Five-generation farm family finds satisfaction in working together
By Barney Quick
When your best friends are your family members, and they also happen to be co-workers with whom you share the vision and excitement of your enterprise, life is good. Such is the case with the Dailys, a Bartholomew County family that has been farming for five generations.
The term “farming” applies to their operation in the most comprehensive sense. It encompasses the raising of vegetables, soybeans, wheat, red and black popcorn (for Black Jewell), seed wheat (for Beck’s and Pioneer), sweet corn, hay, beef and chickens, as well as an ear corn packaging business, a store on Jonathan Moore Pike, and booths at the Columbus and Carmel farmers markets.
Jim and Carol are the current patriarch and matriarch. Sons Ben and Evan and Ben’s wife, Kristen, round out the team. Two other daughters are in other occupations.
The base of operations is where Jim and Carol live, on North Road 1050E near Anderson Falls. They farm a few hundred acres there, and that’s where the high tunnels for the vegetables are. The rest of the land involved is pretty far-flung, totaling around 2,800 acres.
“It goes pretty much from Interstate 65 to the Bartholomew-Decatur line,” says Ben, “with some fields in Jennings County and some around Columbus Municipal Airport.”
The high tunnels, structures made of polyethylene that provide for extended growing seasons, are the source of the Dailys’ cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and green beans. These crops are the core of what they sell at farmers markets.
Ear corn packaging is done at the facility where Jim and Carol live. They shuck, sort and pack the corn for bird and squirrel feed. Marketing is done through distributors who sell it wholesale to various companies.
“That corn can wind up anywhere in the United States and even parts of Canada,” says Ben.
The Dailys raise about 80 head of cattle a year at a location near Garden City. The beef is packaged and sold at their store. It’s hormone- and antibiotic-free.
“In addition to package quantities, we sell quarters, halves and whole cows,” says Kristen, who, along with Carol, focuses on running the west-side retail outlet.
Their chickens are for eggs. They raise about 400 a year at Ben’s home.
The Dailys’ soybean productivity has earned them nationwide recognition.
“We were the first farm in the Midwest to meet the BASF 100-Bushel Bean Challenge,” says Jim. “We raised 102 bushels per acre. They had a camera crew and a drone document it for marketing purposes.”
They have good relations with a number of area grain elevators. According to Jim, “it depends on where you can capture the best basis,” which is the difference between the Chicago Board of Trade price and the cash price for a given grain.
How do they sort out who is going to do what?
“We each have areas we mainly take care of,” says Ben, “but we can all take care of anything that needs attention.”
With such a diverse array of business activities, switching gears as warranted is key.
“You establish your priorities at the beginning of the day, but you have to be flexible enough to take care of stuff as it arises,” says Ben.
Carol takes a bounty of offerings to the Carmel farmers market, which runs all year, every Saturday. Kristen runs a booth at the Columbus market during the warm weather months.
The entire presence of a farmers market in Columbus has its roots in the Columbus East High School senior project of another Daily daughter, Kristin, some years ago.
“She did research indicating people were in town on Thursdays, for events like Neighborfest,” says Jim, “so she started a market on Jackson Street by the courthouse. Columbus in Bloom eventually went with it, and now you have today’s farmers market activity here.”
The family established its store on Jonathan Moore Pike, called Daily’s Farm Market, in 2010. In addition to the vegetables, beef and eggs they produce, they sell lamb and pork produced by other area operations. From-scratch pies, homemade chicken salad and take-home dinners are also big sellers. Their deli section offers meats such as roast beef, pastrami, ham and turkey breast as well as a wide assortment of cheeses.
The clientele includes people coming off the interstate, but also a strong core of regulars.
“You get to know your customers well,” says Kristen. “Some almost become part of your family. One couple that Ben and I met here came to our wedding.”
That kind of bond extends to actually being a team member. Carol’s helpers at the Carmel booth are long-standing customers.
Kristen didn’t come from a farm background. She took to that way of life as part of the family cohesion that so greatly impressed her when she started dating Ben in high school.
For the past two years, she has compiled handsomely bound albums of the family’s life and work by uploading photos to Shutterfly. In addition to well-chosen shots of crops in sunlight and frolicking livestock, her photos document family milestones such as multigenerational gatherings and new additions. She even devotes a page to “I-thought-I-could-make-it” pictures of equipment bogged down in soggy ground and other such attempts at agricultural heroics.
So there’s a lot of esprit de corps in what they do. Kristen characterizes her gratification as being around her favorite people all day. Jim says, “We have fun while we’re working.”