Kendallville-area family farm wins preservation award

Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau present Arnold Award to Feightner Farm

On Farmer’s Day (August 13) at the Indiana State Fair, the Feightner Farm will receive the 2014 John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation from Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau. Mark and Donna Feighnter run the 125-acre farm that straddles County Road 500 east near Kendallville. His great-grandfather founded the farm in 1903.

“The Feightners’ stewardship is just what Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau look for in the winner of the annual award. We love their approach to adapting the farm’s historic buildings to new uses, and their up-to-date environmental consciousness,” says Tommy Kleckner, Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office Director and coordinator of the Arnold Award program.

Mark and Donna Feightner took over the farm from his great aunt in 1991. The couple has been rehabbing the structures and farming while working other full-time jobs. Mark is the fourth generation on the farm, where they harvest corn and soybeans.

The Feightners and family have rehabbed the c.1910 bank barn built by Mark’s great-grandfather, along with the historic granary, chicken coops, wood house, and smoke house. Guided by historic photos of Mark’s great-grandfather posed in front of the barn, they recaptured the original two-tone scheme: red with white trim. Instead of housing hay and livestock, today it accommodates modern farm equipment.

The Feightners’ environmental concern led them to plant filter strips and cover crops to prevent soil erosion into Sacrider Lake and Gretzinger Ditch on the farm’s borders, work that won them a River Friendly Farmer Award from Noble County Soil and Water Conservation District.

In 2011, Feightner and his brother revived a family tradition: they started harvesting sap from the maple trees, adapting the historic chicken coop to serve as the sugar shack for maple syrup production. They store the sap in the cool lower level of the bank barn before boiling it down for syrup on a wood stove installed in the former chicken coop.

Now the couple is turning their attention to the farm’s late nineteenth-century homestead, which they occupied just last year. His great aunt Elmo Feightner lived in the farmhouse until she passed away in 2000.

“Farming gets in your blood,” Mark notes. “We’re restoring and maintaining the old farm buildings, practicing soil conservation, and creating an eco-friendly environment for wildlife. I’m sure my great grandparents would be pleased that the integrity of their farm has been sustained and their legacy lives on.”

Mark and Donna Feightner will accept the Arnold Award at approximately 10:30 a.m. on August 13 in front of the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand during the Farmer’s Day Parade. Indiana Landmarks’ President Marsh Davis and Don Villwock, President of Indiana Farm Bureau will present the award, with Rep. Bob Cherry, author of a barn preservation bill recently passed by the state legislature.

The annual award is named in memory of John Arnold (1955-1991), a Rush County farmer committed to preserving Indiana’s rural heritage.

For information about nominations for the 2014 Arnold Award for Rural Preservation, contact Tommy Kleckner at Indiana Landmarks, 812-232-4534tkleckner@indianalandmarks.org.

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