Junior Miller and other Amish farmers in northeastern Indiana jumped at the chance to get out of factory jobs and back to the way of life they love — with some help from Purdue Extension.
To make ends meet, Amish farmers in LaGrange County often work off-farm jobs that take them away from their families and into factories. Many were able to get back to the farm by banding together to sell their produce through a member-run auction house. Purdue Extension's Steve Engleking helped them figure out how to make it work.
The Clear Spring Produce Auction grossed about $200,000 in 2000, its first year of operation. Engleking, a member of Purdue's New Ventures Team, advised farmers on ways to maintain quality and solve crop production problems. He also used Purdue resources to help them connect with brokers and buyers. By 2011, the auction's annual sales had grown to more than $1 million.
"Steve helped put things together and helped put us on track," says Miller, auction manager and auctioneer. "In this economic downturn it's brought more people back to their two to five acres, to get a living off that. And it's a good way to preserve the Amish lifestyle and way of thinking."