RUSH COUNTY – When one visits Arnold Farm in Rush County, it is easy to see that family is a key aspect of the farm and all that goes into running it.
The farm has been in the same family since 1821 – making this year the 200th birthday for the family farm.
The farm is located on historic Arnold Farmstead in Union Township in Rush County and was established by John Arnold. The name Arnold stayed with the farm and the name John has been a mainstay as well. In each generation, there has been at least one John Arnold connected to the family farm.
The importance in family is seen in how and what is produced at the farm. Currently, a variety of vegetables and fruits are grown on the same soil that have sustained the family for generations.
Taking care of the land is key in why Arnold Farm has all-natural produce using organic practices. No pesticides or synthetic chemicals are used.
Oak and Emma Hawk have been farming as a business since 2017.
“We grow fresh produce and some grains in a 16-acre field, of which about five acres is dedicated to crop production in a given year. On the remainder of that field we grow cover and forage crops to improve soil health and provide habitat for beneficial insects. The rest of the agricultural land is rented to tenant farmers who are friends of the family,” Oak said. “As we add grains and other crops that require more land we will likely utilize a somewhat larger portion of the land, but our activities are primarily focused on the contiguous 320 acres that include the original farmstead.”
“We are in the early stages of implementing practices that are intended to create a vibrant agricultural ecosystem that is resilient, productive, efficient, healthy, and more self-sufficient. This is a system that emphasizes biology over chemistry, that balances production with other factors such as nutrition, community health, and environmental impacts,” Oak added.
As Oak spoke about the farm and why they use the type of farming that they do, he looked down at his two sons Oliver and Luca and said, “That (his boys) is the main reason we do what we do, to keep this going for the next generation.”
Oak added, “For us, growing organically is all about developing and implementing a farming system that is specific to our land and will ensure its productivity and health for generations to come.”
Eleanor, better known as “Granny”, lives in the 1853-built house. She was a farm girl growing up and knows the ups and downs of farming.
“There are good times and bad, but it is a wonderful life,” Eleanor said.
Eleanor has six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
“It is a joy to see the younger generation here at the farm. This house is meant to have kids in it,” Eleanor said as she looked down at Luca playing on the floor.
Eleanor and husband Clarence (deceased) moved to the farm after they met at Indiana University and married. They had three children: Barbara Harcourt, Mary Roller and John Arnold (deceased). Mary lives on the farm in a different house. Barbara and husband Carl live near Milroy. Mary and Barbara both support the farm and participate in farming activities from helping plant in the spring, attending farmers markets, making deliveries, and caring for Oliver and Luca.
“It really is a family thing. Everyone helps on the farm and Granny helps with wisdom,” Emma said.
Bringing the past and the current farming practices is key at Arnold Farm. The use of vintage equipment and modern equipment are found on the farm. One piece of equipment is from 1948. Parts can be hard to come by, so members of the family have to find things that will work at auctions or other sales.
If you visit Arnold Farm and have a question on the equipment, just ask 5-year-old Oliver. He can give you a breakdown on the machinery. Oliver is involved in a range of farm tasks from planting to harvesting to fixing and maintaining equipment. The knowledge from the past is passed down to each generation.
“I would add that a lot of what we are doing is trying our best to honor the legacy of those that came before us and to create an opportunity for future generations. Farming is one of the best ways to steward land and we feel blessed to have the opportunity to play our part,” Oak said.
Oak pointed out that in terms of specific practices, much is done on soil health and organic matter. Due to being limited to non-synthetic fertilizers and crop protection, the biology, carbon content and physical structure of the soil is critical to the ability to grow healthy crops.
“Soils that are biologically active, high in organic matter and minimally tilled are able to provide more nutrients to crops, retain more moisture, lose less soil to erosion, and even make plants less susceptible to diseases. Two of the most effective tools we have for improving these aspects of soil health at field scale are cover crops and livestock integration,” Oak said. “Cover crops are plants that are grown to improve the soil, add nutrients, or address specific issues like weed or disease pressure. We often choose cover crops that are suitable for grazing cattle because this provides additional forage for our animals combined with an opportunity for them to deposit manure directly which further improves the soil and provides plant nutrients. In this approach, we are aiming to feed the soil and its biology, which will then provide for the crops over the long term. Other techniques that are important to our organic production system are the establishment or maintenance of habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators, mechanical cultivation for weed control, and the use of bacterial and fungal inoculants.”
A variety of fruits and vegetables are grown. These include tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, radishes, turnips, salad greens, garlic and green beans, as well as some more exotic produce.
“We also grow popcorn and dry beans on a small scale. We will be adding more grains over the next few years to provide inputs for commercial milling equipment we purchased last year to add value to our crops and diversify our income streams,” Oak said.
Produce from the farm can be purchased.
“We hope to set up a farm stand either at the farm or on SR 44 in the near future, but for now we welcome folks to reach out to us by phone or Facebook messenger to buy produce directly from the farm. We are in the process of developing an online ordering system to make this easier for folks,” Oak said. “We also sell at regional farmers markets, but are primarily limited to the Garfield Park Farmers Market in Indianapolis right now because of limited labor and transportation. We have sold at the Rushville, Connersville, and Greenfield farmers markets in the past.”
“We also sell through Hoosier Harvest Market, a cooperatively owned online marketplace for local food. Hoosier Harvest Market aggregates food from multiple farms in Greenfield and Batesville and then delivers customized orders to a variety of pickup locations in the Indianapolis and southeast Indiana areas respectively,” Oak added.
To see more on Arnold Farms, see the Facebook page or search Arnold Farmstead on the National Registry.