By Stephanie Overbey, Associate Director
If you want to see a picture of how diversified farming has become, look no further than Ferguson Farms, owned by Bruce, Bob and David Ferguson. Until 2009, the Fergusons primarily produced duck for Maple Leaf Farms. They also produced sawdust sold for a variety of agricultural uses. In 2009, the sawdust business spawned a semi-trailer business. Ferguson Farms and its 15 employees now specialize in building walking floor semi-trailers and custom built self-unloading trucks and trailers. A “walking floor” moves the contents of the trailer from back to front, making the unloading process easier and more efficient. The trailers are used to unload bulk wood shavings and seed corn and have other applications as well.
Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Bob Ferguson and his wife, Jane, who are regular donors to the Community Foundation. We talked about farming and about a fund at the Community Foundation that honors Bob and Bruce Ferguson’s parents.
Bob Ferguson has been in farming all of his life. He was raised on a poultry farm at the corner of County Road 225 South and Packerton Road in Warsaw, where his parents relocated to in 1946 from southern Indiana. Bob’s father, Robert, taught school for three years before going into poultry farming, and his mother, Julia, was a teacher until 1946.
Jane grew up on a farm in Central Indiana near New Richmond. She met Bob when she moved to Kosciusko County after college graduation. She and Bob were neighbors. Bob and Jane have four children, two grandchildren and a new grandchild due soon! Their son, David, is an integral part of the family business, and their daughter-in-law, Mandy, will begin working at the farm when she and the Ferguson’s son, Daniel, relocate from Chicago. Bob and Jane’s daughters, Heather and Sarah, live out of state.
In 2009, Bob and his brother, Bruce, established a scholarship fund at the Community Foundation in memory of their parents. The Robert and Julia Ferguson Memorial Scholarship will assist students from Kosciusko County who are pursuing degrees related to agriculture or education.
“Education was important to them,” Bob said of his parents. “This scholarship fund was a way to honor them and to help people obtain an education in fields where they can actually get jobs.”
The Fergusons are still growing the balance of the fund until it reaches a point where the income generated from the fund’s investments are enough to award an annual scholarship at the Ferguson’s desired level. One of the ways they grow the fund is by making annual gifts of grain to the fund.
“It’s very easy,” Bob said of making a gift of grain. “We take the grain to Clunette Elevator and tell them where we want the gift to go. It comes off our bottom line and is that much less we have to claim. It’s better for tax purposes than if we made a cash gift.”
Several local grain elevators accept gifts of grain on behalf of Kosciusko County Community Foundation. They are: Clunette Elevator, Louis Dreyfus, CereServ, Creighton Brothers, Deatsman Grain Farms and Mentone Grain & Feed. The Community Foundation sends grain donors a receipt with details of their gift (date, what was given, how much, etc.).
Most farmers who give grain designate their gifts to the Ag Cares Fund, which benefits causes important to the local agriculture community – food programs, ag education and youth programs. But, as Bob and Jane have demonstrated, gifts of grain can be designated to any fund at the Community Foundation.
If you are interested in learning more about ways the Community Foundation partners with the local agriculture community, visit KCFoundation.org/Ag.