DENVER, Ind. — An average day at Musselman Family Farms features Pam cooking up lunch at the family’s 150 year-old home.
It’s an open invite sort of lunch. Family, farm hands, the guy delivering stone on that particular day — are all welcome to pop in and fix themselves a plate.
Fred will say grace between sips of purple Kool-Aid. Married to Pam, he’s the sixth generation of Musselmans to farm in Miami County.
The possible eighth generation runs through the house, just happy to be with mom and dad and grandma and grandpa.
Hayden, 6, and Kasen, 4, are the daughter and son of Kyle and Leah Musselman, the seventh generation of the family farm.
Hayden and Kasen are growing up like the Musselmans who came before them, learning traditional values, such as a strong work ethic, but the seven-generation farm has never been shy about embracing new ideas.
Inside every tractor and combine is an iPad that tracks dozens of data points. Cloud-based programs store the data.
The Musselmans track rainfall and use satellite images. Sensors on planters detect soil types, which are used to determine seed and fertilizer distribution in real time.
Farm equipment has come a long way from the first tractor a Musselman bought — a John Deere model A — which is still in the family.
Other innovations seem quaint now, but they were world-changers when first introduced. For example, the buddy seat. Tractors and combines didn’t used to have room for two people. Now, many do, to the delight of children and retired farmers alike.
“That was the best thing when they came out with the buddy seat,” said Maury Musselman, father to Fred and grandfather to Kyle.
Kyle keeps up with the ever-changing technology in the farm industry.
“He enjoys it, and it annoys me,” Fred said.
New innovations in equipment add complexity to the job. A pinched wire could keep tractors out of the field for a day, but advancements make the Musselman farming operation more efficient.
“Get more efficient,” Maury said. “That was always the goal.”
Efficiency becomes more important with the fast-changing landscape.
Take market volatility, for example. Grain prices fluctuate more over a few hours today than what they would over two months just 30 or 40 years ago.
“It’s a lot more intense than when dad was farming,” Fred said. “It’s like the rest of the world, it’s more fast-paced.”
The Musselmans farm their own ground while also offering farm management and custom farming services. About 50% of business is custom planting and harvesting.
Custom farming is where a farmer will plant and harvest a landowner’s field. In exchange, the landowner pays for seed and fertilizer and keeps the crops.
“It been something that helps diversify in leaner years,” Kyle said.
Kyle and Leah now own and operate the farm, though everyone still helps out.
The two met while in college at Purdue University, where they both studied agriculture. It’s no surprise where they ended up.
“Growing up, this is where I wanted to be,” Kyle said. “It’s all I’ve ever known, it’s what I’ve always wanted.”
And it’s the same lifestyle they want for their kids, too.
The Musselmans settled in north Miami County near the intersection of Indianas 16 and 19 in about 1850. They came from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, according to Maury, though why has been lost to time.
There is a distant relation between the Musselmans and those who founded Musselman’s Apple Butter, which is headquartered in Pennsylvania.
The family is involved in the local community, promoting agriculture and educating kids on the importance of farming. They’ve helped out with the Miami County 4H Fair for years.
They also work with the Heartland Career Center on a precision ag class, where they talk best farming practices and soil conservation.
“We think it’s important to show people what we do on the farm,” Kyle said.
Lunch wraps up with brownies and ice cream. It’s about time to get back to work.
Rain the day before has put wheat harvest on hold, but there’s always something to do on the farm.
Hayden and Kasen follow mom and dad out the door.
Kasen flashes a big grin when his mom asks if he’s going to farm like his dad.
There’s plenty of time to decide — time that will be spent riding in the combine with Dad.