Finally! Someone who names something besides soybean rust as the number one problem facing Hoosier agriculture! Instead, Don Villwock, a farmer and Indiana Farm Bureau president, believes what he calls the â€˜rural â€“urban interfaceâ€™ is the biggest challenge Indiana agriculture will face over the next five years.
When we asked Villwock in an exclusive interview to name the biggest challenges, we figured economics or prices or environmental regulations would show up first on his radar screen. But the savvy leader cut to the chase, pegging challenges with farming in a increasingly developing state as the number one issue Indiana agriculture must tackle if agriculture is to grow in this state.
You could make the case that rural/urban conflict issues will affect ag economics if it spins further out of control. Environmental regulations are also wound up in the web of Hoosiers moving out from the cities and suburbs and living in the country, where they encounter sights and smells theyâ€™re not accustomed to. Thatâ€™s typically where conflict begins.
"Weâ€™re going to have to make sure we are good neighbors as farmers," Villwock says. "Itâ€™s high time that we all look at our operations, and make sure that we are really as being as good of neighbors in our own operations as we think we are."
Villwock believes the issue is so vital to agricultureâ€™s future success that he has helped lead an effort within Indiana Farm Bureau to establish a new educational program designed to help city dwellers better understand rural issues farmers face in the course of carrying out normal farming operations. Called â€˜Farming the Courthouse,â€™ itâ€™s a take-off on Farm Bureauâ€™s highly successful Farming in the Classroom. Farm Bureau volunteers around the state reached 80,000 school-age children with that innovative program in 2004 alone.
"The problem is that by the time they become young adults, they seem to forget the message our volunteers try to instill in them about what agriculture and farming are really like," Villwock says. "This new effort is an attempt to bring ag education to key decision makers in our local communities."
County council members, commissioners and other local leaders will be targeted to participate in this new program, he explains. Since the idea is new, It will be piloted this spring. Mike Beard, Clinton County Farm Bureau president and an Indiana Prairie Farmer Master Farmer, will host Clinton County government officials and key leaders on his hog farm near Frankfort on April 14. Beard and his son are expanding their hog operation, so those who visit as part of the program will get a first-hand look at the issues involved in not only operating a livestock farm, but also expanding the business to stay competitive.
Watch for updates about this effort after Clinton County completes its pilot run of Farming the Courthouse.