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DAA: David W. Howell

David Howell

David W. Howell

Middletown, IN | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2008

Besides traditional corn and soybean crops, the fruits of David W. Howell’s labor are evidenced in semi-truck loads of watermelons, tomatoes, pumpkins, and sweet corn, today grown on 5,000 acres in four Indiana counties. He’s also lending a hand to his son’s operations on 15,000 acres in Bahia, Brazil, raising soybeans, sorghum, and cotton. With farmers on both sides of his family, Howell was born into the business, growing up on a Delaware County farm. He came to Purdue for his bachelor’s and master’s, both in agricultural economics. “It opened many doors for me and my family, and I learned to think, ‘Why not do this?’ and to go ahead and do it,” he says. He and his wife Mary struck out on their own in 1972, borrowing equipment from his father and leasing 300 acres. Operations grew over the years and diversification kept them going. They planted a 3,000-tree apple farm in 1981. And for 10 years until 2007, their operations included fresh market fruits and vegetables. Each season, they employ more than 400. That they are still farming counts as his greatest achievement, Howell says. “That’s what I’m most proud of, besides my family. We were able to be full-time farmers when so many of my peers couldn’t.” He’s also served the industry and his community — on bank, education, Extension, and governmental boards — and regularly hosting farm tours. He recently helped rescue a 19th century church building, now a community center. His awards include Honorary Indiana Commissioner of Agriculture, Red Gold Master Grower, and Order of the Red Tie from Indiana Horticulture Congress. In his spare time, Howell enjoys working some more, traveling, and the political process. “I work behind the scenes when I’m asked. I enjoy the smoke-filled room much more than I do the front page,” he says. “At Purdue, I learned how to reason, logically work through alternatives, and find answers, as well as understand the fundamentals of many disciplines. I gained the confidence to move ahead and innovate.”