July 9 – ALEXANDRIA – The Hodge family farm has supplied Madison County with apples, pumpkins, tomatoes and sweet corn for four growing seasons.
The family’s journey into farming began when Mikkal Hodge found available land in 2017 and asked his parents to help him develop a business plan and secure financing to start their vegetable farm.
“Agriculture is not the easiest industry to get into. There is a big hurdle, mainly because of the cost of land,” Mikkal Hodge said. “When the opportunity arose there, I was blessed to have a family that was willing to come with me and be that support as the farm grew.”
While the farm sees a lot of business through its general clientele and word of mouth, Mikkal Hodge said he has also seen success attending local farmers markets. The Hodge family is often a vendor at the Alexandria, Anderson and Minnetrista markets in the summer and at the Fort Wayne market in the winter, and Mikkal Hodge believes that local success stems from the pandemic.
“We have supply chain issues here; you’re still going to the grocery store now and you see things that are out of stock quite regularly,” Mikkal Hodge said. “I think that perspective has changed people’s views of where they get their produce from and I think it’s helped draw people to farmers markets and really helped grow the scene. farmers markets in Indiana.”
The entire Hodge family helps support the farm. Mikkal Hodge has a background in horticulture and agriculture and his mother helps with the accounts. His wife, Jennifer, father and children also help maintain the land. Plus, Jennifer Hodge uses her culinary school skills to create baked goods.
“I make cookies, cinnamon rolls, cake pops, sweetbreads, yeast breads,” Jennifer Hodge said. “I’ve always loved food and pastries are the easiest thing to sell.”
For Jennifer Hodge, the best part of the experience is the opportunity to give her children a life on the farm. The children are always dirty and have fun while living simply.
“They can grow their own food. They know they can raise a pig and have food later,” Jennifer Hodge said. “And they understand that you put a little seed in the ground and take care of it and water it and it gives back to you.”
Since its first year, the Hodge family farm has grown exponentially, with sales doubling every year, according to Mikkal Hodge. In addition to selling produce, the farm also hosts annual festivals in different seasons, focusing on hay rides and pumpkin carving in the fall and Christmas tree sales in the winter.
Ideally, the farm would become a regional attraction as there aren’t many places in the area offering these sorts of events. Mikkal Hodge would like to see the farm become a place for excursions and families as it grows.
“This fall we are having a giant pumpkin contest, with the release of a giant pumpkin carver, doing things like that to draw large crowds,” said Mikkal Hodge. “We had very good attendance. Last year we had nearly 3,000 people in one day at the farm. This year we are doing a Saturday and a Sunday. So we hope to double the attendance we saw there ‘last year.”