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The Leininger Family now is Indiana's Farm Family of the Year

January 10, 2007

Leininger Family

FORT WAYNE, Ind. - The Leininger Family now is Indiana's Farm Family of the Year. The St. Joseph County family was honored during a presentation at the Fort Wayne Farm Show.

Ed and Linda Leininger of Mishawaka received the award with their four children and five grandchildren. Their son, Joe, is a partner in the farm, as well as Chad Rink, who has been a part of the family since he was 12 years old.

Daughter Brenda was the farm's accountant for many years. But, after earning a bachelor's degree in education from Indiana University last year, now works as a fifth-grade teacher at Wa-Nee Community Schools. 

She and her husband, Brian Beehler, a machinist at Maitland Engineering Inc. in South Bend, have two children: nine-year-old Megan and six-year-old Jared.

Oldest son Jeff primarily works off the farm for Intervet Inc., selling animal pharmaceuticals, feed additives and vaccines. He and his wife, Jennifer, who operates Gymnastics in Motion, teaching gymnastics at area daycare centers, have three children: Jordan, 9; Jasmine, 7; and Jacob, 4.

Chad, who earned an associate's degree in production agriculture at Blackhawk College in 1994, has worked on the farm for more than 20 years. His wife, Katie, works as a certified nursing assistant at a doctor's office in Granger.

In all, the family raises 3,000 acres of corn and 1,800 acres of soybeans, as well as eight acres of pumpkins and five acres of sweet corn. They also operate a freezer beef business, raising about 20 Angus cattle annually.

Each family member has a role in the management of the farm: Ed and Chad oversee the corn; Joe supervises the soybeans; Jeff is in charge of the cattle; and Linda and Brenda together manage the farm's record-keeping system, which involves creating and analyzing precision farming maps for global positioning systems and variable rate fertilizer applications.

"Effective communication is a key factor in the success of working together on the family farm," Brenda explained. "A strong commitment upholding integrity and solid values when working with our landlords, neighbors, suppliers and bankers is also important."

Ed stressed the family is building on the foundation established by his parents, William and Elnora, and grandparents, Earl and Margaret, who originated the farm.

"The opportunity provided for the family farm is attributed to the generations preceding us," Ed said, adding each family member works diligently to leave their farm and community a better place than they found it.

In turn, each rented property is lovingly treated as if it actually was owned by the family. The family owns 500 acres and rents the rest of its farmland.

The farmstead has evolved from a 200-sow farrow-to-finish confinement hog operation, which functioned from 1976 to 1995, to today's large grain business. The pumpkin enterprise started only a few years ago, but has quickly grown into a big - and very profitable - segment of the farm.

Joe, who received a bachelor's degree in animal sciences at the University of Illinois in 1997, said the farm family's goal is "to continue to develop our niche markets and adapt to our urban environment while still trying to farm commercial crops."

Linda said the family is very honored to be chosen as the Indiana Farm Family of the Year.

"Everyone was quite surprised that we were selected for this award, considering how many family farms that are in operation in Indiana," she said.

Now in its 10th year, the annual award was presented by family businesses Beck's Hybrids and Indiana AgriNews. It honors an outstanding Hoosier family for their contributions on and off the farm and is aimed at increasing awareness of the valiant efforts of farm families in Indiana.

Ed, who graduated from Purdue with a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics in 1970, has been a member of Indiana Farm Bureau for 35 years and the Knights of Columbus for 20 years. He also has been an advisor to the county Farm Service Agency office for 18 years and was a 4-H township leader for 15 years.

Brenda, Jeff and Katie also are 4-H township leaders. Jeff - who earned bachelor's and master's degrees in animal sciences at Purdue University in 1994 and 1997, respectively - is a member of the St. Joseph County 4-H Fair Board and is a township baseball coach, as well.

Chad explained the family is active in the local community "to build relationships, inspire and teach our youth and promote goodwill both inside and outside the farming community."

As Indiana's farm family of the year, the Leiningers received a special plaque, a yard sign and a $250 shopping spree at the Glenbrook Square and Commons in Fort Wayne. 

The family also has been invited to attend the Farmers Day activities at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis and will receive a vacation package based on their own interests.

Previous recipients of the Indiana Farm Family of the Year award include:

  • 1998 - The Kohlhagen Family of Jasper County
  • 1999 - The Walker Family of Blackford County
  • 2000 - The Bontrager Family of Elkhart County
  • 2001 - The Stinson Family of Clinton County
  • 2002 - The Ambriole Family of Huntington County
  • 2003 - The Schlatter Family of Allen County
  • 2004 - The Johnson Family of Orange County
  • 2005 - The Perkins Family of LaGrange County
  • 2006 - The Bell Family of Wayne County

Beck's Hybrids is a family-owned and operated seed company that serves farmers throughout Indiana and selected counties in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky. According to a recent media survey, Beck's ranks as the sixth largest seed company in the United States and the only one in the top six that is family-owned, making Beck's the largest retail family-owned seed company in the U.S.