Roy Ballard: NCR-SARE Hero

Coordinated by the NCR-SARE Alumni Organization, the term “NCR-SARE Hero” recognizes the leadership, vision, contributions, and impact that individuals have made in the field of sustainable agriculture in the region. 

Roy Ballard’s 40-year career exemplifies his commitment to education, horticulture, and community food systems. After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Education from Purdue University and a Masters of Science degree in Secondary Education and Teaching from Indiana University, Ballad started teaching ornamental horticulture at South Central Area Vocational School from 1979 to 1991. He joined Purdue University as an Extension Educator in 1991 and became a Hancock County Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator in 2006. He continued in that position until 2018, when Ballard assumed the role as the County Extension Director, before retiring in 2019. During his tenure with Purdue Extension, Ballard helped spearhead FoodLink, a statewide online produce database through Purdue Extension, the Hoosier Harvest Market, a farmer-owned online farmers’ cooperative, and the Ways to Grow Program, a business-building program that reached a 19-county area in southeastern Indiana. An authority on small farms, local foods, and sustainable agriculture in Indiana, Ballard served on multiple committees and working groups outside Purdue, such as the Indiana Farm to School Network and Indiana Farm Bureau. In 2019, Ballard received the Indiana Farm Bureau’s Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Educational Service to Rural People of Indiana.

During his tenure as Indiana’s SARE State Coordinator from 2009 to 2019, Ballard nurtured the growth of Indiana’s engagement with NCR-SARE by promoting NCR-SARE’s opportunities to potential grant applicants. He encouraged many successful SARE grantees and promoted SARE resources across the state. During that time, you could expect to see Ballard staffing a SARE booth at events like the Indiana Small Farm Conference (which he co-founded), the Indiana Horticultural Congress, and the Indiana Farm Bureau State Conference.

Leaders in sustainable agriculture offered tributes as Ballard was nominated and selected to receive this recognition, including:

  • “Across Indiana, Roy Ballard’s name has become synonymous with outstanding, contemporary, and effective educational efforts in sustainable agriculture. Roy has been a leader in, and early adopter of, distance-delivery Extension programs and has, both onsite and digitally, played a key role in the lives of engaging beginning and experienced farmers looking to expand their markets and learn more about farming.” – Jason Henderson, Associate Dean in the College of Agriculture and Director of Purdue Extension.
  • “Roy is an innovator and always looking for ways to help farmers grow their business and market. He worked with local foods and farmers to build a local Food Hub, grew an online marketing tool for farmers and consumers, Purdue Extension Foodlink, which is used throughout the country, and was always there to help others collaborate to build sustainable teams. Roy’s legacy is large and goes beyond the state of Indiana. Thanks, Roy for all you did and continue to do to build sustainability in agriculture!”  - Lais McCartney, Purdue Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator in Hancock County, and Indiana SARE State Coordinator
  • “Roy Ballard has been a giant in the area of Diversified Farming and Food Systems, not only in Indiana but throughout the North Central Region of the USA. He was the catalyst that started many of the changes that helped Purdue Extension become the leader among small-scale, limited resources farmers. Without his guidance and wisdom, little would have been accomplished in the state. Nearly all of our successful programs can be credited to his efforts.” - Tamara Benjamin, past Indiana SARE State Coordinator, and Assistant Program Leader Diversified Farming and Food Systems at Purdue University Extension
  • “When I started a nearly 9-year career with Purdue Extension (2012-2021), the first person I reached out to for advice was Roy Ballard.  Prior to serving in the Extension service, I would occasionally read Roy's articles in the local newspaper where my parents lived, and where Roy was the county ANR educator.  I always found his tone and style to be very welcoming, humble, and authentic.  One of the first pieces of advice that Roy imparted to me was to be patient early in my Extension career and to allow myself to say ‘no’ to new commitments.  It probably took me 5-6 years to appreciate that advice, but it sticks with me to this day. Roy was always present behind the scenes of almost anything related to sustainable agriculture in Indiana, and never sought the limelight or credit for his efforts.  He would help to find resources and make them available to others making any effort to advance sustainable agriculture in our state. I always enjoyed the opportunity to work on a team with Roy, and the bits of time we could spend in conversation on all things farming, food, and life. I still pester Roy in his retirement from time to time when I'm seeking advice or working through a decision, and he's always willing to listen and pose questions that get me thinking about a situation in a different way.  I appreciate the mentorship and example of servanthood he provided to me, and likely countless others in Indiana agriculture.” - Michael O'Donnell, producer and Regenerative Ag Coordinator at Purdue University
  • “Roy's dedication to helping people is incredible! When we approached Roy about converting a conventional 57-acre farm field into a working goat dairy and cheese making plant you could see the excitement in his big smile! As he shared his expertise and helped us find resources to make our farm sustainable he also helped us network with other farmers which led to a huge growth in small farms in Indiana. His willingness to help others has truly led to a surge in the local food movement in Indiana. Kristy and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Roy! Thank you, Roy!” - Mike Hoopengardner, producer, Redbud Farm
  • “Roy Ballard is an invaluable contributor to sustainable agriculture in Indiana.  I knew him during his time at Extension in Hancock county.  While he was there, he was the reason that the local, sustainable food movement moved forward and got a foothold in central Indiana.  He's responsible for putting together the team that started the Hoosier Harvest Market co-operative food hub, which has positively impacted many small farm businesses in central and southeast Indiana.  Personally, he was a key resource for my own operation, helping me navigate several SARE projects and investigate new methods of growing on my farm as well as increasing local food access within our community.  Roy is truly one of the best educators I've ever met, humble and approachable while simultaneously extremely knowledgeable. I feel honored to have been able to work with him.” - Amy Surburg, producer and Former President of Hoosier Harvest Market
  • “All roads led to Roy Ballard. When it came to sustainable agriculture in Indiana, one way or another, you would find yourself meeting with Roy. He was a tireless advocate for sustainable agriculture, both supporting others, and in practice on his land. Roy embodied the future of the land grant system–showing up to support farmers and food systems advocates, guiding people to the questions, considerations, and information necessary for them to move forward, and connecting people to one another. He led projects when stakeholders expressed a need–ready to fill the gaps in information and resources. Always modest and humble, Roy was the master of leading from behind, empowering others to learn, discover, and practice sustainable food systems principles. Roy was an invaluable mentor to others in Extension, providing thoughtful perspective to those who asked.” - Jodee Ellett, Center for Rural Engagement at IU Bloomington