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

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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© 2022 Ceres Co-op. All rights reserved.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”