For their role in preserving White Villa Acres Farm near Sunman in Dearborn County, Andrew and Shirley Beetz won the 2022 John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation, presented by Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau on August 4 at the Indiana State Fair.
The Beetzes are the third family to own the farm, originally established by George Torrence in 1828. They purchased the 102-acre property in 1976 from Paul Fackler, acquiring its extensive collection of historic farm buildings including an English-style barn with concrete silo, drive-thru corn crib, granary, chicken house, brick garage, grain bins, one-room schoolhouse, and two outhouses.
Andrew Beetz grew up on a dairy farm south of Morris, Indiana, so when the farm property near Sunman came up for auction in 1976, he and his wife, Shirley, didn’t hesitate to buy it, settling down to raise their three children in the historic homestead.
Believing that historic buildings can continue to be functional and shouldn’t go to waste, the Beetzes have incorporated the farm’s nineteenth- and early twentieth-century structures into modern operations. The c.1870 barn initially supported the family’s beef cattle operation, and today, the building provides shelter for horses, goats, and registered breeding stock cattle. When their daughter Rachel started raising and training registered American Paint Horses through 4-H, Andrew Beetz added three stalls for her award-winning horses. He also installed basketball hoops so his sons Nick and Aaron could host their high school teammates for impromptu ball games, a Hoosier tradition.
The chicken coop continues to house chickens, guineas, and peacocks. A 1940s brick garage with gambrel roof holds farm equipment and serves as a machine shop, while the historic granary stores the hay baler. Andrew Beetz’s appreciation for vintage things extends to his collection of five tractors dating from 1949 to 1996, all still used in farming operations.
The Beetz family’s conservation-minded approach includes stewardship of the land: they employ a no-till approach in planting crops, rotating corn, wheat, and soybeans among 72 acres to enrich the soil and help prevent erosion. They enrolled their 17 acres of woods in Indiana’s Classified Forest program, responsibly harvesting mature trees through timber stand management to ensure a diverse forest. When Hurricane Ike downed poplar trees in the forest in 2008, the Beetzes used the wood for new siding on the historic corn crib.
The farm also includes an 1892 brick one-room schoolhouse that was converted for storage by previous owners. The Beetz family stores hay wagons in the schoolhouse, using the school’s historic outhouse as a small oil shed. They plan to restore the schoolhouse and have retained its original slate blackboards.
The family’s thoughtful management includes the farm’s homestead, first built in the 1860s and enlarged and remodeled into a bungalow in the mid-1920s. When the Beetzes decided to further expand the house, they hired an architect to help guide plans to ensure the addition blended with the house’s historic architecture.
“Andrew and Shirley Beetz have been tremendous stewards of their historic farm,” says Tommy Kleckner, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office and Arnold Award coordinator. “Their deep appreciation and continued use of the historic landmarks built by past owners is impressive and deserving of Arnold Award recognition.”
About Indiana Landmarks
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 www.indianalandmarks.org.
About Indiana Farm Bureau
Since 1919, Indiana Farm Bureau 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 INFB.org.
Tommy Kleckner, Director, Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office, office 812-232-4534, cell 812-249-3116, email@example.com
Mindi Woolman, Director of Marketing and Communications, Indiana Landmarks, office 317-639-4534, cell 317-417-1204, firstname.lastname@example.org
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