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Bells Named Indiana Farm Family of the Year

January 26, 2006

Bell Family

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

Ed and Debbie Bell of Hagerstown received the award with their 13-year-old daughter, Nellie.

The annual award was presented by Beck's Hybrids, Indiana AgriNews and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

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.

"When we think of all of the fine farm families in Indiana, we are truly honored to be chosen," Ed Bell said. "We try to practice what we preach by working hard to love God and serve our neighbors. We see our farm as another opportunity to put this belief into practice."

The Bells raise black raspberries, black berries, asparagus and strawberries, as well as American Kennel Club-registered purebred Doberman dogs on their 72-acre farm.

Ed and his father, George, operated a more traditional grain and livestock farm. But, after Ed was paralyzed from a gunshot wound as a result of a violent crime attack, the hogs were phased out and replaced with the berry business.

This has allowed the Bells to stay active in agriculture. Bell's Strawberry Farm now is celebrating its 21st year of raising strawberries.

In addition to farming, Ed also has become an advocate for the agricultural industry - and farmers with disabilities, in particular - as a member of Purdue University's Breaking New Ground Advisory Council and the Purdue Ag Marketing Advisory Board. The family even hosted Purdue's annual Farm Management Tour in 1992.

Ed now also works as a motivational speaker and is an account executive for the Standing Wheelchair Co., which manufactures standing wheelchairs, chairs that elevate from a seated position to place operators in a standing position.

Locally, Ed is a member of Indiana Farm Bureau and the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee, chaplain at the Masonic Lodge in Hagerstown and elder at the First Baptist Church in New Castle, where his wife and daughter also are active. He also has been a member of the Kiwanis Club in Richmond and the Rotary Club in Hagerstown.

Ed also has been a board member of the Central Indiana Easter Seal Society, founding director of the Independent Living Center of Eastern Indiana, chairman of the accessibility committee for the Billy Graham Crusade and vice chairman of the Indiana State ADA Steering Committee, as well as held various leadership positions for the Indiana Governor's Planning Council for People with Disabilities.

Debbie has had several leadership roles at Psi Iota Xi, a national philanthropic sorority, and is a member of the Indiana State Nurses Association. Nellie is active in several 4-H clubs, the Hagerstown FFA and a local soccer league. In addition, both Debbie and Nellie will be going to Guatemala in March serving on a medical mission's team. To learn more about the Bells, visit their Website at

"It not only is important to us that we are good stewards on our farm, but it is also important that we are good stewards with our time," Ed said.

"We believe that God has put each of us here for a purpose, and that is to ultimately serve him by serving others. Our family tries to manage our time, gifts and skills in our community to maximize that effect."

As Indiana's Farm Family of the Year, Indiana Agriculture Director Andy Miller presented the Bells with a plaque. They also received a yard sign and gift certificates for the Glenbrook Square and Commons shopping mall in Fort Wayne.

The family also will be honored during the Farmers Day activities at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. And the Bells will receive a vacation package based on their own interests.