Indiana State Parks Provide Farm Focus
When visiting one of the 24 state parks across Indiana, you might expect towering trees, challenging hiking trails, scenic campgrounds and water activities ranging from fishing to canoeing. But at several Indiana parks, you can immerse yourself in centuries-old farm life, discover a water-powered gristmill, visit with heirloom livestock, and explore fascinating history – all focused on agriculture.
Life of Lincoln
At Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, the park pays tribute to Indiana’s own Abraham Lincoln, who lived in the state from youth to adulthood. The most popular attraction at the park, the Living Historical Farm depicts typical activities of the 1820s Lincoln farm, and is complete with a cabin, outbuildings, split rail fences, farm animals, vegetable and herb gardens, and field crops. The “living” part comes in thanks to interpreters in pioneer clothing who work the farm with authentic tools and methods, encouraging visitors to join in.
“We have a variety of activities going on at the farm that visitors are invited and encouraged to participate in,” says Mike Capps, chief of interpretation at Lincoln Boyhood Memorial. “They include things like wool spinning and working in the gardens, and from time to time things like candle and soap making, and maple syrup tapping.”
A number of daily chores are done on the farm, while other chores depend on the weather and the seasons, just as in Lincoln’s time. The concept is one of a continuous, hour-by-hour, day-by-day living display.
“The farm is an excellent opportunity for visitors to see the frontier conditions Lincoln grew up in,” Capps says. “Hopefully, it will help them come to a greater understanding of who he was.”
Where There’s a Mill…
At Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, visitors can garner a more general view of historic agriculture in the Pioneer Village. The area contains 20 historic buildings to explore, including the majestic centerpiece – a three-story limestone gristmill from 1817 that still grinds cornmeal today. In addition, guests can explore a historic leather shop, saw mill, distillery, gardens and blacksmith shop on the grounds.
“During its prime, the gristmill ground corn for farmers in the area, keeping 9 to 11 percent as the fee for grinding,” says Coletta Prewitt, program coordinator for Spring Mill. “They would use that corn in the distillery and make whiskey, and the mash was fed to hogs that ran free throughout the village.”
The park has heritage interpreters who demonstrate period crafts, and it holds several history-focused events each year, including the Heritage Days festival on Aug. 1-2 and Fiber Arts Weekend on Sept. 5.
Prairietown, Prophetstown & Beyond
Conner Prairie in Fishers is one of the most-visited outdoor museums in the country, with exhibits including 1836 Prairietown, where visitors can experience 19th-century life, and Animal Encounters, which features world-class, rare animal breeds such as English Longhorn cattle, Ossabaw Island hogs and Leicester sheep. Guests can even try their hand at bottle-feeding a calf or brushing a goat.
The newest state park, Prophetstown in West Lafayette, offers a unique experience with a more modern look at agriculture. The park houses The Farm at Prophetstown, which serves as a world-class training farm for low input, horse-powered agriculture. Staff at the 125-acre farm is dedicated to showing, sharing and teaching about horse-powered farming, as well as modern farming techniques, including genetics and machinery. The farm raises oats, corn, spelt and alfalfa hay, and raises hens, hogs, Belgian mares and milking shorthorn cattle.
For even more agriculture excitement, O’Bannon Woods State Park in Corydon features a uniquely restored, working haypress barn and holds events such as Living Pioneer Farmstead days on Aug. 1. Amish Acres in Nappanee is a real working farm with barnyard hens, livestock, gardens, an apple orchard and agricultural demonstrations.
Find a complete listing of Indiana state parks and activities online at in.gov/dnr/parklake.
If You Go...
Lincoln’s Boyhood Home
Location: 2916 E. South St., Lincoln City, IN 47552
Hours: Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial is open year round except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Park grounds are open from dawn till dusk, and the visitor center is open Monday and Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Spring Mill State Park and Pioneer Village
Location: 3333 State Rd. 60 E., Mitchell, IN 47446
Hours: Pioneer Village is open daily from May through mid-October from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: 13400 Allisonville Rd., Fishers, IN 46038
Hours: Both indoor and outdoor areas are open from March 26 to Nov. 1. Times vary for specific dates. Please check website or call for more information.
Phone: 317-776-6000; toll-free: (800) 966-1836
Prophetstown State Park and Farm
Location: 3534 Prophetstown Rd., Battle Ground, IN 47920
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April through the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
O’Bannon Woods State Park
Location: 7234 Old Forest Rd. S.W., Corydon, IN 47112
Hours: Nature Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: 1600 West Market St., Nappanee, IN 46550
Hours: Amish Acres is closed January and February, opening weekends in March. Check the website or call before visiting for the most up-to-date hours.
Phone: 574-773-4188; toll-free: 800-800-4942