Nov. 28, 2011
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Fish Fry tickets now available

Howard Buffett grew to embrace life as farmer

By Tom Campbell

Howard Buffet

Photo provided

While his base of operation is his Decatur, Ill. farm, Howard Buffett remains tied to his roots in Nebraska. "It's like they say," Buffett said, explaining his shirt, "you can take me out of Nebraska, but you can't take the Nebraska out of me."

Howard Buffett says he didn’t know much about agriculture in his youth, despite growing up in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Agriculture didn’t mean much to me,” said Buffett, son of billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett and guest speaker at the 2012 Agricultural Alumni Association Fish Fry in February. “In fact, I don’t think I knew the difference between corn and beans until I got into high school.”

Buffett since has been making up for lost time by immersing himself in farming over the past 30 years. 

Now 56, the president of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation operates a 1,240-acre farm in central Illinois; manages a 400-acre, family-owned farm in eastern Nebraska; and oversees two research farms the foundation owns: a 1,300-acre farm in Decatur, Ill., and a 9,200-acre operation in South Africa.

So what made him jump so fervently into agriculture?

“My mom says it was because I didn’t have enough Tonka toys when I was growing up,” he joked. “But for me, the attraction to agriculture is that I love the equipment, I love the dirt, and I love being outdoors.”

Buffett started the Howard G. Buffett Foundation in 1999 with a mission to improve the standard of living and quality for the world’s most marginalized populations.  The foundation annually provides $40 million to $55 million in grant funding. In the past decade, it has funded projects in more than 74 countries, primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America but lately also in the United States.

“The situation with hunger far exceeds what most people are aware of,” Buffett said. “In the United States alone, 50 million people live in households at risk of hunger. Our foundation has spent a great deal of time dealing with food security issues around the world, but within the past few years, we have been focusing more and more on issues here at home.”

At the Fish Fry, Buffett will speak on food insecurity in America and some potential solutions.

“As farmers, we are facing many challenges in the future,” he said. “We need to think long-term about our productivity levels. The American farmer can feed the world, but how well are we feeding our own country?” 

The Fish Fry will be Feb. 4 in the Marsh Blue Ribbon Pavilion on the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis starting at 11:30 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time).

For more information, Fish Fry patrons can go online at and download a printable ticket order form or call the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association at 765-494-8593, said Danica Kirkpatrick, engagement program manager for Purdue's College of Agriculture.

Tickets are $20 each or $200 for a table of 10.

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