While family farms across the state struggle to survive against corporate competitors, one Indiana family is working to keep up with the changing times.
Maple Farms is a 4th generation corn, wheat, and soybean farm near Kokomo. It is owned and operated by the Maple family, and has been since its establishment.
The Early Years
Clifford Maple and his wife bought a 130 acres in Howard County in 1930 .Clifford’s oldest living son and veteran farmer, William Maple, says his father worried when he first started out because it was during the Great Depression.
“I don’t know how he really thought he’d make it for sure or not, but he did,” he recalls.
The farm has grown through the years and now encompasses about 5000 acres. Seven of the Maples make a living off farming and they have two full time employees who are no relation. They say the last decade brought good yields and high prices, but careful planning is required to keep them in a secure financial position.
Keeping An Eye On The Future
Scott Maple says one of the biggest challenges is being prepared for low revenues.
“We know that everything cycles,” he says, “and that we’re going to eventually go through a cycle where expenses are going to exceed our revenues, and during those times, it’s going to get kind of tough and we’re going to start wondering, ‘do we need all this help?’”
Scott says it’s important to keep expanding. Especially so younger generations can continue to come back to the farm and work if that’s what they want.
“Our farm has kind of expanded as we’ve taken in more members,” he says. “It’s easy to look at our farm and say you know, ‘5000 acres, that’s a huge farm,’ but then when you consider that we have 9 families that we’re supporting off of that, now all of a sudden, you’re looking at 5 individuals that are only farming a little over 500 acres.”
Despite long workdays and no guaranteed time off, the younger Maples keep returning to work the farm. With their continual interest in agriculture, enjoyment comes with working in the fields alongside family. Scott says value and challenge come with a family business.
“You get to have your kids come and work with you and see what you’re doing and understand what you’re doing. So there’s a lot of real value in a family farm. There’s a lot of challenges too, just as with any family business.”
The Maples say the hard work of everyone involved keeps the farm in operation. With continual efforts to expand, they plan to keep Maple Farms in the family for generations to come.