic enough. It’s nice to know this is one area I don’t have to think about.”
As a busy laboratory professional, now with grown children, Debbie continues to value that relationship.

Every year, Debbie receives a mailing describing her options to meet her annual propane needs.

“I’ve always been financially frugal, and especially now, as inflation is so high,” Debbie said.

For decades, Debbie has opted for budget pay due to the competitive price and peace of mind.

“I like knowing for certain what my fuel expense is going to be.”

This year, Debbie evaluated the options, and chose pre-pay.

“I did the math. Prepay was the better deal for me,” Debbie said. “I still get the peace of mind that they are taking care of everything for me. I guess using Ceres propane has become a habit,” she laughs.

For Debbie, the best partner is one who solves problems. The Ceres Terre Haute team is honored to have that opportunity.

Whitney Nickless and Autumn “Audie” Freeman

Melon Acres • Oaktown, IN

At Melon Acres in Oaktown, Indiana, it’s all about family.

Abner and Frieda Horrall began their farm in 1976—built in the family tradition of food safety, innovation, and exceptional quality.

Now in its third generation of family ownership, Whitney Nickless and Autumn “Audie” Freeman have taken over the operation, which has grown to more than 1,000 acres of cantaloupes, watermelon, sweet corn, cucumbers, and asparagus, 1,500 acres of grain, and three acres of high-tunnel greenhouse space.

“We take great pride in our role of continuing this family tradition,” Whitney Nickless said. “We are always willing to try something new to help us continue providing trusted, high-quality fruits and vegetables to our communities.”

By utilizing innovation and cutting-edge practices, they have established themselves as more than strong, female farmers—they have become leaders in produce and grain operation, and smarter farming.

“We continuously strive to be a progressive operation, and Ceres Solutions helps make that possible” Audie Freeman said. “We installed the first computerized asparagus sorter in the eastern United States and were the first to use rye strips and plastic mulch to harvest crops a little earlier.”
“We take great pride in our role of continuing this family tradition.”
And there have been many other firsts for Melon Acres such as using forced-air cooling and packaging lines to improve the quality of their muskmelon—getting it packaged more quickly and in better condition.

This commitment to quality also requires a dedication to safety and a willingness to take additional steps toward maximizing sanitation and minimizing environmental impact through innovative food safety processes. It also means a commitment to their community.

In 2012, Melon Acres established the first-ever Community Support Agriculture program to connect consumers and farmers and provide the area with locally grown produce.

“You have to give back, but you have to look forward,” Whitney said. “We’re committed to upholding our family’s legacy and protecting this amazing operation for generations to come by providing the best quality produce, responsibly.”

Norm Buning

Buning Dairy • Falmouth, MI

Change is something dairy farmers have grown accustomed to, especially in recent years. For the Buning family, change has been a pivotal part of each generational transition. Embracing it has helped Buning Dairy grow into what it has become today.

The operation started 120 years ago, with ten cows on the farm. Today, Norm Buning, his wife and three sons manage a 650-cow dairy operation and are frequent adopters of promising new technologies that come their way.

“I’m constantly amazed at the capabilities being developed, even in my short 30-year career,” said Norm Buning. “Using ear tag technology has changed the game in breeding, heat detection, and monitoring health events… embracing innovation has made so much progress possible.”

It’s through both an openness and willingness to embrace change that Norm and Buning Dairy have continued to thrive. Technology has been incorporated not only in the barn, but in the field as well.
“Using ear tag technology has changed the game in breeding, heat detection, and monitoring health events… embracing innovation has made so much progress possible.”
“Ceres Solutions helps us incorporate variable rate technology that has proven very helpful to us,” Norm said. “The prescriptions and applications help us increase fertilizer rates in high performing areas of the field and decrease rates in areas of the field with lower yield potential. Overall, this helps make our fields more productive.”

For Buning Dairy, the benefits of improved stewardship add up over time. “It’s also more environmentally sustainable that way,” Norm said.

Stewardship is key to their operation, and Norm always has his eyes on what will be Buning Dairy’s fifth generation of farmers. “Years ago, I was given the reins here. At some point, I’ll pass them on. We’re making decisions to make that succession possible.”

Brownsburg School Corporation

Brownsburg, Indiana

Every day, 7,500 Brownsburg, Indiana students depend on Nick Meyerrose. While they may not recognize him or his name, he plays a crucial role in their daily lives.

Nick oversees maintenance on the Brownsburg School Corporation’s fleet of 112 buses, which run 147 daily routes—ensuring all students get to and from school safely and on-time. With so many families counting on the fleet to punctually arrive daily there’s absolutely no time for unreliable equipment.

“My job affects families and their entire day, so I have to protect every family in our district,” Nick said. “Without a lot of spare buses, we must maintain our current fleet and keep them continually running, which means using the best products possible.”

The methods for maintaining that fleet have evolved over the years—and so has their facility. In 2019, Nick and his team transitioned from their former bus barn—originally built to include just 88 parking spots—to a state-of-the-art transportation facility that the team helped design.

“We created the new facility with input from our team and our drivers,” Nick said. “They told us what they wanted and needed, which allowed us to create what we have today.”
“They don’t just give us supplies and take our money. At Ceres, they really want us to be the best we can. We’ve never had such a strong relationship.”
And Nick says he was able to shift his focus to bringing this project to life because he had a trusted partner and reliable products that kept his fleet on the road, every day, on every route.

“There’s really no other way to say it,” Nick said. “I implicitly trust the Ceres team and their knowledge, and they are always quick to respond to every need.”

From premium diesel to industry-leading lubricants, Nick counts on these products to optimize his fleet and help keep the buses on the road, even in the coldest winter temperatures. That’s also allowed him to save money and stay ahead of rising gas prices.

“We’ve been able to prolong our engines and extend our oil changes, which, in the long run, saves the taxpayers money,” Nick said.

Beyond saving money, Nick is committed to providing safe transportation for every student in the Brownsburg School District, which is why he is always looking for ways to improve safety for the drivers and students.

“They don’t just give us supplies and take our money. They really want us to be the best we can. We’ve never had such a strong relationship.”

Andy Tinkle

Tinkle Farms • Marion, IN

Innovation goes beyond technology. Being truly innovative means having the ability to adapt and to know when to seek out new tools and new ideas.

For Andy Tinkle and Tinkle Farms, innovation is about finding ways to make the process easier and more efficient, and to continue growing for generations to come.

Andy grew up on his family farm in Marion, Indiana. In 2005, he began working alongside his father and cousin, planting corn, soybeans, and sometimes wheat. Andy’s father retired in 2021, and while Dad still farms a few acres, Andy and his cousin have taken on managing the other 4,700 acres alone.

“There’s more activity we need to do on a day-to-day basis now,” says Andy. The next generation has added grain storage, invested in equipment upgrades and strives to embrace change. “These days we put a lot of thought into planning workload, rotation and next year’s decisions.”

“You have to change. If you want to grow, and you want to be as efficient as possible, you don’t have a choice but to change.”
With increased activity comes increased appreciation for support. “Ceres Solutions helps so much… spreading dry fertilizer in the fall so we can stay in the combine,” Andy said. “They also help in the spring. We don’t worry about fertilizing the night before we head into the field anymore.”

Making adjustments as they’ve grown over the last three to five years has helped Tinkles focus on the business. “It takes a huge workload off us, and helps us reduce expenses on overhead and equipment,” Andy said.

“You have to change. If you want to grow, and you want to be as efficient as possible, you don’t have a choice but to change. We plan to keep doing what we’re doing …and every year, try to get better.”

Dutchman Tree Farms

Manton, Michigan

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, there may be a Christmas staple you have taken for granted – the Christmas tree.

We all love to see a beautifully decorated tree lighting up a corner of our home during the holidays. But to Christmas tree growers like Dutchman Tree Farms in Manton, Michigan, the Christmas season is a year-round event, and preparation for any given year begins as a seed, 14 years earlier.

Family business partners Chris & Sarah Maciborski and Joel & Gale Hoekwater have operated the Christmas tree business together since April 2006, when Joel bought the farm from his uncle Steve Vanderweide (Chris’ father-in-law), bringing Chris on as a partner. Today, the fifth generation is working on the farm, growing the Christmas spirit with every tree.

“I grew up in this area working on different Christmas tree farms. I planted my first Christmas tree when I was 9, and spent all of my high school and college years planting and harvesting Christmas trees. Now we get to bring our children into the business the same way, which is incredibly rewarding for us and great experience for them.” Maciborski said.

Several of Chris and Sarah’s 11 children, as well as any of their 60+ nieces and nephews, can be found on the farm helping to manage tree trimming and customer service for the choose-and-cut business.

“That whole side of our business is run by children between 9 and 16 years old,” Maciborski said. “That makes all of the hard work worth it. Seeing them develop such strong skills and customer service habits from such a young age is rewarding for us.”

Dutchman Tree Farms has grown significantly over the years. In addition to their local choose-and-cut business, they ship Christmas trees to stores, nurseries, and other tree farms in every state east of the Rockies. In peak season, the farm employs upwards of 400 people. They have also diversified to offer wreaths and roping to make use of less desirable trees and offer their customers a greater assortment of beautiful, natural products. Each year, they produce about a half million wreaths alone!

“We take a lot of joy in it,” Maciborski said. “We get to think about Christmas every day of the year, and somehow it still has never gotten old for us.”

Of course, when Christmas is a year-round affair, it’s important to uphold some family traditions for the holidays. On the second Sunday in December, once the busiest part of the season has passed, Chris & Sarah’s family can be found in the field selecting their own Christmas trees for their home. Five of them, to be exact.
“We get to think about Christmas every day of the year, and somehow it still has never gotten old for us.”
While this family’s story may sound like the makings of a Hallmark Christmas movie, it’s also a tale of the incredible industry behind our favorite Christmas traditions. The Christmas trees in our homes this year got their start about 14 years ago as cones picked for seed. Christmas trees are a labor intensive crop that require years of patience and careful tending to thrive. Dutchman Tree Farms’ home state of Michigan ranks third in the nation for Christmas tree production with about 2 million per year, bringing an estimated $35-40 million into the state’s economy. Five generations (and counting!) on Dutchman Tree Farms are helping to bring favorite Christmas traditions and memories to life across the country each year.

“It is amazing to us every day of the year,” Maciborski said. “Evergreen has always been used as a symbol of eternal life. We celebrate the incarnation of God with a natural product. Every other crop we grow is to nourish our body, but the Christmas tree is for the soul.”

If you’d like to learn more about Dutchman Tree Farms, visit their website: https://www.dutchmantreefarms.com/

Kingma Farms

Wheatfield, Indiana

Sustainable farming and technology looked quite a bit different 45 years ago. Kingma Farms looked different then, too. Corn and soybeans now grow where Christmas trees once stood on this Wheatfield, Indiana farm. Not only have the crops changed—technology has drastically altered the way things operate at Kingma Farms—and that’s ok with owner Mark Kingma. He has embraced technology, using it to help improve the soil, the crops, and his sustainability efforts.

Mark’s grandfather bought the land nearly 100 years ago. As time went on, Mark’s father eventually took over. Today, Mark farms this land with his nephew Craig—sharing a dynamic passion for sustainability in everything they do.

“To me being a farmer means the land was entrusted to me,” said Mark. “I am committed to improving the ground through my means of farming rather than depleting the land we farm.”

Mark and his father started no-till farming their land in 1984. Since then—no plow has touched that land. Today, Mark is able to cover 50% of his crops each year with cover crop—helping build the soil’s organic matter, drastically improving soil quality and health.

“We realized how much we were improving the ground,” Mark said. “It’s amazing how much technology has helped from a knowledge standpoint alone and how much that has improved our crops,” said Mark.

“We see the difference our sustainability practices are making—in our land, in our crops, and in our communities.”
That’s why they’re using as much available technology as possible at Kingma Farms—utilizing Ceres expertise and knowledge to plant and fertilize with prescriptions—along with other environmentally-responsible decisions that benefit the farm and the community.

“It’s a smart economical investment. Holding the extra fertilizer in the roots of those cover crops makes that fertilizer available to the growing plant next year,” Mark said. “And we see the difference our sustainability practices are making—in our land and in our crops.

Kingma Farms has seen a gradual increase in their yields through the years. While they know Mother Nature plays a role, they know Ceres has helped immensely—helping limit risk exposure by helping them tap into new technology whenever possible.

“There’s new technology coming available all the time,” Mark said. “When my dad was my age, the most advanced technology we had on our tractors were CB radios. Now we’re using automation technology, doing things through our phones, and using equipment like sprayers with automatic shutoff. Less waste also reduces runoff and keeps product from getting into the groundwater and soil.”

Mark knows with the future comes more change—like autonomous tractors, which even he admits they’re not quite there just yet. He takes pride in his focus on sustainability and knows Craig will someday take over with the same mission of improving the land through sustainable farming and utilizing the right partners.

Golden Stock Farms

Oceana County, Michigan

Golden Stock Farms Balances Tradition and Innovation in Asparagus Farming, Where Every Second Counts

An inch an hour. That’s how fast asparagus can grow on particularly hot days in the middle of growing season. Considering it’s harvested entirely by hand, this makes peak season, which spans about six weeks from May to June, a labor-intensive time on asparagus farms across Michigan as they produce a collective 20 million pounds of asparagus per year.

Golden Stock Farms, a fourth-generation, family-owned farm in Oceana County, Michigan, accounts for 1.4 million pounds of that annual production. Now in their 55th year growing asparagus, the Walsworth family continues the tradition—seeking new ways of improving their practices, increasing yields, and developing new market opportunities.

“My grandpa started this, and my dad grew it to what it is today,” said Jordon Walsworth who manages the farm alongside his mom, Janice, and field manager and agronomist, Mary Sheppard. “I’m here to carry on the history and hopefully give my son the opportunity to decide if he wants to farm someday, too.”

Certified as a professional engineer, Walsworth returned to the farm in 2017 after seven years working in the engineering field.

“My dad always pushed us to go out and do something different,” Walsworth said. “I got a degree in mechanical engineering and worked in that field and came back to the farm after we lost my dad. I take pride in continuing his work and our family’s tradition here.”

Between the quick growth and how highly managed the fields need to be during the growing season and throughout the year, asparagus farming is not for the faint of heart. Golden Stock Farm’s peak season crew of 50 harvesters will go over fields twice per day to maintain quality and ensure they are harvesting spears precisely when they are ready.

For spears to be sold fresh, they must be harvested at 10 inches, while the frozen market prefers 7.5-8-inch spears for their products.

“When you grow corn, you watch the conditions and say, ‘we’ll get it in a couple of days’,” Walsworth said. “With asparagus, our windows are hourly, so by 8 or 10 a.m., we know what we’ll have to do before noon.”

Golden Stock Farms continues seeking new ways to further strengthen their business, including diversifying their revenue streams by exploring more direct-to-grocery sales in addition to their longstanding relationships with fresh packers that then sell to major supermarket chains.

Despite the enormous growth they’ve seen in their business, Walsworth feels nothing matters more than local connection. While you won’t find a farm market at Golden Stock Farms, there is almost always asparagus available to neighbors or visitors who call ahead or stop by to visit.

“My dad always pushed us to go out and do something different,” Walsworth said. “I got a degree in mechanical engineering and worked in that field and came back to the farm after we lost my dad. I take pride in continuing his work and our family’s tradition here.”

“There’s a market for Michigan produce, sure, but the real reason I feel we should keep the farm going is a connection to the past. This is something we’re good at and have been for three generations,” Walsworth said.

In addition to his work on the farm, Jordon is also active in the broader agricultural industry, serving on the Asparagus Marketing Program Advisory Board, Michigan Asparagus Research Board, and the state farm bureau’s Michigan Agricultural Cooperative Marketing (MACMA) Board.

“People have a choice when it comes to local produce,” Walsworth said. “Our region grows so much of it. To preserve generations of tradition on family farms like ours, we need to keep promoting the local connection to specialty crops like asparagus. Our region grows so much of it – we’ll keep it coming as long as people keep buying it and enjoying it.”

Snider Farms

Hart, Michigan

Taking Poultry Happiness to Heart

Like most other animals, turkeys are ‘particular’. So says the lady who would know—Beth Snider, co-owner of Snider Farms in Hart, Michigan.

Beth and her daughter-in-law, Priscilla Snider, are the leadership team behind a thriving Oceana County facility producing high-quality deli meat enjoyed by consumers across the state and beyond. Snider Farms processes and markets through Michigan Turkey Producers, based in Grand Rapids. Michigan Turkey Producers is a cooperative of 15 members, like the Snider family, who banded together to market local products more effectively to retailers such as Costco, Gordon Food Service, Bob Evans restaurants, local hospitals, colleges, and even the state penitentiary.

“We are known for producing deli meats specifically,” Beth noted. “Deli meat has the highest protein and the lowest fat per serving, and anything you can make with chicken you can make with turkey. Just ask my family,” she laughed.

Always a marketer, Beth is proud that the product her family supplies is trusted and enjoyed by so many.

“We stand on the shoulders of growers who came before us,” she said. “When you need an expert in medicine, you go to a doctor. When you buy food, farmers like my family are the experts. Our whole life is based on delivering a product that is safest and best.”

In addition to working with turkeys, Beth has more than 40 years of experience working with row crops, dairy cows, and hogs.

Beth estimates Snider Farms represents three percent of Michigan Turkey Producers, with 250,000 birds raised per year. Michigan Turkey Producers Co-op represents three percent of all U.S. turkey production. Maintaining a manageable size and scale helps Beth, and more than a dozen full-time staff, ensure the birds get the care they need to grow.

“Turkeys like to be happy and they like comfort. That requires a lot of attention and a lot of hands willing to provide that special care.”

“When you need an expert in medicine, you go to a doctor. When you buy food, farmers like my family are the experts.”
Beth says there are eight unique diets required over a turkey’s lifespan to ensure these animals perform at their best.

“We have the birds for 19 weeks. We get them the day they are hatched. Our facilities are set up to custom care for them at each life stage. We market every five-and-a-half weeks, rotating between 10-to-20,000 birds at a time. We are always in it—365 days a year.”

Technology has enhanced production and profit opportunities. Monitoring temperatures, ventilation, water pressure, and water consumption can help prevent stress—and most monitoring can be done quickly through mobile apps.

“Today, we can check on the well-being of the birds from an iPhone, which improves our ability to catch issues before they become a problem. It also prevents unnecessary trips in the truck late at night,” Beth said.

Still, Beth is certain nothing can replace human observation and touch.

For Beth and her family, the work has provided a lifestyle they love. They also value the commitment from both the operation’s employees and the trusted partners working alongside Snider Farms.

“For us, doing business with the co-op was the only way to go. We’re an owner. We’re part of it,” she said.

Snider Farms relies on Ceres Solutions for everything—from the seed they plant to the information, inputs, and recommendations that suit the sandy soils around Hart.

“A large white Tom can weigh about 45 pounds before market,” Beth shared.

To keep the hungry birds satisfied, the farm averages about two semis of customized feed mixes from Ceres per day—working directly with the Fremont and White Cloud teams to ensure their own corn is used to make that feed.

“It is important to me that consumers know I feed my kids and grandkids the same product I offer the market. I am proud of what we do here, and we take it very seriously.”

Transparency comes naturally at Snider Farms, which is a crucial factor of their operation, because transparency is essential in food production.

“Protocols and paperwork prove what we are already doing. We have systems in place so consumers can trust our products. Our farm is our family.”