Thank a Farmer: Hodge Family Farm grows exponentially through fourth season

·3 min read

Jul. 9—ALEXANDRIA — The Hodge Family Farm has been providing Madison County with apples, pumpkins, tomatoes and sweet corn for four growing seasons.

The family's journey with farming began when Mikkal Hodge found a piece of land available in 2017 and asked his parents to help him come up with a business plan and secure financing to start their vegetable farm.

"Farming is not the easiest industry to get into. There's a big barrier, mainly because of the cost of the land," Mikkal Hodge said. "When the opportunity came there, I was fortunate to have some family that was willing to go into it with me and be that support as the farm grew."

While the farm sees a lot of business through its general customer base and word of mouth, Mikkal Hodge said he has also seen success from participating in local farmers markets. The Hodge family is often a vendor at the Alexandria, Anderson and Minnetrista markets in the summer and Fort Wayne's market in the winter, and Mikkal Hodge believes this local success stems from the pandemic.

"We have the supply chain issues here; you still go to the grocery store now and you see things that are out of stock fairly regularly," Mikkal Hodge said. "I think that view has changed people's perspectives about where they get their produce from and I think that's helped actually drive people to the farmers markets and really helped grow the farmers market scene in Indiana."

The entire Hodge family helps sustain the farm. Mikkal Hodge has an educational background in horticulture and agriculture and his mother helps with accounting. His wife, Jennifer, and his father and children also help take care of the land. Additionally, Jennifer Hodge uses her skills from culinary school to create baked goods.

"I make cookies, cinnamon rolls, cake pops, sweetbreads, yeast breads," Jennifer Hodge said. "I've always liked food, and baked goods are the easiest thing to sell."

For Jennifer Hodge, the best part of the experience is the ability to give her children a farm life. The kids are always dirty and having fun while living simply.

"They can grow their own food. They know that they can raise a pig and then have food later," Jennifer Hodge said. "And they understand that you put a little seed in the ground and you 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 each year, according to Mikkal Hodge. Along with selling produce, the farm also hosts annual festivals during 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 because there are not many places in the area offering those kinds of events. Mikkal Hodge would like to see the farm become a place for field trips and families as it continues to grow.

"This fall we're doing a giant pumpkin contest, having a giant pumpkin carver coming out, doing things like that to draw big crowds," Mikkal Hodge said. "We've had very good attendance. Last year, we had close to 3,000 people in the one day out to the farm. This year, we're doing a Saturday and Sunday. So we're hoping to double the attendance that we saw last year."