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Carterly Farm

Generations of family on the farm
Carter Family enjoys sharing the farm with generations — human and bovine

If you stop at Carterly Farm, you won’t just find a dairy farm. You’ll find roller skates in the feed alley, a quiet porch swing and three generations of Carters.

You’ll find the peaceful lifestyle perfected on this family farm near Thorntown, Indiana.

“One of my favorite spots is my porch swing,” Margaret Carter said. “I can sit and kind of think about things and listen to the birds. I also enjoy other parts of our farm, like working out in the hayfield and seeing the cows graze the pastures. I can get a different perspective.”

The Carter family began farming at the current location in 1956. Charlie and Margaret Carter took over the farm in 1988. Today, three of their four children and 17 grandchildren are involved. The Carters milk a variety of cattle breeds and are active in 4-H and the grazing community.

Earlier this year, Charlie and Margaret were named Producers of the Year by the Indiana Dairy Producers.

The entire Carter family shares their lifestyle and invite their community into their little patch of heaven, as well. Every spring, the Carters kick off their annual calf leasing program where youth from the surrounding areas get a dairy calf to care for then show at the county fair.

What started with three participants and three calves has grown into dozens of participants, often filling the show ring at the Boone County 4-H Fair. Participants come to the farm several times weekly to work with their calves and are responsible for their care throughout the summer.

“We get to share our lifestyle and our values with these kids. There’s an opportunity to talk to these kids one-on-one, get to know them and share what we think is important in life,” Charlie Carter said.

Most of the participants don’t come from a farm or agriculture background, but after participating in the program, many eventually pursue careers in the agriculture industry. The Carters agree it’s rewarding to share their way of life.

"I think if a person doesn’t get the chance to get their hands in the soil, they lose their perspective on life,” Charlie said. “To see these kids, work hard all summer and then do well at the fair, that's a pretty good feeling.”

Both program participants and their calves depend on the Carters, who care for their animals regardless of busy schedules, a long to-do list or weather conditions.

“As a farmer, you’ve got cattle dependent on you. You've got to get out and get them fed and taken care of. Sure, there's rough days but those days are few and far between,” Charlie said.

Kelly MacKinnon, one of Charlie and Margaret’s daughters, pointed out that, over the years, not only have generations of Carters worked the farm, but they’ve watched generations of cows pass through their milking parlor.

“My dad is an incredible cowman. He knows these cows very well. I love that a lot of our cows are descended from my grandpa’s original herd,” she said. “It’s a privilege to be able to work with my family and have my kids grow up on the farm.”

This lifestyle has called to four generations of Carters and doesn’t seem likely to end soon.

“I love getting to see the sunrise coming through as I look out the milking parlor doors as the cows come through the barn. The birds are singing and I get a chance to appreciate God's creation,” Charlie said.

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