Why agriculture and leadership go hand in hand

If you’ve ever wondered if you can farm effectively, be an active leader, and serve the community at the same time, meet Jacob and Jill Smoker, Wanatah, Ind. Within minutes, you’ll realize it’s not only possible, but the couple lives it every day.

Agriculture reinforces their value as leaders because they can base their views on real-world experiences. “Meeting other people and networking, especially through the Indiana Farm Bureau, has helped us develop relationships that have also strengthened our farming business,” says Jill.

The LaPorte County couple were recently recognized as the national winner of the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award competition.

“We consider it a great honor and found it humbling,” says Jill.

Here’s how farming, farm leadership and community service intertwine for this Hoosier couple.

Agricultural enterprises

Feeding beef cattle is a long-standing business on this multi-generational family farm. Today, Jake and Jill continue to feed the cattle. Jake notes that they usually bring in cattle around 500 pounds and finish them at market weight.

Cattle are transported to various slaughterhouses. The Smokers work with others to develop opportunities to sell meat directly to consumers.

“We grow corn, soybeans and wheat, and we also grow seed corn,” says Jake. “We have been growing both non-GMO corn and non-GMO soybeans for seven years. When crop prices are not as attractive as they are now, it helps generate premiums. It’s worth it.

Jill notes that they do their own comparison trials to test various practices. “We have a lot of manure and we want to capitalize on its value,” she explains. “With the manure in the system, we are looking closely at our fertilizer program and looking for answers through testing on our farm.”

Jake says they are working with two different agronomists, researching information about their growing system and setting up various trials.

In their testing program, they also work with third parties and evaluate agricultural equipment as well as crop production products.

“We often run these tests against standard farm practices,” says Jake. “We’re learning a lot, and it’s an additional source of income.”

Leadership and community service

Jake was strongly encouraged by his family members to get involved in Indiana Farm Bureau activities early in his farming career, beginning at the local and regional levels. He never looked back and he never regretted getting involved.

Both Jake and Jill have served on various committees and served on numerous policy advisory groups for the INFB.

“It’s led to a lot of personal growth for both of us,” says Jake. “Once we saw that our efforts were paying off, we decided to jump in and get even more involved.”

Jill adds, “By getting involved, we’ve met people all over the state. It allowed us to establish friendships and relationships that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Smokers actively support 4-H. Jake has chaired the local 4-H cattle auction in the past.

They also actively support their local FFA chapter, South Central FFA.

“It all works together,” says Jill. “The activities we participate in give us the opportunity to help other people, and it’s rewarding.

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