Community News Archives for 2021-01

USDA temporarily suspends debt collections, foreclosures and other activities on farm loans due to coronavirus

Due to the national public health emergency caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). USDA will temporarily suspend non-judicial foreclosures, debt offsets or wage garnishments, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice. USDA will work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to stop judicial foreclosures and evictions on accounts that were previously referred to the Department of Justice. Additionally, USDA has extended deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers. In addition, for the Guaranteed Loan program, flexibilities have been made available to lenders to assist in servicing their customers.


Today’s announcement by USDA expands previous actions undertaken by the Department to lessen financial hardship. According to USDA data, more than 12,000 borrowers—approximately 10% of all borrowers—are eligible for the relief announced today. Overall, FSA lends to more than 129,000 farmers, ranchers and producers.


“USDA and the Biden Administration are committed to bringing relief and support to farmers, ranchers and producers of all backgrounds and financial status, including by ensuring producers have access to temporary debt relief,” said Robert Bonnie, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary. “Not only is USDA suspending the pipeline of adverse actions that can lead to foreclosure and debt collection, we are also working with the Departments of Justice and Treasury to suspend any actions already referred to the applicable Agency. Additionally, we are evaluating ways to improve and address farm related debt with the intent to keep farmers on their farms earning living expenses, providing for emergency needs, and maintaining cash flow.” 


The temporary suspension is in place until further notice and is expected to continue while the national COVID-19 disaster declaration is in place.


USDA’s Farm Service Agency provides several different loans for producers, which fall under two main categories:


  • Guaranteed loans are made and serviced by commercial lenders, such as banks, the Farm Credit System, credit unions and other non-traditional lenders. FSA guarantees the lender’s loan against loss, up to 95%.
  • Direct loans are made and serviced by FSA using funds from the federal government.


The most common loan types are Farm Ownership, Farm Operating and Farm Storage Facility Loans, with Microloans for each: 


  • Farm Ownership: Helps producers purchase or enlarge a farm or ranch, construct a new or improve an existing farm or ranch building, pay closing costs and pay for soil and water conservation and protection.
  • Farm Operating: Helps producers purchase livestock and equipment and pay for minor real estate repairs and annual operating expenses.
  • Farm Storage Facility Loans are made directly to producers for the construction of cold or dry storage and includes handling equipment and mobile storage such as refrigerated trucks.
  • Microloans: Direct Farm Ownership, Operating Loans and Farm Storage Facility Loans have a shortened application process and reduced paperwork designed to meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional and niche-type operations.


Contact FSA

FSA encourages producers to contact their county office to discuss these programs and temporary changes to farm loan deadlines and the loan servicing options available. For Service Center contact information, visit For servicing information, access

Luke Schonfeld's Barnyard Party Pals mobile petting zoo is a growing business

A love of animals combined with an 8th grade Agriculture class and time in FFA has turned into a business endeavor for one Shelby County man. 


Luke Schonfeld has managed to combine all three into Barnyard Party Pals, a mobile petting zoo that features pony and unicorn parties, pony rides, live nativities, educational programs and more. 


"When we started, we started with a couple of goats, one alpaca and a pony. Since then, we have grown tremendously. We have a multitude of species as part of our Critter Crew here at Barnyard Party Pals," Schonfeld tells Giant FM. 



Schonfeld says his love for animals comes from the "best role model I had growing up," his grandfather, Frank Schonfeld, Sr. 


"Growing up, he taught me amazing lessons about raising animals and sharing them with others. He and I would take day trips to amazing places and meet amazing people who had all kinds of animals. One trip to this day I remember was seeing buffalo, ostriches and camels on one trip. That is where I get my love for sharing my animals. I am also a huge fan of Dr. Pol, Steve Irwin, and his son, Robert, all of them are animal lovers as well," Schonfeld told Giant FM. 


Currently, Barnyard Party Pals features alpacas, ducks, donkeys, geese, goats, ponies, turkeys, rabbits, iguanas, bearded dragons, hedgehogs and more, according to Schonfeld. 



As for growing too fast, Schonfeld said he wanted to start his business slowly.


"I am not the person who wants to get crazy, big fast. I want the chance to slowly grow that we can handle the growing pains that come with it. Everything is planned and has to be in order to work with animals," he said. 


Schonfeld said his business initially started out by bringing animals to various nursing homes and doing a few family birthdays, but now they supply the animals for the week of the Shelby County Fair, as well as at the Shelby County Ag Promotion and Farm Bureau Children's Animal Farm and Shelbyville Parks Department events. 


"We are a mobile petting zoo, which is definitely different among the rest. We bring the zoo to you," he said.  


In 2021, Schonfeld said his business will be featuring pony rides, ponies and unicorn parties, as well as animal educational programs.


"We do all kinds of events for all different age groups. Whether you are one or 100, when you see an animal for the first time, I get to see that sparkle in their eyes. It is truly why I do what I do, sharing my animals with people," he said. 


Schonfeld said his thinking of a future changed over time into something he truly loves.


"Honestly, with my love for animals growing up, maybe I would work at a zoo or a vet office, but I must say, I like sharing my animals this way," he said. 


For more information, contact Schonfeld at 317-696-8419 or

Chamber Chat talks with new Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donna Christian

Retiring Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Metz and the new Executive Director Donna Christian appeared on Chamber Chat on Friday, January 15.



The Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Donna Christian has been named the Executive Director of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce.


She will be replacing Executive Director Julie Metz who has held the position for 14 years.


Metz is eager to retire but she said, “knowing that Donna shares my passion for the county and the mission of the Chamber makes it easier to move on. Donna has exciting ideas that will continue to meet the needs and expectations of our members and the community.”


Donna Christian has a varied background that is well-suited for the job of Executive Director. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science & Journalism from the University of Indianapolis and has continued her education with certifications from Michigan State University and the University of Notre Dame.


Her background includes serving in positions in Governor Orr’s public relations department, WWWY Radio, Irwin Management Company of Columbus as The Commons Mall and Downtown Main Street marketing director, general manager of Indiana Premium Outlets with Simon Property Group, and operations in the Rotary Club of Indianapolis. She has served on numerous boards and committees. She was appointed by Gov. Evan Bayh to serve on the State Tourism Board, Columbus (IN) Visitors Center, Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Zonta Club, Columbus Jaycees, Columbus Farmers Market, Columbus Area Arts Council, and the Foundation for Youth to name a few. She is a current member of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis.


Travis Edington, President of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce said, “Hiring someone with Donna’s experience and talent is a clear example of the Chamber’s determination to continue the momentum and positive impact for our members’ businesses under Julie’s leadership. The Hiring Committee interviewed outstanding candidates, but Donna stood out for her experience, marketing and ability to develop relationships with members, the media and the county. We found her to be engaging, energetic, and experienced. She certainly has a “can-do” attitude.”


Donna Christian is a life-long resident of Shelby County and a graduate of Southwestern High School.


“I have always wanted to work in my hometown. Shelbyville and the county have always held a special affection. I am always quick to tell others that I’m a resident of Shelby County. The people in the county are authentic and caring – it’s just a great place to live, work and raise a family. I’m excited about the opportunity to be instrumental in adding valuable programs and educational opportunities for our members while promoting business growth in Shelbyville and the surrounding area,” Christian said. “I look forward to fulfilling the needs of our current membership while spearheading a push for new members. I believe passionately in the Chamber and its capacity to enhance the economic and business climate of our area. It’s going to be great to be at home in Shelby County and serving my community.”


“I am anxious to start training with Julie for this job. I know she will get me prepared to take the helm and chart a course for success. Julie is such a seasoned, well-known professional – it will be a challenge to meet her high standards. I know the Directors and members of the Chamber join me in wishing her all the best in her endeavors. She will be sorely missed,” Donna Christian said.

Shelby Materials marks its 70th year in business

First, a few things that happened in 1951:  


Congress passed 22nd Amendment, limiting a President to two terms


The Rosenbergs convicted of passing U.S. nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union


General Douglas MacArthur relieved of command in Korea


Joe DiMaggio announced retirement after the Yankees beat the NY Giants in the World Series


Notable movies included The African Queen and A Streetcar Named Desire.  I Love Lucy began its TV run.


1951 was also the beginning of a business celebrating an anniversary this year.  Shelby Materials is in its 70th year of operation.


Vice President of Operations and Sales Matt Haehl.



Haehl says it’s wonderful to be a part of a successful, growing company.



70 years is something to celebrate.  Haehl hopes they get that chance with Covid still having its impact.



In 1997, the business was renamed Shelby Materials, from Shelby Gravel, Inc., in order to showcase the vast variety of concrete, aggregates and custom blends offered. 



Pride and love of BBQ powering Smokin' Barrel Barbeque

A love of family, community and food are the three principles Mike McFarland and his wife, CJ have built their business, Smokin' Barrel Barbeque, on. 


It has been that way since 2016 when the couple decided to try their hand at bbq full-time after winning several competitions. 


For Mike McFarland, the business is the end result of his goals after attaining a degree from Pennsylvania Culinary School. In 2015, he started smoking meats and competing in various backyard bbq competitions. 



"He and I met 17 years ago working at Smokey Bones. We met when I worked as a waitress through college and he was a kitchen supervisor and restaurant opening trainer. Kids and careers took us a different way, but after winning a few competitions, we decided to try bbq full-time," CJ McFarland told Giant FM.


McFarland said all the food made at Smokin Barrel is keto friendly and the bbq is cooked slow and and smoked low on wood. 


And, it is made with something that a price tag cannot be put on -- pride and love. 


"We love what we do. We love being with our family. We love the communities that surround us and that support us regularly. New Palestine and Warren Township have become our biggest support systems. Our bbq is our family and it is our culture," CJ McFarland said. 


McFarland said there are potential plans for indoor dining and possibly a patio area in the future. 


"We want to be great at what we are currently doing. We are looking to offer breakfast on Saturdays. Catering in the beginning was our main focus. we still cater, but try to limit it to smaller events as our bbq is an art. It takes at least 15 hours for our meats to be prepped and smoked," McFarland said. 


McFarland welcomes anyone who likes bbq to give them a try. She told Giant FM the staff aims to make all customers feel like family. 


"We provide good food and service and make all feel welcome. We provide a safe work environment for young people, and our kids work alongside us. Our faith in God has kept us encouraged and has confirmed more than once that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. Acts 2:42," McFarland said. 


Smokin' Barrel Barbeque is located at Camp Sertoma, 2316 S German Church Rd, Indianapolis, just outside New Palestine. It is open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. 


For more information, call 317-340-4502 or at

Hoosiers age 80 and older can register for Covid-19 vaccine

Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and the Indiana Department of Health today announced that Hoosiers age 80 and older will be eligible to register for a free COVID-19 vaccine beginning Friday, Jan. 8. 


Individuals age 80 and older account for less than 4 percent of the state’s population but represent more than 19 percent of the hospitalizations and more than half of the COVID-19 deaths in the state, according to the Indiana Department of Health.


State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG, said vaccine supplies are still limited. Indiana has received just over 350,000 doses of vaccine to date and is scheduled to receive about 78,000 vaccines per week at this time.


“By opening vaccine to those who are 80 or older, then adding people in their 70s and 60s when vaccine supplies allow us to expand, we can best protect the populations that account for 93 percent of our COVID-19 deaths,” Box said.


Hoosiers age 80 and older can register beginning at 9 a.m. Friday by going to, searching for a nearby vaccine clinic and selecting an appointment time. Appointments may also be made by calling 211. A caregiver or loved one may make an appointment on behalf of an eligible senior.


At least one vaccine clinic will be located in each Indiana county.


Appointments for the second dose will be made at the clinic when the first dose is administered.

Additional groups, such as those based on underlying health conditions, will be added as vaccine becomes available. Updates will be posted at

Conservation Reserve Program general signup began January 4 and ends February 12

Agricultural producers and private landowners interested in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) can sign up for the popular program Jan. 4, 2021, until Feb. 12, 2021. The competitive program, administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provides annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.


“This signup for the Conservation Reserve Program gives producers and landowners an opportunity to enroll for the first time or continue their participation for another term,” Steven Brown said. “This program encourages conservation on sensitive lands or low-yielding acres, which provides tremendous benefits for stewardship of our natural resources and wildlife.”


Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to their local region and the nation’s environment and economy. CRP general signup is held annuallyand is competitive; general signup includes increased opportunities for wildlife habitat enrollment through the State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative.


New cropland offeredin the program must have been planted for four out of six crop years from 2012 to 2017. Additionally, producers with land already enrolled but expiring on Sept. 30, 2021, can re-enroll this year. The acreage offered by producers and landowners is evaluated competitively;accepted offers will begin Oct. 1, 2021.


Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. The program marked its 35-year anniversaryin December 2020. Program successes include:


  • Preventing more than 9 billion tons of soil from eroding, which is enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks.
  • Reducing nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to annually tilled cropland by 95% and 85%, respectively.
  • Sequestering an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking 9 million cars off the road.
  • Creating more than 3 million acres of restored wetlands while protecting more than 175,000 stream miles with riparian forest and grass buffers, which is enough to go around the world seven times.
  • Benefiting bees and other pollinators and increasing populations of ducks, pheasants, turkey, bobwhite quail, prairie chickens, grasshopper sparrows, and many other birds.


All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including those that restrict in-person visits or require appointments. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Our program delivery staff will continue to work with our producers by phone, email, and using online tools. More information can be found at