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Whaley Farms Partnership

Sharing, education part of Whaleys’ legacy
Newton County farm family enjoys bridging the gap between producers and consumers

Perhaps driven by challenges and hard work, farm families take their history and legacy seriously. That rings especially true for the Whaleys — whose family name is among the earliest to show up in Newton County records, dating back to the 1800s.

Their farming legacy continues today with John Whaley, his wife, Brooke, and two sons, Brock and Blake, and the Whaley Farms Partnership. The Whaleys grow corn and soybeans and their farm shop is located just a few miles from where John grew up.

“I remember farming with my great-grandfather, my grandfather and my father,” John said.

After losing his dad to kidney cancer in 2002, John and his grandfather worked hard to continue their family’s farming legacy.

“My goal has always been to try to make it. I wanted to get to the point where I could provide an opportunity for our sons to farm,” John said. “My grandfather retired from farming when he was 85 — something he intended to do 10 years prior. But he promised my dad he wouldn’t let me go broke.”

While they’ve had their share of hard times, John takes pride in how far their farm has come over the years and he continues to focus on the big picture — feeding a growing population.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve efficiency ­— to produce more with less,” he said.

While working toward those goals is challenging, pinpointing his favorite part of farming comes easy for John — harvest. “You work all year for that. You work all year and pray that there’s something in the end. That corn goes to livestock and livestock goes to feed people. And then the cycle starts all over again.”

Bridging the gap between producer and consumer

In addition to growing corn and soybeans, John and his family are active in their community and look for opportunities to familiarize their non-farming friends and neighbors with modern food production practices.

“We want consumers to understand that we’re doing everything in our power to provide the safest, most viable product we can supply,” John said. “We have had friends ask to bring their kids out during harvest or come out and watch planting. I say, ‘absolutely.’ I am happy to share what we do here.”

The family also enjoys connecting with consumers at the Indiana State Fair every year. John and Brooke grew up showing livestock in their county 4-H programs. It was a sad day when their youngest son, Blake, recently aged out of the program. But the Whaleys plan to remain involved in 4-H and local county fairs, along with the state fair — and they have a lifetime of great memories.

“The state fair is huge for Indiana agriculture,” John said. “It’s a unique chance to showcase what we do every day.”

Brooke, who works as a program technician for the Farm Service Agency — a job that she’s been at for 23 years — found that animals can be a great way to start a conversation with fairgoers. So, each year, Brooke trained her sons’ show pigs to sit for jelly beans.

“When people asked to pet the pig, I would tell the pig to sit and they could give it a jelly bean,” Brooke said. “It was an easy way to connect with people and give them some exposure to our industry.”

The Whaleys have worked hard to grow their operation and share their story along the way. John’s goal of providing his sons the opportunity to farm continues moving toward reality. Brock recently graduated from college with an agribusiness degree and will return to the farm full time. Blake is currently a freshman at Purdue University, studying farm management. Both Brock and Blake plan to build on the Whaley family’s long farm legacy in Newton County.

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