One is certain to notice the scenery when traveling through Indiana, and a word that constantly springs to mind is farms. It should be no surprise, then, that Indiana has over 63,000 farms, containing more than 15 million acres; farms indeed.
Farming in Boone has roots that trace back to the 1800s with simple land clearing, but has greatly expanded to 279 farms, whose main crops are corn and soybeans. “The total acreage of Boone County is 270,000 acres, with nearly 75 percent of the county in row crop production,” says Douglas Akers, County Extension Educator and ANR, Purdue Cooperative Extension.
Yes, agriculture remains a major component to Boone County’s economy. 4-H and FFA stand as two of the premier leadership development organizations dedicated to developing leadership skills among youth. Agriculture and 4-H have a rich history together that spans over 100 years back to the early 20th century. 4-H, which stands for “Head, Heart, Hands and Health,” began in the late 1890s and early 1900s as a way to better educate young people in agriculture. To give you an idea of the scope of the organization, 4-H now has 6 million members and over 500,000 volunteers across the nation. In Boone County, approximately 1,150 youths in grades 3-12 are enrolled in the local 4-H program, according to Tony Carrell, Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development, Purdue Cooperative Extension.
“Research shows that students who have a community connection and are actively involved in programs, such as 4-H and FFA, will become leaders in their community as adults,” continues Carrell. “This results in increased community and economic development of local communities.”
The Purdue Cooperative Extension Service is a network of specialists, educators and volunteers who provide education and scientific research-based information in each of Indiana’s 92 counties. Main program areas are consumer and family services, economic and community development, agriculture and national resources, and 4-H youth. “The Purdue Extension Office in Boone County works collaboratively with teachers and administrators at Lebanon, Western Boone and Zionsville Schools to deliver school enrichment programs utilizing the Extension’s curriculum and resources,” explains Carrell.
Eight to 10 events are held by the organization at the Boone County 4-H fairgrounds, including the poultry show, but the biggest draw is the county fair. The Boone County 4-H fairgrounds has also received pledges from over 200 partners, totaling over $1.2 million, to update the facilities in a capital campaign called “A Pledge to Boone County’s Future.” This is the first major renovation for the fairgrounds and includes the 4-H family, elected officials, community members, renters, service clubs and nonprofit groups among its developers.
“Lebanon hosts the 4-H Fair, but the 4-H belongs to the entire county, and we are all proud of each other and our entire county when it comes to 4-H,” explains Dale Smith, a lifelong resident of Boone County. “4-H may be the lifestyle that most unites the county.”