Carroll County farms win rural preservation award

Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau present award to Mears family.

On Aug. 15 at the Indiana State Fair, the Mears Family of Carroll County will receive the 2019 John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation from Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau. The award honors the efforts of three generations of the Mears family, who have been farming in Carroll County since 1949.

The Mears operate two historic farms in Deer Creek Valley, a natural area and rural historic district known for its scenic beauty.

Sherry and Lois Mears purchased the 275-acre family homestead, the historic McCain Farm, in 1949 as newlyweds. They raised six children there, along with cattle, hogs, and chickens, and corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, and tomatoes. They lived in the farm’s picturesque 1852 Greek Revival farmhouse and used the c.1880 Sweitzer barn and an early twentieth-century poultry house, garage, and corn crib in farming operations.

In 1966, Sherry and Lois bought the 80-acre historic Royster Farm just down the road across Deer Creek, where their son John and daughter-in-law Mary made their home in the nineteenth-century farmhouse and raised their two children. A c.1880 English barn, 1920s poultry shed, and c.1950 concrete block equipment building dot the property. The wealth of historic agricultural structures on both farms played a role in them being listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Deer Creek Valley Rural Historic District in 2002.

Following Sherry’s and Lois’s deaths, their children and grandchildren took steps to ensure the farms and their heritage remained in the family. John and Mary inherited the 80-acre farm and purchased part of the homestead where John grew up, while their son Benjamin and daughter-in-law Taylor acquired the homestead’s farmhouse for their home, along with its immediate outbuildings. John’s brother Martin and wife Nancy own the homestead farm’s woods and tillable farmland. John, who also works for the Postal Service, leads farming operations at both properties, assisted by his children and brother Martin.

Today, Mears Farms primarily produces cash crops, storing farming equipment in the mid-twentieth-century buildings, while the historic barns house smaller equipment and supplies, hay, and John and Mary’s horses, as well as an antique springboard wagon and buggy. The family periodically opens their historic barns for workshops and tours celebrating rural heritage and encouraging the preservation of similar historic farm buildings statewide.

“With a deep appreciation for their historic farms and a commitment to preserving them, the Mears Family exemplifies the tenets of the Arnold Award. Three generations continue to use, reuse, and invest in the historic houses and buildings on their family’s farms, demonstrating outstanding stewardship of Indiana’s rural heritage,” says Tommy Kleckner, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office and Arnold Award coordinator.

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 the John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation

WHEN:    Aug. 15 at 3:30 p.m. during the Celebration of Agriculture which also includes the announcement of the ISDA photo contest winner, the Purdue Extension Women in Agriculture Awards, and the Lt. Governor’s AgriVision Awards.

WHERE:  The historic Normandy Barn on the north side of the Indiana State Fairgrounds

WHO:      John and Mary Mears of Carroll County along with their son Benjamin Mears and daughter Hannah (Mears) McIlrath will accept the award from Indiana Landmarks’ Tommy Kleckner and Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron. They will be joined by Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch and Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

For information about nominations for the 2020 John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation, contact Tommy Kleckner at Indiana Landmarks, 812-232-4534,


Media contacts:

Tommy Kleckner, Director, Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office, office 812-232-4534,

Mindi Woolman, Director of Marketing and Communications, Indiana Landmarks, office 317-639-4534,


Indiana Landmarks revitalizes communities, reconnects us to our heritage, and saves meaningful places. With nine offices located throughout the state, Indiana Landmarks helps people rescue endangered landmarks and restore historic neighborhoods and downtowns. People who join Indiana Landmarks receive its bimonthly magazine, Indiana Preservation. For more information on the not-for-profit organization, call 317-639-4534, 800-450-4534, or visit

Indiana Farm Bureau: 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB). Since 1919, it has protected the livelihood, land, equipment, animals and crops of Hoosier farmers and is the state’s largest general farm organization. As a farmer’s strongest advocate, INFB works diligently to ensure a farmer’s right to farm, because agriculture is so vital to Indiana’s economy.  Learn more at


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