The Mohlers are honored as the 2010 Indiana Farm Family of the Year during the recent Indiana Farm Bureau convention. The award is presented annually by Beck’s Hybrids and Indiana AgriNews. From left are: Grant Mohler, Addison Miller and Lauren and Peyton Mohler in the front row; Bob and Jane Mohler, Lisa Miller, Keily Mohler and Scott Beck in the middle row; and Dion Miller and Brad and David Mohler in the back row. Not pictured are Tammy and Caleb Mohler.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — He is just 11 years old. But Peyton Mohler already knows that he wants to be a farmer.
"I like growing the crops and doing the work. I think it’s fun,” he said as the Mohlers were honored as the 2010 Indiana Farm Family of the Year.
The entire family was recognized on stage during the recent Indiana Farm Bureau convention in Fort Wayne. The Indiana Farm Family of the Year award has been presented by family agricultural businesses Beck’s Hybrids and Indiana AgriNews for 13 years.
It honors an outstanding Hoosier family for its farming efforts and community involvement and is aimed at increasing awareness of the important contributions all farm families make to daily life.
This year’s recipients are: Bob and Jane Mohler; their son David and his wife, Tammy, and their children, Peyton and Caleb; daughter Lisa and her husband, Dion Miller, and their daughter, Addison; and son Brad and his wife, Keily, and their children, Grant and Lauren.
“We feel really fortunate,” Bob said. “This is an incredible honor. It’s the biggest award for Indiana agriculture.”
The family’s roots run deep, all the way back to 1854, when Henry Mohler moved from Pennsylvania to central Indiana. His son, Simon, settled in Owen Township to farm and build barns.
Simon’s son, Willis, moved the operation to Mohler Farms’ current location in Clinton County, building a foundation for the following 155 years and counting.
Each successive generation has worked to improve and expand the farm. They are determined to preserve the family’s land, especially as they look to the future — and a precocious young farmer.
Peyton said he loves agriculture and plans to step into his grandfather’s boots. He recently got to drive a combine with his father, but admitted he is not yet ready for planting.
“I can’t plant yet,” he said in total sincerity. “I don’t want to hit a rock and break the planter.”
In the meantime, he has been honing his skills with his tractor maintenance project for the Owen Blue Ribbon 4-H Club. His goal is to qualify to compete at the Indiana State Fair next year.
“We try not to push,” his smiling father, David, said.
The original 160-acre farm evolved as Bob’s father, Wayne, returned from World War 2 and expanded the family’s hog operation and as Bob joined the business after graduating from the Purdue Agriculture Short Course.
After a Del Monte canning factory was located in Frankfort, Bob began raising tomatoes. He was the first grower in the area to own a mechanical harvester, grow in twin rows and raise the at-the-time experimental Roma tomato.
In just a few years, Bob was raising 200 acres of tomatoes with the help of 75 migrant workers and was so successful he began growing 50 acres of cucumbers. He said he was the first person in Indiana to use a mechanical harvester in cucumber production.
Bob and Wayne continued to expand into new areas of production, acquire additional acreage and grow their Pioneer seed business.
As Wayne’s role on the farm diminished over the years, Bob’s son, David, graduated from Purdue’s School of Agriculture and added his skills to the farm. When Co-Alliance decided to sell its small grain elevator in Cambria in 2004, the new father-and-son team saw an opportunity to increase storage capacity and bought it.
“We really didn’t want that to happen,” Bob said of the elevator’s closing. “We felt bad for the small farmers in the area.”
Today, the family raises 2,550 acres of corn and soybeans. And, as the Mohlers have diligently worked to better their farm, they also have worked to enhance their community.
Their farm is a member of the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce and the Rossville Business Association. It donates to the Rossville ambulance and fire departments, which built a new fire station this year, and contributes to the Clinton County Community Foundation, the local Fourth of July fireworks celebration and the Indiana Junior Miss scholarship program.
The farm sponsors basketball teams at the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club and has provided equipment for the local Summer’s End festival.
In a novel outreach program, Bob plants an acre of sweet corn specifically for members of the local community to pick and enjoy for free.
This endeavor has grown over the years and brings people from town out to the farm and helps to foster the important relationship between farming and community. This year, the family gave away more than 30,000 ears of corn.
“That’s probably one of the best things we’ve done. It really promotes agriculture in our area,” Bob said. “At first, people only wanted the corn if we delivered it to them. But now they really like coming to the farm.”
The Mohlers also donate their time. Bob has served on Partners in Progress, the economic development entity for Clinton County; the board of directors for the Milner retirement home in Rossville; the Indiana Agriculture Marketing Association; and the Indiana Young Farmers Association.
Jane, a former art teacher, has served on the local hospital auxiliary board and the Rossville school board and developed the Rossville School Foundation and the Rossville school mentoring program.
David has served on the Ag-Max Co-op board of directors and the Purdue Agriculture Alumni Club of Clinton County, where he was president.
Brad, an attorney, has served on the Clinton County Community Foundation, the Clinton County Family YMCA board of directors, the Clinton County Boys and Girls Club and the Clinton County Bar Association.
Bob, David, Brad and Dion, a funeral director, also have been very active with the Frankfort Jaycees. Lisa and Tammy are both teachers, and they and Jane and Keily, a pharmaceutical sales representative, have served the Tri Kappa Philanthropical Sorority in numerous capacities.
And the entire family is extremely active at First Christian Church Disciples of Christ. The Mohlers have hosted a Living Nativity at their farm, where guests watched the Christmas story unfold in a realistic setting.
Bob said his family truly believes it is better to give than to receive.
“We’re really in a wonderful area,” he said. “We don’t have neighbors fighting each other for land and running up rents.
“Everybody gets along. And if anybody needs help, the neighbors all come together and help.”
As Indiana’s Farm Family of the Year, the Mohlers received a plaque and a yard sign, as well as tickets and hotel accommodations to attend the Farm Bureau convention.
They also have been invited to attend the Farmers Day activities at the Indiana State Fair and will receive a vacation package based on their own interests.