Jeremy Weaver is the 2014 recipient of the Tomorrow’s Top Producer Horizon Award, which recognizes outstanding young producers, age 35 and younger, who demonstrate excellence in the business of farming.
Indiana farmer expands one acre of sweet corn to a booming, diversified business
It’s 5:30 a.m. in July, and the sun’s glow across the horizon starts to raise the temperature of the flat, rich land around Needham, Ind. This is Jeremy Weaver’s recipe for a perfect day as he heads out to fields of sweet corn.
For most people, picking sweet corn is not on their list of favorite things. But Weaver is almost antsy during the winter months as he counts down the days until he can plant his next crop. "I live for getting up early and picking sweet corn," he says with a candid smile.
When Weaver was 15, his father put him and his brother in charge of one acre of sweet corn. The goals: Keep the boys out of trouble and let them earn some money for college. That small business venture quickly turned into a much bigger dream.
Nearly 20 years later, that one acre has grown to more than 40 acres of sweet corn, along with five acres of green beans and smaller patches of tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini and other produce.
For a little perspective, one acre of sweet corn yields about 18,000 ears. Multiply that by his more than 40 acres, and he’s producing enough sweet corn to provide an ear to nearly every person in Indianapolis. That’s a lot of sweet corn.
So how did Weaver grow his farm from scratch? He’s creative, hardworking and a natural at networking. Weaver’s diversified approach to farming and calculated risk-taking are just a few of the reasons he was named the 2014 Tomorrow’s Top Producer Horizon Award winner.
Family Ties. Weaver married into a farm family. He had only been dating his future wife, Christa, for a few months when her father, Kevin Carson, asked for help with harvest since her grandfather was in poor health. Being a farm kid and not wanting to disappoint, Weaver jumped right in. As Weaver says, he stepped in to help out and has never really left that role.
In 2009, Carson took Weaver on as a farm partner. Weaver rents his vegetable acres from Carson, and together they farm 2,400 acres, of which 450 acres are rented.
"I have grown to love the land that their family has owned for almost 200 years," he says. Carson and Weaver make a strong team, which might sound surprising since in-law relationships can be challenging. But they both run at turbo speed and are open to new ideas.
When Weaver was starting to expand his vegetable business, Carson provided support financially and as a mentor. "He has helped me tremendously in every aspect of my farming career," Weaver says of Carson. "He’s been my biggest champion."
Today, Weaver is responsible for all of the bookkeeping, and the two split marketing. Carson also works as a crop insurance agent for Farmer’s Mutual. During most of the year, they have two part-time employees and up to six during peak times.
Competition for land is fierce around their area, which is just south of Indianapolis. Since expanding row crops would be difficult, Weaver has developed a quality-over-quantity view of farming. His goal is to grow vertically instead of horizontally. "We focus on how to make the land we have really work for us," he says.
As the ag economy shifts down, Weaver is confident that his operation can handle a grain-price dip. He has spent the past few years building connections and developing specialized and creative market options.
- March 2014