LEESBURG — The seventh annual Tom Farms Appreciation event was held Thursday at the family operation facility on Harper Road, Leesburg. Approximately 440 family, friends, neighbors, those from the industry, suppliers to the farm, landlords and any one in a relation with Tom Farms, gathered in a large pole barn decorated for the evening.
Farm equipment was displayed, sand boxes for children’s play available, soft serve ice cream, information about the Center For Lakes & Streams, and the Bayer Bee Care Program. The evening included fish and tenderloin from Dan’s Fish Fry and door prizes. Members of the Warsaw and Wawasee FFA Chapters were on hand to assist throughout the evening and conduct the opening ceremonies.
Guest speaker for the evening was Dr. Jay Akridge, dean of agriculture at Purdue University where he is responsible for administering academic programs in the College of Agriculture, the Indiana Agricultural Experiment Station, the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service and a number of state regulatory services, including the State Chemist’s Office and the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
A brief presentation was given by Dr. Nate Bosch, director of the Center for Lakes & Streams, who approximately six years ago, met with Tom to discuss agriculture and water quality. Bosch noted the goal of the center is to have clean, beautiful, healthy looking lakes and streams, and is interested in working with those in the agriculture business as partners. He announced there will be a Tom Farms University on Oct. 6, which will address the impacts of agriculture on area lakes through irrigation, fertilizer, weeds and algae.
Akridge’s address focused on the challenge in front of farmers: feeding nine billion people by 2050, two billion more than present, and what it is going to take. He stated at present 50 percent of the population lives in cities, by 2050, that will increase to 70 percent. “Many will be away from the farms,” he stated. This will result in more income, which results in people eating better, requiring more food to be produced. “It is an incredible challenge and opportunity for farmers of the world. The big question is how do we provide food and energy for growing population, using fewer resources while taken better care of the environment.”
Akridge stated land, water resources are scarce. Farmers are going to need to become more efficient on how to use those resources. He stated there are 11 billion acres of farmable land in the world and most of the land is already in production. The question becomes, according to Akridge, “how to use what we have better.” A chart from the U.S.Commodity showed the increase of production of crops from 1866 to 2013. Corn production increased from 20 bushels per acres up to 160-220 bushels per acre. This he stated was due to equipment, improved genetics, improved ways of controlling insects, improved fertility and better ways of harvesting and storage, education bringing new ideas, since the introduction of hybrid corn.
Can it be done long term? Abridge said it will take research and technology to move the needle. This lead him to what Purdue is doing to make it happen and insight to what the college is interested in long term.