NEW PALESTINE — Sometime this summer, Jeff Lantz will find a special place to hang the sign recognizing his family’s contribution to farming.
For now, though, Lantz and family say they are thrilled after being recognized by the state with the Hoosier Homestead Award.
“I was 8 years old, and I knew back then that I would be a farmer,” Lantz said. “It just gets into your blood.”
State Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, recently congratulated the Lantz and Merlau families for earning the award, which recognize farms that have been owned and maintained by the same family for at least 100 years. The award was presented by Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Agriculture Director Gina Sheets at the Statehouse.
“The agriculture industry is the foundation of Indiana’s culture and economy,” Cherry said.
The Lantz Farm, located at 3421 S. CR 400W, dates to 1848. So the Lantzes are celebrating their sesquicentennial anniversary.
“Our family feels that it has been blessed by keeping ownership and farming the land that our forefathers homesteaded in 1848,” Lantz said.
“We’ve enjoyed being a part of this community for 165 years and are looking forward to the next 165 years.”
The Merlau Farm, at 2795 N. CR 500W, began operation in 1899, making this its 114th year in operation.
“I grew up on that farm,” said John Merlau, 63, an attorney in New Palestine.
While his cousin officially lives on property now and tills the land, Merlau and his family maintain a sheep barn there.
“We still keep it going,” Merlau said. “We’re active with the sheep and show them at the State Fair.”
The Lantzes and Merlaus were recognized for longevity and strong commitment to agriculture.
“These families have contributed many years of hard work and dedication, and they deserve to be recognized for their contributions to Hancock County as well as our state as a whole,” Cherry said.
The Hoosier Homestead program began in 1976 to acknowledge the contributions that families have made to Indiana agriculture. More than 5,000 farms have been recognized since the program was established.
Two such awards ceremonies are held each year.
“Hancock County is a very rural, agricultural area,” Cherry said. “It is such an honor to have not just one, but two family farms being recognized in our county.”
The Merlau family was unable to make it to Indianapolis for the official presentation. However, they ordered two of the signs to make sure they will be on display for many years to come.
“I’m sure one sign will last through my lifetime, but we want the sign to be around forever,” said Merlau, whose great-great-grandfather first worked the land and passed it down to succeeding generations.
“My dad died in 1992, and I know this would have meant a lot to him and that generation,” Merlau said.