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Lt. Gov. Crouch Praises Indiana Ag

by Stan Maddux

Published: Friday, August 11, 2017

Suzanne Crouch, Indiana's Lt. Governor and Secretary of Agriculture, gave high marks to agri-tourism in the northwest corner of the state during an Aug. 3 visit to Michigan City.

She also praised local corn growers for being among the top producers in the nation.

Crouch said Garwood Orchards at 5911 W. 50 South between LaPorte and Westville is among the food producers on farms offering hay rides and other fun things to do capitalizing on the huge Chicago area tourism market. Over 400 acres of fruits and vegetables are raised on the sixth generation family farm where people can pick their own apples, peaches, sweet corn, cucumbers and other produce from June through October.

Garwood Orchards is also well known for its Apple Fest that features wagon rides, live music, crafts and other autumn related festivities every September.

"Northwest Indiana does the connection between rural and urban better than any other part of our state,'' said Crouch during a luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Michigan City.

Crouch also praised LaPorte County for being a leading producer of corn and the Port of Indiana at Burns Harbor and the two remaining ports in the state along the Ohio River for record shipments in recent months.

"You are among the highest seed corn producing counties in the nation,'' she said.

Grain is among the major products shipped out of the ports with Burns Harbor providing cargo vessels access to and from the Atlantic Ocean via the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

All three of Indiana's ports combined report the highest quarterly shipment total in more than a half century during the fourth quarter of 2016, handling 3.9 million tons of cargo during that time period. That exceeded the previous quarterly record from 2015 by 300,000 tons, according to officials with the Ports of Indiana. All of the ports also reported 11.3 million tons shipped for all of 2016 which was the third consecutive time annual shipments at all three locations topped 10 million tons.

Crouch said agriculture statewide makes up $31 billion of Indiana's $246 billion yearly gross domestic product. "Agriculture is big business in Indiana,'' she said.

According to figures provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, Indiana ranked 5th in the nation in 2015 for corn production while LaPorte County was 8th out of the state's 92 counties. LaPorte County was also near the top nationwide in corn production, ranked 220th out of all counties nationwide. Benton County was the top corn producer in Indiana followed by Montgomery, White and Knox counties.

In addition to Port of Indiana being in close proximity, quick access to rail at elevators in Union Mills and Kingsbury for shipping out product and being the second largest Indiana county in land mass are among the reasons LaPorte County ranks high not only in corn but soybean production, said Gene Matzat, an educator with the Purdue Extension office in LaPorte. LaPorte County was 11th in soybean production in the state for 2015, according to USDA.

Matzat said LaPorte County also enjoys a plentiful close to the surface water supply and despite its sandy soil irrigation systems can quickly tap into those resources to keep crops as healthy as possible during extended dry periods. He said LaPorte County also ranks first in the amount of irrigated farm land.

"Farmers can eliminate or reduce those risks of production that being not having enough moisture and moisture stress especially during critical periods like pollination,'' said Matzat.

According to USDA, Marshall County in corn production ranked 23rd in the state for 2015 while St. Joseph County was 34th; Starke County was 46th and Elkhart County was ranked 60th. Porter County and Lake County were 44th and 55th respectively in the state for corn production.

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