Lifelong Hendricks County farmer Dale Gladden shows support of the Hendricks County 4-H Fair from his youth to present day
As a child, being involved with 4-H was simply part of Dale Gladden’s education, teaching him responsibility and values such as the importance of community service. As an adult, he and his family still enjoy supporting the fair and the 4-H.
“We still go, about every evening to watch a few of the shows, support the 4-Hers in various forms,” Dale says. “My wife is heavily involved in the extension board which oversees some of the programs. We’re always active every year in the Farm Bureau Pet Parade which my mother and a couple ladies started in the county 30-some years ago, about the time I got out of 4-H. Young children bring their pets. We’ve had everything from water bugs to donkeys. It’s mostly cats and dog, rabbits and sheep. It’s a big deal every year for us, my wife and I, getting things organized.”
Dale was raised in farming. His grandfather moved to western Marion County in 1926 and purchased a farm south of Plainfield. His father, Frank Gladden, started farming in Plainfield in 1957 and purchased the 500 acres, which include where Walmart and The Shops at Perry Crossing now sit, in 1977. The Gladden family grew corn, wheat, and soybeans and raised some livestock.
As a youth, Dale was involved in 4-H for 10 years, showing pigs and cattle. Participation in the Hendricks County 4-H Fair was a family affair. His mother, Phyllis, was a 4-H leader for 25 years. He says his sisters, Julie and Marilyn, had better luck than him in the 4-H program, winning awards for their livestock.
“I showed cattle,” Dale says. “Getting steers halter broke to take to the fair always was a chore. The farming got in the way of some of the project preparation. We were all so busy farming until the middle of summer, then it seemed like the fair was here.”
Dale graduated from Plainfield High School in 1979 and began farming. His father began to sell the Plainfield farm, piece by piece, in 1984. Newspaper articles quote Frank saying that he felt pressure to sell due to the growing town and developing traffic. The family purchased a farm property in Avon in the late 80s, built a home there and moved onto the property in ’95. The final piece of that original family farm was sold in 2001.
“I still have memories of it being home, but it doesn’t bother me much,” Dale says. “I was in my early 20’s. Some of it was done for my future and the future of the Gladdens.”
Combined, Frank and Dale now farm on 5,000 acres in Hendricks County, growing corn and soybeans. Their main property is near the edge of Avon, near Danville. They also farm on rented property in Plainfield.
“We moved up here (to Avon) and thought it was in the country but we’re in the city,” he says. “We’ve always farmed in the city. Anymore, this is not a very big farm. We have a lot of large, modern equipment and a couple of good people helping us.”
Dale, who resides in Danville with his wife, Margaret, says the farm is doing well this year. The heavy May rains drowned out some of the seeds and they had to replant the corn, but things are starting to “shape up.” Through the years of growth, they have become more efficient in their day-to-day chores, with help of advanced equipment such as GPS and auto-steer in the equipment.
“The farm has grown,” he says. “The last 15 years it’s grown about a third, not enormously.”
With the 2017 Hendricks County 4-H Fair approaching on July 16 to 22, Dale says they are looking forward to seeing what’s in store this year. The Gladden family takes a few pieces of equipment to place on the Antique Tractor Club’s display. Dale’s wife, Margaret, is active in the Farm Bureau, but otherwise, they aren’t involved in the day-to-day activities/planning. It’s now more about supporting youth and other farmers as they take part in the many activities the fair has to offer.
“We like the supreme showmanship contest, pet parade and livestock auction, three of the highlights,” he says. “Crop projects are one of my favorite non-livestock projects, where they bring in the corn, soybeans, hay.”
By Nicole Davis