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COD : David W. and Mary J. Howell

David W. and Mary J. Howell

Middletown, IN | Certificate of Distinction: 2014

David and Mary Howell are first-generation farmers who took borrowed equipment and 300 acres of rented land and built it into a farm operation that includes more than 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans, processing tomatoes, and jack-a-lantern pumpkins in Indiana and international farm operations in Brazil. The Howells were nominated together for this award. As one supporting letter writer observed, theirs is a 11true partnership in life;1 and that 11in character, Mary was Dave, and he was her:1They built their operation together, and so the record of supporting material is shared by two people who are equally deserving of this recognition. David graduated from Purdue University, receiving both his B.S. and M.S. in agricultural economics in 1969 and 1971, respectively. While at Purdue, he was inducted into Ceres and Alpha Zeta honorary societies. Mary graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. in nursing in 1973, and was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honorary. In 1972, the Howells founded Howell Farms. For the first two years, Mary worked as a nurse in charge of obstetrics at Ball Memorial Hospital, then resigned to devote full time to the family1s farm business. In the farm crisis of the 1980s, they struggled to hold onto the land they had purchased, and, out of necessity, they launched innovative ventures that would fuel their success. The loss of a farrowing house in a fire prompted the Howells to seek enterprises other than livestock to provide mid-season cash flow. They diversified with fruits and vegetables sold through four retail outlets, one of them located onsite. They planted and managed a 3,000-tree apple orchard. Mary began hosting school tours-the beginning of agritourism before it had that name-and this grew into a small industry. Each fall, Howell Farms hosted several thousand children, parents, and teachers; taught them the importance of agriculture; and sent them home with a freshly picked apple and apumpkin. During the two decades of farm tours, they estimate that around 200,000 visitors heard 11the story of food;' creating goodwill that is still evident today, several years after the retail markets were closed. Labor and management on the farm were shared by David and Mary, with both operating equipment. David made the agronomic decisions and Mary handled cash flow planning, along with the tax and enterprise accounting. Before most farmers ever thought about computers, the Howells employed a programmer and developed software to keep the detailed records they wanted, and they built a special room to house the temperature and dust-sensitive, refrigerator-sized NCR computer that ran it. As their two sons came back into the farm management in the 21st century, the Howells again innovated and changed to fuel the necessary growth of the operation. They shifted from retail sales to the production of pumpkins and processing tomatoes for wholesale customers. And they grew the grain operation, increasing yields and efficiency with new practices and intensive management. To continue their growth, they purchased a farm in Bahia, Brazil. Both sons had become fluent in Portuguese, and one of them, Aaron, moved to Brazil to manage the farm. Seeing opportunities, they organized an investor-owned company to purchase a larger farm. Before receiving an attractive offer to sell, the farm had grown into a multi-thousand-acre operation growing cotton, soybeans, and corn. But both will tell you that their best crop is their four children, three of whom work with them in the farm business. The fourth is a teacher who lives just across the road from the farm headquarters. The Howells served agriculture and their community in numerous roles. Early in their careers, they were appointed to the Indiana Farm Bureau Young Farmer Committee. They represented Indiana at the national level as members of the American Farm Bureau Federation(AFBF) Young Farmer and Rancher Committee when David was elected president of the Indiana group. David then was elected president of the national committee, and became a member ofthe AFBF board of directors. In this role, they traveled together, speaking at young farmer conferences to encourage involvement. They wrote and presented a dialogue relative to young farm families to the American Institute of Cooperatives. More recently, David and Mary have written and made presentations about commercial Midwest American agriculture to the French-American Foundation in Paris at the AGri-Days II symposium. They have represented U.S. farmers at a U.S. Grains Council sponsored Corn Conference and Japanese Feed Manufacturers meeting in Tokyo. And, they have presented programs about their family's involvement in Brazilian agriculture to both the Missouri and Indiana Farm Bureau state conventions. David and Mary are founding members of the Crossroads Lutheran Church Historical Preservation Society, which rescued an historic 19th century abandoned church and, after many fund-raising events, restored the building and gained its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Philanthropically, the Howells annually fund the care of a child at Hope Children's Home in India and support the education of the older children of this home. They also actively participated in the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts through Red Gold, Inc. David has served on the Purdue Dean of Agriculture's Advisory Committee. He was instrumental in establishing the first corn check-off program in Indiana and served on the first Indiana Corn Marketing Council board of directors as Vice President. David also served as chairman ofthe U.S. Grains Council's Asia A-Team and represented them on their corn production tour of China and at the formal signing of the new Free Trade Agreement in Columbia. He also served on the Advisory Council on Agriculture, Small Business and Labor for the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, and has twice testified before Congressional committees. David has served his home community on the board of directors for First Merchants Bank and Ivy Tech Region 6, and as chairman of the Delaware County Extension Council and the Muncie Delaware Metropolitan Plan Commission where he helped establish the first agriculturalzone in Indiana. Currently, David is a member of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Trade and Biotechnology A-Team, and he serves on the advisory boards of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) and the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture. Mary was active as the Fall Creek Township boy's 4-H club leader, and served on the Wapahani Girl Scout Council board of directors. The farm they've built has been host to numerous tours, many of which showcased their innovations and management practices, including the Indiana Farm ManagementTour, the Purdue Agriculture New Faculty Tour, Congressional Town Hall Meeting, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture's Midwest Farm Tour and the Royal Netherlands Agriculture Minister's Midwestern Tour. On other occasions they've hosted trade missions from Taiwan and China, helping to enhance U.S. grain exports. David and Mary were named honorary commissioners of agriculture by Indiana Lt. Gov. John Mutz. They have received multiple Red Gold Master Grower awards and the Reichart Award for professionalism and excellence in the tomato industry. David was awarded the Order of the Red Tie by Indiana Horticulture Congress and in 2008 was named a Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus by Purdue University. In 2011, David and Mary were jointly named Master Farmers by Purdue University and Prairie Farmer magazine.