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.

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.”

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.”

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.”