Five local families receive Hoosier Homestead Award


The Hoosier Homestead Award Program recognizes families with farms that have stayed within the same family for 100 years or more.

The awards normally are distributed at the Indiana State Fair, but since the fair was canceled this year, the awards were given out July 29 and Aug. 7 at the Statehouse.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler presented families with their awards in recognition of their commitment to Indiana agriculture.

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This year, five Jackson County families earned the award.

Harry Rust Farm (1862) Sesquicentennial Award

The original 94-acre farm in Seymour was purchased in 1862 by Bill and Henrietta Rust and passed down through the generations.

In 1900, the land went to their son, Fred, and his wife, Anna. Then in 1950, Fred and Anna handed the farm down to their son, Harry, and his wife, Dorothea Rust, who later passed the farm down to their children.

Debbie Herbert is the granddaughter of Harry and Dorothea and the daughter of Dennis and Linda Rust. Debbie and her husband, Chris, are the current owners of the homestead and half of the acreage.

The couple live on the property with their three children, Jay, Elsie and Becca, in the home they built in 2011. The remaining acreage is still in the family, owned by the children of Harry and Dorothea.

There was a log cabin on the original homestead until it was replaced by a home built in 1910, which is still there. Additional original structures still in use include a large barn built in 1908, a corn crib, a wagon shed and a chicken house.

“Through the first couple generations, Belgian draft horses were used in the farming operations for planting, tilling and harvesting,” Debbie said. “Other animals that were kept were dairy and beef cows, chickens, sheep and hogs.”

Anna Rust raised geese and sold goose feathers. She was featured in an article in the 1930s in Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine. There also was a scale shed at the homestead with old Fairbanks scales, where neighboring farmers would come weigh wagon loads of harvested crops, Debbie said.

The farmland acreage is rented out, as Debbie and her husband don’t have farming careers, but their children, who are elementary and middle-school aged, raise their 4-H goats there and have chickens in the original barns.

The Herbert children also help in the gardens and have been selling eggs and produce this summer at the Seymour Area Farmers Market.

Dennis Rust has early memories of the draft horses being used on the farm and the sights and sounds of hitching them up to farm equipment for a day’s work.

“He remembers at the age of 5 his father allowing him to hold the reins of the team of horses, which was a big deal since the horses weighed around 1,800 pounds each,” Debbie said. “He also remembers the threshing machine coming to the farm once a year and the kids playing on the big straw stack it left behind.”

In the summertime, baling hay was a hot job. After horses were replaced with more modern farm equipment, it was not unusual to have 2,000 to 3,000 bales of hay in the big barn by the end of the summer.

“Some of my favorite childhood memories are of walking down the road to visit Grandma and Grandpa and playing with my cousins,” Debbie said. “I feel very fortunate that our own kids are now making memories here and am thankful to previous generations for maintaining the farm.”

Debbie said Elsie has done a genealogy project for 4-H the past several years and this year learned about her fifth generation ancestors.

“So it’s very special to be able to explain to our kids that this farm has been in the family that long,” Debbie said. “It was an honor for us to go to the Indiana Statehouse with my parents, my siblings, Greg Rust and Heidi Wheatley, and nephews to receive the award.”

Horstman Farm (1897) Centennial Award

Brownstown resident Peter Horstman, 67, and his wife, Judy, currently live on the farm property that his grandfather bought for approximately $1,700 in 1897.

The farm was originally around 50 acres, but some of that was sold, and now, 18 acres remain. The couple have one son, Jason Horstman.

“My parents, William and Les Horstman, my sister, Debbie, and I moved to Danville, Illinois, in 1960,” Horstman said. “My parents and Debbie are now deceased, but I moved back here in 1978, and I’ve lived on the farm ever since then.”

One of Peter’s earliest memories of the farm is they had no indoor plumbing until around 1959.

“I remember in the summer, me and my dad took baths in Huff Creek, and in the winter, we all took our baths in the kitchen behind the potbelly stove,” he said. “Mom had a pump in the kitchen, and she’d pump out water, heat it up on the stove and pour it into a round galvanized tub.”

Horstman said his sister would take her bath first. Then he would take his bath in the same water so his mother wouldn’t have to heat up more water.

“I was probably around 6 or 7 years old, and back then being on the farm, you didn’t have to worry about anything,” he said. “I remember going to the stone plant nearby in the summertime and playing on the big stacks of rock and playing underneath the Huff Creek bridge.”

Horstman said they used to have a couple of short-horned milking cows and some chickens on the farm. Sometimes on Sundays, his family would come home after church and his dad would butcher six or eight chickens so they could have fried chicken for Sunday dinner. His mom and aunt froze the rest for later.

“Dad would chop their heads off, and it would be my job to chase them down because they’d still run around for a while that way,” he said. “He had a smokehouse, and we butchered hogs, too, and made sausage, head cheese, blood pudding and chitlins.”

The only original building left on the farm now is the green building that can be seen from State Road 250 and has a large yin and yang symbol displayed on it.

Horstman decided to apply for the Hoosier Homestead Award after seeing a homestead plaque in front of a house between Brownstown and Seymour.

“I decided to find out more about the Hoosier Homestead and did some investigating,” he said. “I discovered that if you had farmland that was in your family for 100 years or more, you were entitled to that award.”

Plumer Farm (1885) Centennial Award

Tricia Plumer Bowers said her memories of growing up on the family farm include everyone working together and enjoying the work.

She and her husband of 16 years, Dennis Bowers, currently live in Seymour on the Plumer farm with their two children, Lafe, 9 and Eliza, 5.

Tricia’s parents are Butch and Mona Plumer, but Henry and Eliza Plumer, Tricia’s great-great-grandparents, were the original owners.

Tricia said her dad raised a lot of alfalfa hay in the 1980s.

“He let me ride on an extra empty wagon behind my cousin and friends who were stacking the square bales of hay on the wagon,” Tricia said. “I remember falling asleep on that wagon or across Dad’s arm on the tractor.”

She also recalls picking corn and green beans and her mother and Grandma Lucille working hard in the kitchen to use the farm’s bounty to feed them well.

Other relatives who have lived on the farm through the years are Tricia’s parents; great-grandparents, William and Sophie Plumer; and grandparents, Lafe and Lucille Plumer.

Tricia said she has lived on the family farm her whole life except during and just after college.

“Just after we graduated college and married, Dennis and I moved to Tennessee,” Tricia said. “For two years, we were dorm parents at Webb, a boarding school, where Dennis taught high school Spanish.”

Today, the Bowers family grows pasture grasses and trees, alfalfa hay, wheat, oats, rye, field corn, popcorn and soybeans. They also have pastured beef cattle, laying hens, a dog and some cats.

“We get to do different work every day, based on the weather, and each family member must do his or her part,” Tricia said. “We like the family time and the good foods we get to enjoy.”

Farming requires a community of support, she said.

“We are blessed by our neighbors, many of whom have been family friends for generations. We depend on one another for help and advice,” Tricia said. “One of the most humbling and rewarding things about farming is handing the nourishing foods we raise straight to our customers.”

She said receiving the Hoosier Homestead Award is an honor and makes them thankful for parents and grandparents who have tended the land and trained their children there.

“The farm is a fantastic place to raise children. There is freedom to explore and learn,” Tricia said. “Teaching little ones happens easily as we all work together.”

She said their children are great help to take care of the cattle and chickens.

“They regularly gather eggs and help with mechanic work and tending the garden,” she said. “They’re good at checking fences and they also help keep the house tidy.”

Schafstall Farm (1891) Centennial Award

Tony and Cathy Schafstall currently own the 80-acre family farm in Seymour and have lived there since 1979.

They have been married 45 years and have three grown children, Andy (Brandy) Schafstall, Cassie (Ben) Fox and Lacey (Josh) Lanam.

“The original owners were William and Caroline Bode Schafstall, my great-grandparents,” Tony said. “In 1891, Bill purchased a 40-acre tract for $600. Then his son, August, purchased 40 acres behind the front 40 for $800 in 1926.”

Tony said when August was a young boy, he trained a billy goat to pull a wagon. Later, he turned his attention to his horse and buggy, in which he took great pride. Then he married Emma Vornholt.

August also did a lot of horse training and had two horses known as the Brass Button team. Other Animals found on their farm were mules, milk cows, hogs, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys.

August died in 1950. Then after Emma died in 1976, Tony and his brother, Jack Schafstall, shared the farm ground until Tony and his wife bought the property.

“I’ll always remember Thanksgivings on the farm growing up. All of the Schafstall family would get together,” Tony said. “My dad was one of four sons raised by August and Emma. Dad was the youngest and passed away when I was 7.”

Tony also remembers going fishing at the neighbor’s pond. He said he would bring the fish back home and put them in the horse trough.

Tony said he never really was a farmer. As a teenager, he started out working for Howard Wente Builders Inc. on and off, then later went to work full time with his cousin, Rick Schafstall, in the grain systems business. He bought some stock in the company and retired from there May of last year. He now drives a truck part time for Wischmeier Trucking.

Cathy is a homemaker and has a scrapbooking business. One of the reasons she and Tony enjoy living on the farm is because it’s quiet and peaceful in the country.

Tony said receiving the Hoosier Homestead Award means they have a strong family bond.

Cathy said their family loves to attend the state fair every summer and was very disappointed when the location had to be changed to receive their award.

“We all enjoyed touring the Statehouse. It’s beautiful and so educational,” she said. “The memorials inside and outside the Statehouse honoring all the firemen killed in the line of duty in Indiana brought our family unexpected joy added to the day.”

Cathy said Tony’s brother, Jack, a volunteer fireman, was killed in the line of duty in a grain bin accident at Rose Acre Farms in November 1986.

“The memorials for Jack inside and outside the Statehouse brought tears with smiles and a flood of memories for a great man we all miss,” Cathy said. “The day was an unexpected wonderful turn of events, a once-in-a-lifetime memorable day for our children and grandchildren to see.”

Stuckwisch Farm (1884) Centennial Award

Fred Jr. and Shirley Stuckwisch currently live on the Stuckwisch farm in Brownstown. The farm is owned by their son, Ed Stuckwisch, and his wife, Sara, who live about a half-mile away.

The original owners of the 63-acre farm in 1884 were Henry and Mary Vahl, Ed’s great-great grandparents. The farm was passed down to Albert and Amelia Vahl, Ed’s great-grandparents, in 1938; Fred Sr. and Thelma Vahl Stuckwisch, Ed’s grandparents, in 1955; Fred Jr. and Shirley in 1979; and Ed and Sara in 2014.

“The farm began as a small grain and livestock farm in 1884. Over the years, there have been many changes in the types of grain and livestock raised,” Ed said. “However, the nature of the farm has not changed overall. The farmhouse and old barn serve as reminders of what used to be.”

Some of Ed’s earliest memories are playing with the baby pigs, helping his grandma in the garden and feeding the animals with his dad and grandpa.

His children recall riding in the combine and tractor cabs at a young age, even when they were still in car seats. Other memories include the kids helping with baby pigs soon after they were born and waking up early to load livestock before getting started on field work that day.

Ed started farming full time with his dad in 1990, and Sara is a teacher in Scottsburg. They’ve been married for 26 years and have three children, Abigail Stuckwisch, Matthew Stuckwisch and Amanda Hanner.

Ed said the crops raised on the farm include corn, soybeans, wheat, cereal rye and popcorn. Animals on the farm include swine and cattle.

“I like being able to do a variety of jobs on a daily basis. Between working with the livestock and the crops, there is always something different to do,” Ed said. “Seeing the plants and animals grow under my care is rewarding and enjoyable. I also like being able to have family around me and being able to teach my children about farm life.”

He said raising children on a farm is very rewarding because it provides an education about manual labor, which is hard work, financial management and making sound business decisions.

As for what receiving the Hoosier Homestead Award means to Ed, he said it is a privilege to be able to receive it in honor of past and present family members.

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In honor of Indiana’s rich agricultural heritage, the Hoosier Homestead Award Program recognizes families with farms that have been owned by the same family for 100 years or more.

The program was instituted in 1976 and recognizes the contributions these family farms have made to the economic, cultural and social advancements of Indiana. In the past 40 years, more than 5,800 farms have received the honor.

There are two Hoosier Homestead Award ceremonies each year. One is held at the Statehouse in March and the other is normally during the Indiana State Fair in August, but this year was also at the Statehouse.

Indiana family farms may qualify for the following:

Centennial Award, 100 years of ownership

Sesquicentennial Award, 150 years of ownership

Bicentennial Award, 200 years of ownership

The deadline for the March ceremony is Dec. 1, and the deadline for the August ceremony is May 1.

For information, contact program manager Linda Forler at [email protected] or visit


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