More than 200 guests visited the G&D Smoker Farm located on US 30 just east of Wanatah on Thursday, July 28, for the 2016 La Porte County Row Crop and Farm Bureau Young Farmers Agricultural Tour and Barbecue.
Starting at 4 p.m., guests were guided on tours of the family farming operation that has been in business since 1943 when Dwight Smoker moved from Goshen, IN, to purchase the farm near Wanatah. Greg and Deb Smoker, the third generation of Smokers to feed cattle at this location, along with their children Jacob, Matthew, Joseph and Melissa, provided an overview of their farming operation during afternoon tour stops.
Deb Smoker and daughter Melissa described the farm’s early to current history while standing in the iconic 1938 barn that was named one of the top ten Hoosier barns for Indiana’s bicentennial.
Jacob Smoker described the farming operation’s storage facilities and field crops program, explaining that they have recently added two grain bins for more grain storage and have transitioned to more specialty crops from traditional corn and soybean commodity crops. The crop mix now also includes seed corn, non-GMO field corn, plenish soybeans, cucumbers, wheat, milo, sorghum, barley and hay.
Matthew Smoker, a recent Purdue graduate with a degree in Animal Sciences, will join the operation in 2017. Standing in front of a massive concrete feed and silage bunker, he described the ingredients that go into the feed rations to raise the cattle from young feeder calves to steers of market weights.
Joseph Smoker gave animated descriptions of his fabrication work to modify, repair and build equipment used on the farm. Given the wear and tear on both the machinery used for crops and the livestock equipment, Joe keeps very busy using his skills that won him top honors at the state FFA welding contest.
Greg Smoker, who joined his father Jim Smoker in 1977, explained the process of managing the health of the cattle that they feed, emphasizing that prevention of diseases through vaccinations is key to keeping cattle healthy while maximizing feed conversion and rates of gain. Smokers helped pilot the Indiana Beef Evaluation and Economics Feeding (IBEEF) program and for 16 years have helped growers of beef cattle learn more about their breeding programs by giving statistics for rates of gain, finish rates and harvest results. Greg and Deb are the third generation of Smokers to be awarded Indiana’s Top Cattlemen award which they received in 2014. Greg also showed the volumes of records that they maintain annually in order to comply with the state’s environmental requirements for confined animal feeding operations.
Following the tours, guests were treated to a ribeye steak meal with all of the fixin’s prepared by Row Crop members. Grilling the ribeyes to perfection were Jim and Phyllis Smoker and their daughter Rita and her husband Todd Shireman, all of whom have plenty of experience doing the same tasks at county fairs and other events on behalf of the North Central Indiana Cattleman’s Association.
During the meal, Dr. Tom Peters, an international livestock consultant and nutritionist for the Smoker’s operation, spoke about the importance of livestock agriculture to our local communities and for helping feed the world. On display for guests to see was a 1952 Massey Harris 55 tractor that was purchased new by Dwight Smoker and recently restored by Dwight’s son Jerry Smoker.
Two Row Crop agricultural scholarships were presented at the barbecue by Unity Foundation of La Porte County to Ashley DeWitt of Kingsbury, a 2015 La Porte High School graduate studying veterinary science at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, and Bailey Kiff of Wanatah, a 2015 LaCrosse High School graduate studying veterinary science at Purdue University.
A highlight of the evening was a formal introduction of the Smoker family to the gathered crowd. Greg and Deb Smoker introduced each of their children and two of their sons’ wives, but were most proud to introduce their first grandchild born just three weeks ago and a fifth-generation member of the Smoker family. Their farm motto states: Keeping traditions alive while growing and striving for the future. Smokers demonstrated very well that they are following their motto!