State recognizes river-friendly farmers


Each year, the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts recognizes farmers and landowners for good production management.

For the first time since 2009, a Jackson County farmer has been honored for river-friendly farm practices.

Mary Elisabeth Trimpe Keller was chosen as a recipient of the 2018 River Friendly Farmer award for her farm, Indian Creek Acres at 4475 E. State Road 258, Seymour. The last Jackson County farmers to receive the honor were Larry and Peggy Peters of Vallonia in 2009.

Keller was one of 49 Hoosier river friendly farmers to receive the award during a ceremony Wednesday at the Indiana State Fair. Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Farm Bureau President Kandy Kron presented the awards.

“We received information about this year’s award program and our board decided to participate,” said Terry Ault, district coordinator for the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“So we came up with an applicant who we thought would be good to represent Jackson County, and that’s how Mary Elisabeth was chosen,” Ault said.

She said conservation practices have been put in place on Keller’s farm that control the amount of sediment that might fall into the water body, and that’s what you want.

“If enough sediment gets down to the bottom of the creek, that’s eventually going to fill up, and then flooding would be more frequent there,” Ault said. “The point is to keep the sediment out so it keeps the creek at a depth in which it would take longer for it to overflow its banks.”

The designation is not a contest where farmers try to better others, but it’s something that if the farmers have done something to take care of the rivers and streams, they can be rewarded, Ault said.

The diversified farm, operated by Mary Elisabeth and her daughter, Anne Keller, produces primarily corn and soybeans in rotation.

The farm also produces a small number of polled Hereford feeder calves each year, and its pastures provide grass and hay for the calves and other beef cattle.

“Indian Creek runs through the home farm on the east edge of Cortland, as well as the farm in the Honeytown community, 3½ miles southwest of Cortland,” Keller said. “Cooley Creek runs through the clay farm a little over 5 miles northwest of Cortland.”

The fields are a mix of clay, bottomland and a good amount of sand ground. The area floods easily and quickly, particularly when heavy rains fall to the north and northeast during the winter and early spring, Keller said.

The Indian Creek Acres farm of today is part of a long, rich family farm history. Keller’s great-great grandfather, Henry Miller, purchased 104 acres of ground in the river bottoms south of Cortland over a period of several years in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“He lived and farmed on clay ground a few miles north of Cortland at the time,” Keller said. “It appears he purchased the property in the river bottoms in the belief it would be better ground for his future in farming.”

Keller said the parcel is flat, and the soil is better suited for crops and this low-lying, flood-prone ground has remained in the family ever since. It produces good crops, just as Henry hoped when he purchased the initial acreage more than a century ago, she said.

The main reason Keller and her daughter are interested in farm conservation practices and activities has to do with how they were raised.

“I owe my intense dedication to conservation and environmental issues to my parents, Omer and Thelma Kasting Trimpe, who were almost pioneers in teaching me, from a very small child on up, to conserve and preserve the land and nature in general,” Mary Elisabeth said.

She said her father should have received the recognition many years ago, but he passed away long ago.

“This was a passion of his and was a daily way of life always,” Mary Elisabeth said. “My belief is that such passion has to almost come from some realization of nature and the benefits of it from young on.”

Mary Elisabeth and her daughter were happy and have been honored to receive several awards and be recognized over the past 20 years.

They received the John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation from Indiana Landmarks at the Indiana State Fair in 1998, which is presented to only one farm family in the Hoosier State each year to honor efforts to maintain, preserve and use old buildings, generally at considerable personal expense, within the context of modern farm management practices.

They also received the Hoosier Homestead Centennial Award at the Indiana State Fair in 2016. In addition, the farm was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Beatty-Trimpe Farm in 2003. Finally, a large English-style barn on the home farm at Cortland dates to approximately 1860, was recognized by the 200 Indiana Barns program at the Indiana State Fair in 2016.

Indiana River Friendly Farmer award winners from Jackson County

Dave and Shirley Wesner 2000

Frank, John, Mark and Paul Hill 2001

Ed Stuckwisch 2002

Robert and Faye Thompson 2004

John and Tami Hackman 2006

Larry and Peg Peters 2009

Mary Elisabeth Keller 2018

At a glance

The River Friendly Farmer Program is a collaborative effort of government agencies, agricultural organizations, Indiana Soil and Water Conservation Districts and farmers.

Since 1999, Indiana’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts have nominated farmers who do an exemplary job protecting rivers, lakes and streams through their everyday conservation management practices.

The goal is to improve soil health and water quality and restore and sustain human and wildlife habitat in Indiana’s watersheds.


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