Farm honored for rural preservation

GREENFIELD — When Mike Maroska’s great-grandfather Johnston Frank established his Greenfield farm in the 1830s, he likely had no idea his descendants would still be making their living the same way more than 180 years later.

But six generations after Frank built the barn with his bare hands, his family members are still working the land in the same location, a feat recently recognized by Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau.

Walnut Leaf Farm, Maroska’s 185-year-old family homestead, located north of Greenfield, was awarded the 2015 Arnold Award for Rural Preservation at the Indiana State Fair last week.

The annual Arnold Award is named in memory of John Arnold, a Rush County farmer who was committed to preserving Indiana’s rural heritage; and preservation is something that’s important to the Maroska family.

Seeing their efforts recognized was an “quite an honor,” Maroska said.

He remembers playing at the farm as a child, as his grandparents often hosted family dinners and reunions. After they died, Maroska bought the house from his grandparents’ estate in 1989 and has lived there since with his wife, Kris.

They raised two boys on the property, and he hopes to keep the farm in the family as long as possible.

“I’m hoping that a grandson will want to take it on,” Maroska said. “He’s only 3 right now, but I want this place to be preserved.”

The farm was established in the 1830s, and Maroska said the first barn and farmhouse were built in the 1850s, with an addition added to the house in the early 1900s.

In the past, the farm’s heritage and the Maroskas’ caretaking helped the family receive a Hoosier Homestead Award from the state and an award for rural preservation from Greenfield Historic Landmarks.

Frank built three barns, a fieldstone garage and a shed, in addition to the farmhouse, according to a news release from Indiana Landmarks.

After decades of being divided among family members, the original property has been whittled down to 20 acres, but the family’s dedication to preservation is something Indiana Landmarks officials said was worthy of the award.

“It’s a wonderfully picturesque place and fully functional,” Indiana Landmarks spokesman Tommy Kleckner, manager of the Arnold Award program, said in a news release.

Maroska also farms 125 acres close to the property that belong to his mother, and he raises sheep and cattle.

The farm grows corn and soybeans, the landscape having changed very little from the time his great-grandfather tilled the first acre.

Although the entry had to be widened to accommodate modern farm machinery, after a fresh coat of red paint, the family barn still looks much like it did when Frank built it decades ago.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Maroska said. “I’m staying in that house as long as I’m able.”