George, Speckles and Quinn stole the show at Culver’s of Valparaiso Sunday, enjoying a day of affectionate new friends. The two rabbits and sheepdog were out front of the restaurant as a part of a special day, celebrating agricultural pride and supporting the millions of Americans who keep food on the nation’s tables.
“Thank a Farmer Day” is an annual Culver’s tradition, bringing animals, farming equipment, 4-H Club members, and Future Farmers of America to Valparaiso’s location at 2101 Laporte Avenue on Sunday. In addition, 10 percent of all sales from the day will be donated to the local 4-H Club and Morgan Township Future Farmers of America. The event featured freebies, a tractor on display, and mini pedaling tractors for the kids.
“It’s our way of giving back to the farmers, because it all starts with them,” said Mary Foster, Culver’s of Valparaiso General Manager. “Culver’s is very big into being farm fresh, from our chicken tenders to our burgers, all are farm raised.”
Foster said Culver’s depends on farmers to stay in business, so keeping agricultural jobs afloat is crucial.
“It’s very important to support nearby groups in agriculture,” Foster said. “We have to keep farms going strong, we wouldn’t have any ingredients without them.”
Culver’s isn’t the only organization dedicated to lending a helping hand; 4-H Club continues to shape and support young people and the community. For example, Courtney Maxwell’s time growing up in 4-H Club shaped her future, which is why she said it’s an important organization to support. Maxwell, who is an alumnus on the club’s Junior Fair Board, is currently going to Purdue West Lafayette to study agricultural communications.
“I learned everything in 4-H,” she said. “Making lifelong friends, work ethic, dedication, really everything and anything.”
Bentley Wilson, 7-year 4-H member, president of her 4-H Club and a member of the Junior Leaders 4-H Council, brought two special guests to the festivities: her rabbits, Speckles and Quinn.
“It’s important to let people know that there are other things to be involved with than school and sports,” Wilson said. “In 4-H, there’s so much to do, it gives a lot more to do in the summer and there’s so many crafts. I work on 17 projects a year in animals, heritage projects, cooking, farming...”
Bentley Wilson and her family have a livestock farm in Winfield of primarily sheep, ducks, and goats, along with some cows, turkeys, rabbits and more. Her dad, Ben Wilson, is a registered 4-H volunteer and the father-daughter duo works together to do anything from general animal care to birthing calves. He said educating the public about farming is an important mission.
“We need farmers to eat,” Ben Wilson said. “A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from. We tell the kids, ‘the food doesn’t get made in the grocery store.’”
David King, FFA president, said the funds raised from the day will greatly help young members pay dues and will support future club activities.
“It’s a partnership; Culver’s is very good about giving back to the community,” King said. “It’s a good opportunity for people to learn about agriculture and farming, and to get people involved. FFA is a good opportunity for American youth to better themselves, and it looks good on military and college applications, and it will help you later in life.”
Ben Wilson, who comes from a farming family himself, said 98 percent of the nation’s population was farmers, now it’s down to 2 percent. That’s why groups like 4-H club and FFA are so vital to keeping the farming community thriving.
“Not many people know this, but Indiana is No. 1 in the nation for ducks, and No. 2 in tomatoes,” he said. “So Indiana is a very important state when it comes to agriculture. We’re here to fundraise, but also to educate. We need to get young kids interested in farming… Having places like this helps us get the word out in the right way.”