Greg and Deb Smoker of LaPorte County represent the third generation of “master farmers”

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Greg and Deb Smoker of Wanatah, LaPorte County, receive their Master Farmer Award with Karen Plaut, Dean of Purdue University College of Agriculture. Photo: CJ Miller/Hoosier Ag Today.

The Master Farmer Award is something LaPorte County’s Greg Smoker has known since he was ten years old. His father, James, was named a Master Farmer in 1996, and his grandfather Dwight received the same award in 1972. Today, Greg joins them both as the third generation Master Farmer award winner.

“I would never have dreamed of this. I can only thank God and [my wife] Deb. If it wasn’t for Deb, I wouldn’t stand for anything,’ Greg said as he fought back tears after receiving the Master Farmer Award he and his wife received.

Both Greg and Deb were among those honored Tuesday at the Master Farmer Awards Program at Beck’s Hybrids in Atlanta, Indiana, during the Purdue Farm Management Tour. The event was presented by Indiana Prairie Farmer and Purdue University College of Agriculture.

“He deserves it. I would say he’s one of the best cattlemen in the state — maybe in the country,” Deb Smoker said. They both raise cattle and crops near Wanatah, In northwestern Indiana.

Greg says the transition to the next generation of young farmers will be a critical time for the agriculture industry.

“It’s all about change,” Greg said. “It’s about where this next generation is going to take him. [My] generation [is] on the past. It’s up to the next generation to decide what [farming] will be.”

Deb says their son continues to adjust to the changes in farming.

“Our son Jacob is back on the farm and in technology. His drone and the information he learned at Purdue, he’s implemented all of these things to do wonderful things with crops,” Deb said.

Greg says that as technology has become more advanced, fewer young people are deciding to become farmers and take over the commercial operation of their parents and grandparents – as he did when he decided to cultivate like his father and grandfather.

“The biggest change I’ve seen [over my career] it’s that we’ve moved from forks to skid steer loaders,” Greg said. “Back then with pitchforks you had young kids and you could teach them a work ethic, you taught them responsibility, taught them a love of animals and [a] love of work. When we moved to skid steer loaders, everything became mechanized, whether it was grain or cattle. [What] what we lack in our community are young people who are learning this and they are no longer available.

You’ll read and hear more from each of the Master Farmer Award winners over the coming weeks on Hoosier Ag Today and HoosierAgToday.com.

The full list of 2022 Master Farmer Award winners honored on Tuesday:

  • Rob and Karen Dove, Elnora
  • David HardinAvon
  • Tom and Carol Nugent, Elnora
  • Mark and Sheryl Seib, Poseyville
  • Greg and Deb Smoker, Wanatah

Two Honorary Master Farmers were also inducted this year:

  • Bob Cherry, Greenfield
  • Gary Steinhardt, West La Fayette

Click BELOW to hear CJ Miller’s report on Greg and Deb Smoker of LaPorte County and how they represent a third generation of “Master Farmer” award winners.


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