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About Us

The Purdue Small Farm & Sustainable Agriculture Team formed several years ago to support the growing number of small and alternative farming operations. The team is a collaborative effort, engaging researchers, educators, and farmers to help foster this diverse community.

The team meets a few times throughout the year to discuss current and future initiatives addressing small and alternative farming operations.

One major initiative the team has been addressing is the creation of an annual conference to bring together farmers, educators and researchers to create a supportive network for those engaged in this field and an opportunity to share knowledge. In 2013, we had the first Indiana Small Farm Conference in Dannville, which had over 200 attendees, 5 tracks, and 45 sessions. We look forward to continuing this annual event, and hope it will continue to provide a chance to build this community.

Small Farms Team

Name:  Michael O'Donnell

Position:  Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources

County or Department:  Delaware County

Areas of Interest:  Soil health, cover crops, vegetable production, pastured poultry and eggs, and agronomy

Short Bio: Michael O’Donnell is the Small Farm Team Coordinator and a Indiana Small Farm Conference Planning Committee Member. He is the Purdue Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator in Delaware County.  Originally from West Lafayette, IN, he earned B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.  Prior to joining Purdue Extension in 2012, he worked at Moody Meats, Lone Pine Farms in Montgomery County, IN.  He and his family operate Pinehurst Farm, a small diversified farm in Daleville, where they raise vegetables, eggs, and pastured poultry.

Name: Steve Engleking

Position:Extension Educator of Agriculture and Natural Resources

County or Department: Lagrange County

Areas of Interest: Small and beginning farmers

Steve Engleking is the Purdue Extension Educator of Agriculture and Natural Resources in LaGrange County where he has served since 1995. LaGrange County is the center of the second largest Amish settlement in the United States with approximately 19,000 Amish residents in the county. LaGrange County has 2419 farms (#1 in Indiana) with an average size of 84 acres. In addition, the county has the most farms that are certified organic with 52% of all certified organic farms in Indiana. As a result, Steve has focused a majority of his work in the area of small farms and has been instrumental in developing a “beginning farmer” educational program for Indiana small farmers. He has helped to establish and also co-chairs the Purdue Extension Indiana Small Farm Conference. Steve enjoys teaching and helping people improve their lives through his Extension work.

Name: Jodee Ellett

Position: Local Foods Coordinator

County or Department: Purdue Extension

Short Bio: Jodee Ellett is the Local Foods Coordinator for Purdue Extension. She was hired in the beginning of 2013 to coordinate issues pertaining to local foods. She addresses campus issues such as creating a Purdue Food Hub and presenting to classes interested in learning more about local food. She is developing educational and outreach resources for Extension including a website, workshops, trainings and tours to support county offices and Educators. Jodee works with state-wide partners such as the Indiana State Departments of Agriculture, Health, Education, and the Indiana Cooperative Development center on programs such as Farm to School, Good Agricultural Practices and Indiana Grown. She is available to work with growers and buyers of local food, but she also works with post-harvest businesses to address issues in processing, packaging and storage of local food. Her main focus is to rebuild the local food system in Indiana, providing hands-on community development, programming, education and outreach for individuals, groups and communities looking to coordinate their local food initiatives and take advantage of this opportunity.

Name: Roy Ballard

Position: Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Coordinator of Indiana Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

Short Bio: Roy Ballard is the Purdue Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources for Hancock County. For the past 8 years and for Floyd County for the 14 years prior to that, Roy has had the pleasure of working with a very diverse clientele from farmers producing tobacco, corn, soybeans, hog and cattle to those with niche markets in vegetables, fruit, agritourism, mushrooms, flowers, botanicals to name just a few.

During his Extension career Roy has dedicated much of his time to assisting small farm owners who desire to diversify their existing operations with new enterprises and new marketing systems and with beginning farmers seeking ways to keep their acreage productive, profitable and personally rewarding.

Increasing access by the consumer to Indiana grown and value added products is a priority of Roy’s work in Extension.

Roy holds a B.S. degree in Agricultural Education from Purdue University and a Masters Degree in Secondary Education from Indiana University. He has used this training to instruct Vocational Horticulture students for 12 years and to help farmers and other rural landowners to remain sustainable in the face of substantial change in the rural community.

Roy also serves as the Indiana Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Coordinator. In that role he works to increase awareness of Indiana Educators and the public on current and emerging issues in and pertaining to Sustainable Agriculture through support of related workshops, webinars, conferences, tours, field day and other means of educational outreach. He also provides support to farmers and others who are interested in seeking appropriate sources of grants and loans to start, expand or diversify a farm enterprise.

Roy is a beekeeper and a gardener in his time away from the office.

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Name:  Paul Ebner

Position:  Associate Professor

County or Department: Department of Animal Sciences

Areas of Interest: Food Safety and Microbiology

Short Bio: Paul Ebner, Ph.D., specializes in food safety and developing new ways to control microbial pathogens in both livestock and food. He helps organize the Indiana Small Conference, especially the Student Research Symposium.

Address: 915 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN  47907


Name:  Corinne Alexander

Position: Associate Professor and Extension Economist

County or Department: Department of Agricultural Economics

Areas of Interest: Specialty Crop Marketing, Economics of Organic

Short Bio: Corinne Alexander, Ph.D., conducts research on farmer adoption of organic production practices and organic certification. She has worked on specialty crop markets in general, with a focus on organic grains and dairy.

Address: 403 W. State St., West Lafayette, IN 47907


Name:  Amy Thompson

Position: Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources

County or Department: Monroe County

Areas of Interest: Beginning farmers, fruits, vegetables and season extension

Short Bio: Amy Thompson has been a Small Farms team member since 2006.  She enjoys working one on one with farmers and helping them connect to resources and addressing issues on their farms. She has coordinated a number of training events on season extension, soils, flowers and fruit and vegetable production.


Name: Mark Kepler

Position: Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources

County or Department: Fulton County

Areas of Interest: Livestock

Short Bio: Mark Kepler is a 29-year Extension Educator with a Master's Degree in Animal Science.  He has a beef cow and goat herd and raises chickens and rabbits. He teaches programs on livestock including beginning livestock production and coordinates the Sheep and Goat Webinars


Name: Sarah Hanson

Position: Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources

County or Department: Johnson County

Areas of Interest: Animal behavior and sustainable farm culture

Short Bio: Sarah Hanson works on the website content and marketing for the Small Farms Conference.


Name: Lori Hoagland

Position: Assistant Professor, Specialty Crop Production Systems

County or Department: Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Areas of Interest: Soil health, organic and low-input farming, vegetable breeding, and on-farm research

Short Bio: The primary goal of Professor Lori Hoagland’s position is to conduct research that will help specialty crop growers improve the productivity and sustainability of their cropping systems. Current research projects include identification of cultural practices that build soil health, enhance nutrient cycling efficiency, and biological mediation pathogens. She is also working work with vegetable breeders to develop new tomato and carrot varieties that hold desirable market traits, are well adapted to local environmental conditions, and thrive in organic and low-input farming systems. Many of these projects are conducted on-farm, in collaboration with local growers.

Address: 625 Agriculture Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47906


Name:  Kris Medic

Position:  Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Economic and Community Development

County or Department:  Bartholomew County

Short Bio: Kris Medic is the Bartholomew County Extension Educator in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Economic and Community Development.  She is thrilled to assist people in all things agriculture, and to work for her alma mater. In addition to Purdue University, Kris is an alumna of the University of Delaware, where she was a Longwood Graduate Fellow.  She is author of The New American Backyard, published by Rodale in 2001.  She is a Board-Certified Master Arborist and past president of the Indiana Arborist Association.

Address:  1971 State Street, Columbus, IN 47201-6965


Name:  Mike Hornbach

Position: Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Economics and Community Development and County Extension Director

County or Department:  Dearborn County

Areas of Interest:  Small farms and marketing

Short Bio:  Mike Hornbach received both his Bachelors and Masters Degree from Purdue University in the field of agriculture education.  Prior to joining Purdue Extension, he taught vocational agriculture for eight years at the high school level.  For the past 24 years he has been an extension educator with Purdue University in Dearborn County.  During his first 19 years of extension work he served as the 4-H youth development educator in Dearborn County, and the past five years he has served as the agriculture and natural resources educator.  He has hosted a GAP’s training for producers in the Southeast Indiana Area.  He routinely answers questions and offers advice on gardening and has taught a basic gardening workshop for beginning gardeners.  He has continued a community garden project that began about 18 years ago.  The community garden project, in cooperation with the city of Aurora offers garden space and educational assistance to those that don’t have adequate space to garden at their residence.  Mike helped to revitalize the local master gardener association, and one of their projects has been the planting and care of several demonstration gardens located within the community garden area.  Mike has coordinated the master gardener program for the past five years and has taught the soils section of the 12 week course.  As part of the local extension office team project titled “Eat Your Way to Better Health, he taught lessons for 3rd graders covering growing potatoes and careers in the field of horticulture.  Mike enjoys gardening at home and providing information for others to succeed. 

Address:  229 Main Street, Aurora, IN 47001