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Farmers for the Future: Purpose-driven farming

Gil Gullickson Updated: 07/12/2010 @ 1:52pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

One day 14 years ago, Adam Moody sat in his car in a grocery store parking lot. He was visibly dejected.

"While other farms had gotten larger or put animals under confinement, my dad and I had just maintained our farm size," says Moody of Ladoga, Indiana. "We struggled to get by on two incomes on just a little over 300 acres. It came to a head in the spring of 1996, when hogs were 9 cents a pound. My wife, Lucy, and I went to the grocery store one night, and we couldn't afford a ham.

"So, I went to the car in the parking lot and sat. It made no sense. I had just sold hogs for 9¢ a pound, but I couldn't afford a ham in the store. It dawned on me that I wasn't raising food; I was raising commodities. I said to myself, ‘I'm going to take the farm toward raising food.' "

Flash forward to 2010. Adam, Lucy, and their family have used their small farm as a base to locally market their meat and eggs to consumers. Their farm, managed by son Isaac, revolves around a seven-year rotation featuring corn, soybeans, small grains, pasture, and a biblical seventh year of rest. Free-range chickens provide both eggs and meat. Sheep and cattle are antibiotic-free and are mainly grass-fed with some finishing grain.

The Moodys process and market these animals through a slaughter plant and three thriving retail stores in central Indiana that they own. They're set to add a fourth retail Moody's Butcher Shop in West Clay, an upscale suburb of Indianapolis. The business employs around 25 people.

It hasn't been easy. Adam and Lucy went without a salary the first five years of the business. Some business decisions haven't worked out. Complying with food regulations, managing employees, and meeting customer needs is hard work.

Still, they've endured the rough-and-tumble food business while keeping the farm in the family. Besides Isaac, they employ son-in-law Chad Hassler as the firm's chief operating officer. That's allowed Karyn, Isaac's wife, to stay home with Ziva, 6 months, and for Rachel, Chad's wife, to stay home with Oliver, 3, the sixth generation of Moodys on the farm.

Adam has nothing against commodity agriculture. "But for my family to stay on the farm, I had to go beyond raising commodities," he says. "People are astounded how we brought our children back to the farm. This is purpose-driven farming -- passing on the farm to your kids."

One day 14 years ago, Adam Moody sat in his car in a grocery store parking lot. He was visibly dejected.

Adam and Lucy homeschooled Isaac and Rachel. Adam's father, Dennis, played a key role in their upbringing.

Adam and Lucy Moody's local food marketing strategy has enabled them to bring their family home to their Ladoga, Indiana, farm.

Farmers have long lamented about the cut that "middlemen" receive when they process their commodities.

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