LEESBURG — Ted McKinney, director of Indiana State Department of Agriculture, was the keynote speaker for the annual Tom Farms appreciation dinner Thursday evening, Aug. 18. The evening included more than 470 guests and 30 members from the Warsaw and Wawasee FFA Chapters.
McKinney shared with the guests what he hears weekly why companies are wanting to expand or relocate to the state. “Economic development is rockin’ and rolling,” said McKinney. He also shared the seven points in the agricultural strategic plan for Indiana to “roll out in January.”
The themes he is hearing are: incredible business life, talent pool, geographic location, academics, innovations such as AgriNovus Indiana, work ethics and Hoosier hospitality. He expounded on each area, noting the state being the crossroads of America, not only because of four interstates coming together in Indianapolis, but also the rail system, the three existing and soon fourth ports, and being the location for a hub for air freight.
Purdue and Huntington universities; Ivy Tech and Grace colleges were noted as important to the state’s academic resources. AgiNovus Indiana, a collection of companies and institutions getting and keeping patents and “making 2 plus 2 equal 5, 7 or 10.” McKinney stated those who are 10-year 4-H’ers, FFA members or even corn detasslers can “write their own ticket,” as this area knows how to work.
“In this area of Indiana, you’re blessed, don’t take for granted what you have out there,” said McKinney noting the area’s importance in science and technology. “This is our time. Let’s not be cautious, let’s be bold and go for it, see where we are going.”
The seven points in the strategic plan, with each having three to five specific tasks, include: economic development, leadership, education, public relations, innovation, infrastructure and natural resources and environment.
“We’re all partners in life and humanities. You people have the opportunity to make it better in the future,” said Kip Tom, chief executive officer for Tom Farms Inc.
Prior to the keynote speaker, Tom reflected on his campaign for U.S. Congress and what was learned and spoke of transitions and succession in the business, transitions for the next generations. He stated he hoped during the time he stepped down, things went well and as people watched the business went on as it had before.
Brief remarks were heard from several guests and sponsors.
Dr. Nate Bosch, director for the Center for Lakes & Streams, stated research has shown area lakes bring in an estimated $313 million to the local economy, agriculture brings in $282 million according to the census of agriculture county profile. “At the Center for Lakes & Streams we’re working in partnership with agriculture for cleaner lakes and we’re proud to work with Tom Farms on that project.”
Dr. Sherilyn R. Emberton, president of Huntington University, reported on the newly created Haupert Institute of Agricultural Studies, “started by farmers for future farmers.” Faith, family and farming is the institute’s theme. “It’s all about teaching our young people, the next generation that faith in farming will yield the best, for the family but also for the country.”
Other remarks were heard from Lance Woodbury who spoke about land as legacies; David Dell with Brock Grain Systems and Ryan Sanders, seed representative from DeKalb and AsGrow.
The annual event is held in appreciation of employees, land owners who lease or rent farm land to Tom Farms, and associates of the business.