Grace College alumnus and board member Bob Bishop was honored by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture for Bishop Farms’ 150-plus years as a family-operated farm. The ceremony took place on Wednesday, July 29, at the Indiana Statehouse. Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch and Director of Agriculture Bruce Kettler presented Bishop with the award.
Bishop Farms, located west of Leesburg, Ind., was homesteaded in 1833. Bob Bishop is the seventh-generation Bishop to farm the land, and the 2020 crop will be his 48th to plant and harvest.
“I always hoped to take over the family farm. It was never a question as to what I was going to do,” said Bishop. “My mom has pictures of me as a young boy with grease all over my face, following my dad around and helping him with whatever work he was doing on the farm,” he said.
Bishop graduated from Leesburg High School. He studied elementary education at Grace College from 1965 – 1969. He then went on to IPFW where he obtained a Master of Education in 1971.
Bishop taught full-time and farmed part-time from 1972 until 1985 when his father and two neighboring farmers were ready to retire. At that point, Bishop concluded his teaching career and took over the combined 1,500 acres as a full-time farmer.
His 35-year career since has benefitted his family, Kosciusko County, and his alma mater, Grace College.
A number of years ago, Bishop met former Grace College President Dr. Ron Manahan on the Community Foundation Board. Manahan often asked Bishop about farming and agriculture which led Bishop to invite Manahan on a tractor ride. On the ride, Bob suggested that Grace College implement an agriculture program.
“Like a farmer, I planted a seed with Dr. Manahan that day,” said Bishop. “I had a vision for a program that benefited local students who want to stay in the area and contribute to our strong agricultural presence here,” he added.
After Dr. Bill Katip became president, Bishop joined the college’s board of trustees. After many conversations with Dr. Jeff Fawcett, dean of Grace College School of Business and other agriculture business leaders, Bishop’s “seed” began to take root and the agribusiness degree blossomed in 2017. The program continues to grow; Grace recently added a second ag major: sustainable agriculture.
Grace’s ag program even created the “Bob Bishop Award of Excellence,” an honor awarded to a top agriculture student each year.
“Bob has become a dear friend over the past two years. He has spoken in classrooms and shared counsel in small groups. Thanks to his great persistence, he is the pioneer of Grace’s ag program. Without him, it would not exist,” said Tobe Forshtay, Grace College’s sustainable agriculture program director.
Learn more about Grace’s ag program at grace.edu/major/sustainable-agriculture-major/.