James Smoker is semi-retired from Smoker Farm, his family’s beef and grain operation in LaPorte County. He is also the co-owner of Mitchell and Schoppel, the International Harvester dealer in LaCrosse, as well as co-owner of BJSS Storage in Wanatah. He was a 10-year 4-Her in his native LaPorte County and is a U.S. Army veteran (1955-56). The family farm has been under his leadership since the 1950’s, during which time he has transformed it from a typical mid-century small, diverse livestock, forage and grain farm into the highly-specialized beef cattle production farm that it is today.
Smoker is a progressive farmer and cattleman, who has experimented with feed sources to improve efficiency and profitability and, recognizing the opportunities that his visible location on US 30 offers, places a premium on environmental stewardship. He built cattle handling facilities from recycled Harvestore silos to improve cattle movement and respect the welfare needs of the animals, and hosted a large Beef Field Day to demonstrate the new facility. He opened his operation to a rule-making group from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to learn about cattle feeding in the eastern Corn Belt, and he and his family assisted in the development of a video presentation on environmental compliance and new Indiana confined feeding rules. Smoker’s management practices have been featured in articles in Indiana Prairie Farmer, Nation’s Agriculture (American Farm Bureau Federation), Regional News, LaPorte Herald-Argus, South Bend Tribune and the Farmer’s Exchange. His farm has hosted the Indiana Farm Management Tour (1968); Indiana Beef Cattle Association Field Day (1981, 1996) and the Indiana Beef Evaluation and Economics Feeding (IBEEF) Program (1997-present). Smoker Farm was involved in IBEEF from its inception, feeding 144 steers from 14 producers the first year, and now having fed a total of 2,247, more than any other participating feedlot.
Locally, he has served a number of organizations, including: 4-H (volunteer leader 50+ years); South Central School Board (4 years); LaPorte County Fair Board (member 1991-present; vice president 2004-present; beef superintendent 1982-1995; auction committee; chair, 20-year plan committee); LaPorte County Soil & Water Conservation District; LaPorte County Extension Council; LaPorte County Row Crop Food Producers (charter member; host, 1990 annual farm/city barbecue; Ag Days participant); Beef Cattle Association, serving ribeye steaks and promoting beef at community events; and Indiana Farm Bureau (member for 53 years; 2008 voting delegate).
At the state level, Smoker has a lifetime of service as well. He was active in the Indiana Livestock Feeders Association, and played an important role in the merger that created the Indiana Beef Cattle Association (IBCA) in the early 1970’s. He has served IBCA as a director, executive council member, cattle feeder representative and as first vice president. As an IBCA volunteer, Smoker has recruited members for both state and national cattle organizations, and he has cooked Hoosier Ribeyes for activities throughout the state to promote beef and support IBCA’s programs.
Smoker has received a number of awards and recognition including: IBCA Outstanding Cattleman (1989); IBCA Lifetime Achievement Award (2000); Indiana Prairie Farmer Master Farmer (1996); Indiana 4-H Foundation 50th Clover for 50 years of volunteer leadership (2003) and Certificate of Recognition for invaluable contribution to the State of Indiana from U.S. Senators Richard Lugar and Dan Coats (1996).