Web Extra

​​Feldun-PAC Helps Make a Dream Farm Come True

By Olivia Maddox

When Judy Fisher was growing up in Bedford, Indiana, she used to go hunting and fishing with her dad. She had such an affinity for the outdoors and the land that she that she begged her parents to buy a farm. She didn't get the farm then, but she didn't give up the dream either.

Through hard work, perseverance and help from Feldun-Purdue Agricultural Center, Judy was able to make her dream come true—just not quite the way she had planned.

Farming the Hard Way

After high school, Judy married Frank Meadows, a local farm boy who had enlisted in the military. After he mustered out, she surprised him in 1969 by buying a 100-acre farm on U.S. 50 west of Bedford.

But four years later, the marriage ended. Suddenly a single mom with two young sons, she doggedly refused to give up on her dream or the farm. In 1973, she was left with two heifers that wouldn't sell, 60 percent of the unpaid debt on the property and no equipment. With help from two neighboring high school boys, and later her sons, she fenced the entire property by hand, from digging postholes to stringing wire. She rented out the farm on shares and sometimes worked two 40-hour-a-week jobs to make the mortgage payment.

In 1980, she bought her first tractor, an old Ford 4000. Two year later, she added a larger tractor and a beat-up rotary mower and married Mike Chandler, who shared her dream of building the farm. In 1996, she purchased an adjacent 308 acres, reclaiming a 62-acre field for agriculture by eliminating thorn and Osage orange trees.

Judy ChandlerJudy Chandler hand feeds an apple to a cow, a favorite she raised on the farm. She credits Feldun-PAC with teaching her about cattle and forages. Bulls from the bull test station sale have improved her herd, she says. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

During the first 25 years Judy learned a lot about farming—the "hard way," she says. By then, she wanted to learn to do everything the right way. "I fell in love with the land the minute I saw it, and I wanted to do right by the place."

Learning from Feldun-PAC

Judy reached out to Feldun-PAC and public agencies for help. "I loved cattle," she says. "I wanted to start over and raise cattle and hay, and do it the way it should be done." Richard Huntrods, then superintendent of Feldun-Purdue Agricultural Center; Jerry Lish, Indiana Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist; and Janet Eger, Indiana Department of Natural Resources district forester came to her aid.

"I had like 114 questions that I wanted answers to," she says. "They all really helped me: Richard with the cattle; Jerry with getting watering systems, natural habitats and wetlands; and Janet with the forest and timber." In an era when few women were running farms, Judy, who ran into early resistance from some of her neighbors, was grateful that neither her gender nor lack of experience mattered to them.

Judy credits Huntrods with getting her started in cattle again. He helped her pick out some heifers and taught her how to choose a bull based on what she wanted out of the calves. Her purchases included replacement heifers sold from the Feldun-Purdue herd and bulls from the Feldun-based bull test station's semiannual sale.

Judy took advantage of classes through Purdue Extension in addition to working with experts one on one. "Purdue brings in a lot of educational programs in about forage, about cattle, about anything you need to know or need help with," she says. "Purdue's there for you. They've not only been helpful, they've been friends, too. That makes a big difference."

Farm Sets the Bar High

Judy and Mike use two utility vehicles to not just work but enjoy the farm. They must stop to open and close numerous gates, evidence of all the fencing for rotational grazing Judy set up for her Angus herd. Waterers throughout the pastures now supply the herd. The cattle have been fenced out of the White River, which runs through the property, and the spring-cave water systems to prevent animal waste runoff.

Judy now has more than 100 acres of classified forest, 54 of classified wildlife and nine in wetlands. She became the first woman appointed to the Lawrence County Soil and Water Conservation District Board and served on the White River Resource Conservation and Development Council. She's received several awards for forest stewardship and environmental practices. Boy Scout activities, school tours, Purdue Forage Day and other local Purdue Extension programs have been held on Judy's farm.

With Purdue's help, Judy made her dream of farming come true. Now she uses her land and expertise to preserve the environment and educate others.