The Herald Bulletin

March 27, 2011

Farming through the generations at Shuter


The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Mike Shuter of Shuter Sunset Farms in Frankton takes his career very seriously.

He is the third generation to run the beef, pork, corn and soybean farm that specializes in Red Poll cattle. His son, Patrick, is the fourth.

“When we got down the road, this profession is what feeds the world,” he said. “Maybe our income isn’t as much as doctors or lawyers, but if we don’t feed the world, we won’t need doctors or lawyers.”

Despite some weather challenges, Shuter said 2010 was “very good.” Corn prices were down a little, but soybean prices were up. It worked out, despite “the extremes we saw in the seasons. It was wet in June, dry in August.”

Fortunately, that meant they went through only half the amount of liquid propane as the year before to dry the crop at harvest. “It balanced out.”

But the worrying has started already this year. The harsh winter is being followed by flooding this spring.

“The forecast we see is a cold, wet spring. It slows it down in terms of planting,” Shuter said.

But Shuter has been through this many times. “We’ve always got a crop planted. You just have to have faith that things will turn out. Years of living through (uncertainty) wears the edges of it off.”

Some of their corn crop goes to biofuels, but Shuter said that demand hasn’t increased food prices. Farmers simply plant more corn. The raw materials in a loaf of bread is still only 15 to 20 percent of the cost. It’s the other factors -- transportation, processing, advertising -- that drive up prices in the grocery store.

“The livestock market is still our primary market. If we didn’t have biofuels, we would be in a world of hurt with prices.”

Overall, he said farming is a stable industry.

“It all evens out. We’ve always had variability in the weather. It’s just the attention it gets now through politicians.  

“Agriculture in this country has and continues to provide the cheapest, safest food supply in the world.“

He would be delighted if the fifth generation, 4-year-old grandson Jacob, joined the noble profession of farming, too. Signs are favorable. “He won’t get away from the tractors when we’re working.”