Middletown, IN | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2008
Besides traditional corn and soybean
crops, the fruits of David W. Howell’s
labor are evidenced in semi-truck loads
of watermelons, tomatoes, pumpkins,
and sweet corn, today grown on 5,000
acres in four Indiana counties. He’s also
lending a hand to his son’s operations on
15,000 acres in Bahia, Brazil, raising
soybeans, sorghum, and cotton.
With farmers on both sides of his
family, Howell was born into the
business, growing up on a Delaware
County farm. He came to Purdue for his
bachelor’s and master’s, both in
agricultural economics. “It opened many
doors for me and my family, and I
learned to think, ‘Why not do this?’ and
to go ahead and do it,” he says.
He and his wife Mary struck out on
their own in 1972, borrowing equipment
from his father and leasing 300 acres.
Operations grew over the years and
diversification kept them going. They
planted a 3,000-tree apple farm in 1981.
And for 10 years until 2007, their
operations included fresh market fruits
and vegetables. Each season, they employ
more than 400.
That they are still farming counts as his
greatest achievement, Howell says.
“That’s what I’m most proud of, besides
my family. We were able to be full-time
farmers when so many of my peers
He’s also served the industry and his
community — on bank, education,
Extension, and governmental boards —
and regularly hosting farm tours. He
recently helped rescue a 19th century
church building, now a community
center. His awards include Honorary
Indiana Commissioner of Agriculture,
Red Gold Master Grower, and Order of
the Red Tie from Indiana Horticulture
In his spare time, Howell enjoys
working some more, traveling, and the
political process. “I work behind the
scenes when I’m asked. I enjoy the
smoke-filled room much more than I
do the front page,” he says.
“At Purdue, I learned how to reason, logically work
through alternatives, and find answers,
as well as understand the fundamentals
of many disciplines. I gained the confidence
to move ahead and innovate.”