On Aug.17 at the Indiana State Fair, Dull’s Tree Farm in rural Thorntown will receive the 2016 John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation from Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau.
Tom and Kerry Dull will be recognized for their commitment to saving the farm’s historic buildings, which they have restored while adding old buildings as they have expanded the tree farm’s agritourism programs since 1985. “It’s the business that really enables us to preserve them,” says Tom.
“The ground right around our house never was the most productive for corn and soybeans, so in 1985 we came up with the idea of starting Christmas trees,” says Kerry. The family also cultivates corn and soybeans on an adjacent family-owned farm.
Built in 1888, the focal point of Dull’s Tree Farm is the impressive pin-frame barn. Originally used for animals and hay storage, the barn today serves as an event space and welcome area. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas—their busiest time of year—the barn gets heavy use processing Christmas trees.
In 2010, the Dulls’ barn won a complete renovation through a popular vote in the “Help Grow Your Soup” program staged by Campbell Soup Company in conjunction with the National FFA Organization. The barn got a fresh coat of red paint with white trim—the original scheme—along with a new floor and structural enhancements.
Tom and Kerry Dull live in the original farmhouse, built in 1869. They turned the granary, original to the property, into the wreath barn, renovated to expand the interior space while still maintaining the historic structure. They also added three historic log cabins to the property to house a gift shop, event space, and bed and breakfast. The Dulls bought and moved both cabins from other Indiana counties. Tom dismantled and reassembled the structures by himself.
The choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm on Thorntown’s Blubaugh Avenue allows visitors to create family memories while learning about agriculture and preservation. The Dulls sold nearly 4,500 Christmas trees during the 2015 season and hope to surpass that number this year. The family also provides holiday cheer to troops through the Trees to Troops program, donating trees and serving as the regional pick-up point for shipment to soldiers and sailors overseas.
During the fall season, a corn maze, pumpkin patch, face painting and even the Jack-O-Launcher—a high-powered pumpkin canon—attract families and add to the farm revenue.
“We focus our tree business on family traditions and memories and our 1800s-era farmstead helps our customers make the connection to their own agricultural roots. The tree business has enabled us to re-purpose the buildings and keep them a vital part of the experience that we create,” declares Tom.
“The Dulls were early adopters of agritourism, and their operation shows how the historic farm buildings helped create the attraction,” says Tommy Kleckner, Indiana Landmarks’ western office director and manager of the Arnold Award program. “Their agricultural diversification—adding Christmas trees and tourism to corn and soybeans—allowed them to restore and maintain the rural landmarks valued by their family and the families who come to see the Jack-O-Launcher in action or choose their holiday tree.”
The annual award is named in memory of John Arnold (1955-1991), a Rush County farmer committed to preserving Indiana’s rural heritage.
WHAT: Presentation of Arnold Award for Rural Preservation and recognition of owners of Bicentennial Barns
WHEN: Aug. 17 at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Indiana Farm Bureau Building, Indiana State Fair
WHO: Tom and Kerry Dull will accept the award from Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau
Following Arnold Award presentation, Betsy Jones of the Bicentennial Barns initiative will recognize the owners of the Top 10 Bicentennial Barns and the owners of honorable mention barns
For information about nominations for the 2017 Arnold Award for Rural Preservation, contact Tommy Kleckner at Indiana Landmarks, 812-232-4534, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media contact: Tommy Kleckner, Director, Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office, office 812-232-4534, cell 812-249-3116, email@example.com Tom Dull, cell 765-325-2418, firstname.lastname@example.org
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