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April 25, 2014

The HSUS Indiana Agriculture Council

Local farmers join with The HSUS to foster better animal welfare and environmental stewardship

Meet the local farmers who make up our Indiana Agriculture Council, the seventh in our growing system of state agriculture councils.

James Benham, Indiana Ag Council

James Benham

James D. Benham

Jim Benham began farming 40 years ago on the family farm just south of Versailles, Ind. Today he farms full-time with a grain operation on 2,300 acres. 

For 12 years, Jim held a position on the South Ripley School Board of Trustees. He is a member of the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Olean, where he has served both on the church council and as its president for two terms. In the past he has served as the Telamon Corporation's director for Indiana, helping with the Head Start programming for Indiana and managing $60 million in grants. 

Jim has been the president of the Indiana Farmer's Union for the past nine years. He also serves on the board of directors for the National Farmer's Union, in addition to serving on its budget and audit committee. He is also an advocate for rural family farms in Washington, D.C.  Jim is a loving husband of 42 years, a proud father to three daughters and sons-in-law, and a devoted grandfather to six grandchildren. 


Pete Eschelman, Indiana ag council

Alice Eschelman

Peter T. Eshelman 

Upon graduation from Williams College in 1976, Pete was drafted by the New York Yankees and then began his business career in the Yankees' front office.

There, he turned George Steinbrenner's idea to insure players with multi-year guarantee contracts into a successful business career. Over 25 years, he founded two specialty insurance businesses that are now part of public companies.

At age 50, Pete began his third career as a farmer and restaurateur. With his wife Alice and brother Tim, Pete owns Joseph Decuis, located in Roanoke, Indiana.

Over the past 17 years, Joseph Decuis has grown from a private corporate dining facility to a "farm to fork" culinary business, which today includes an award-winning gourmet restaurant, a gourmet retail store, an inn and a farm dedicated to producing food—primarily Wagyu beef—for the restaurant. Now when he's "dressed for the office," Pete's not in a coat and tie; he's in jeans and boots.

His favorite quote is, "There is no limit to the good a man can do if he doesn't care who gets the credit."


Lance Dunbar


Lance Dunbar

Lance and Tricia Dunbar own Big D farms in Elizabeth, Indiana. Their cow/calf operation is entirely Indiana pasture-based where they raise registered black Angus. Their animals are raised free of hormones and non-therapeutic antibiotics.

A growing number of area consumers seek out Big D’s higher animal welfare products as an alternative to animal products from animals raised in confinement and fed who knows what. Because area businesses and individuals value the way in which the animals are raised, they seek out Big D’s pasture-based products. They are known by their tag line, "Big D Farms—really good beef without all the bull."

Their success at raising their animals on pasture starts with their genetics. Big D knows that you have to select great mothers to raise healthy growing calves.

Because one of their cows will be in their herd and on their land for up to 10 years or more, raising calves, Lance and Tricia believe the cows become a part of who they are. They strive to treat them with a kind eye and a gentle hand. Lance and Tricia find this approach to animal husbandry not only works best for them and who they are, but it works best for the cows, too.

They use range cubes and treats. Tricia and Lance call them cookies and find a cow will go just about anywhere you would like them to go for a cookie. Following a cookie is how they humanely move their herd of cows from one pasture to another, but mostly cookies are used to show their cows a little more love.


Cheyenne Kenin, Indiana Ag Council

Cheyenne Kenin

Cheyenne R. Kenin

Cheyenne R. Kenin resides in southwestern Indiana on a small farm that she shares with her "zoo" of rescue animals. She is an ardent animal lover with a particular passion for equines. About five years ago, Cheyenne co-founded an equine rescue with a friend and neighbor, and she continues to play an active role in that heart-driven endeavor to this day.

In addition to rescuing horses, Cheyenne has saved feral cats and kittens from urban areas; rescued, rehabilitated, and placed American bulldog puppies; assisted in breaking up dogfighting rings and assisted in a rural veterinary clinic. Cheyenne has invested her entire professional life in sales and marketing. She currently works for the Indiana Farmers Union, where she has the opportunity to network with a number of like-minded organizations. The HSUS is one of the organizations that she firmly believes in and supports.

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