INDIANAPOLIS — Bringing a couple old newspaper articles with him to the podium to prove his point, Gov. Eric Holcomb told the Indiana Farm Bureau State Convention that Indiana’s story is the chronicle of agriculture in the state.
Contemplating what makes the state “so dang special,” it can be traced back to Indiana’s roots — to “the original occupation” of tending to the land and the bounty that comes from it, the governor said.
“There’s no other sector as prominent as others are that really compares to the meaning of ag to our state, to our past, our heritage, to our ever-changing present and to the equally exciting future than Indiana ag,” he said.
The Republican state leader noted he recently attended a United Nations conference in Egypt, his fifth overseas trip of the year.
Each day of the COP27 climate change meeting, which drew leaders from nearly 200 nations to the town of Sharm el-Sheikh, was devoted to a different theme, with one day focused on agriculture.
“You can just imagine how gleeful or giddy I was spending the next few days sharing with as many of the 30,000 people I could that every day in Indiana is an ag day. We actually celebrate this every day,” the governor said to applause.
And that is how it has always been in the state, Holcomb stressed, sharing an interview published in 1948 by the Vincennes Sun-Commercial with his great-grandfather on the changes that he and his brothers had seen as blacksmiths.
“He talks about how he used to work shoeing horses and working on plows and now he’s working on tractors and talking about how the boy — he calls my dad ‘the boy’ here — is working with his hands, building things like airplanes,” he said. “You just think about how far we’ve come.”
Recalling another “timeless truth” from that interview, Holcomb cited his great-grandfather saying, “I haven’t made a lot of money, but I’ve lived a rich life.”
“No truer words have ever been spoken,” Holcomb said.
One of his great-grandfather’s cousins also gave an interview, at age 99, to the same newspaper and discussed the past and the future as a farmer.
“He talked about living through the Depression and again talked about how ‘others had it much harder than me.’ This was a guy that was living off the land and fighting for so may others,” Holcomb said. “As different issues came, he just knocked them down one by one and got through it.”
Holcomb added his wife’s grandparents were from Clark County and had a feed and fertilizer business, sold grain bins and owned and operated a general store that her great-grandfather built in 1909.
“These family traditions are so deep-rooted and really point to again why our state is so special. You think about how that has been carried on generation after generation in small ways and big ways,” the governor said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, Holcomb enumerated, his wife, Janet, who grew up showing horses in 4-H, quickly went outside and built a chicken coop.
“Whether you’re a Pearson or a Villwock or a Kron or an Umbarger or a Culp or all these friends that I’ve made along the way,” he said, citing several past and present Farm Bureau and farm industry leaders, “whether you’re an urban farmer or a rural farmer, it’s just obvious with stories like this to me, because it’s in our blood, how we’ve arrived at where we are, generation after generation after generation of feeding and fueling the world and meeting the demands, taking on the responsibility, taking on the pressure, come what may.”
“So, I’m not surprised that we’ve got one of the best ag schools on planet Earth up at Purdue,” he continued to another round of applause.
“It’s obvious why we have Purdue here. It’s obvious why we have such a strong 4-H program.”
The governor praised farmers for their contributions to the state.
“It’s touching to me and a real joy to be able to share the Indiana story. This is it. This is where it started. You are the authors of it and the custodians and the caretakers and the shepherds,” he said.
“You’ve been advocates at every turn — for this industry for sure, but also for your neighbors who are benefiting from it.
“You think about how we talked about property tax reform for years and years and years, but really when you all got so engaged, so connected and really kind of rolled out a full-court press we were able to realize true property tax reform, or when you all really leaned in and said we’ve got to do more to connect our communities — our communities and our combines, by the way — to broadband internet at affordable high speeds, so we’re not sitting around in the barn for hours upon end waiting to try to improve our yield or to save time and, therefore, money.”
Looking ahead to the next state legislative session, which officially begins Jan. 9, the governor said he hopes Farm Bureau will work with him to address public health issues.
“This is critically important for the future of our state and I don’t think anyone will benefit more than rural Indiana,” he said.
Holcomb concluded his speech by gifting INFB President Randy Kron with a package of eggs and a jar of honey harvested by his wife in their backyard.
“Pretty soon you’re going to see we’re going to have goats at the governor’s residence,” he laughed.