By Stan Maddux
CONVERSE, Ind. – An Indiana farmer and business owner says he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of many people, including his parents, grandfather, family, friends, and the 4-H program.
John Garr thinks so much about the impact his 10 years in 4-H made on his life, he’s been a financial contributor to the Indiana 4-H Foundation since graduating from Purdue University with a degree in agronomy.
His generosity is targeted especially to the State 4-H Junior Leader Conference and Council for which he was a member in 1976.
Garr said he did not know about the conference until a 4-H leader approached him about attending. He went on to become among the 10 out of 200 members statewide at the conference selected to return the following year to help teach the course.
Garr said the lessons he learned from that experience in areas like teamwork were “life-changing” but would not have happened if not for many other people touching him beforehand in a positive manner.
He said his financial contributions are sort of a payback for the life lessons he learned from the program and an investment to assist 4-H in doing the same thing for future generations of children.
“Through the fortunes of nice people who helped me, I was able to be able to contribute so that young people today would get an opportunity to experience the same great things that I did,” he said.
Garr, 65, lives on the same family farm he grew up on in Howard County.
He owns GarrCo Products, a producer of adjuvants that, when added to pesticides, make them work more effectively.
That’s what he made and offered when he founded the Howard County firm in 1997. Several years later, he added highly diverse and concentrated microbial-based biologicals that help crops and other plants grow healthier.
He also began selling soluble ammonium sulfate products to improve crop pesticide absorption.
After college, Garr said he worked at an independent retail fertilizer location for about 10 years and later at a wholesale supply company.
At one point, he decided to take the knowledge he acquired from helping with research projects during and after college to try to develop his own products. The decision did not stem from any childhood dream.
His motivation was curiosity and his love for the family farm.
“The farm barely supported my parents for most of my life, so I wanted to find something else to make money and still be able to help on the farm. It just kind of evolved,” he said.
He continues to help his father on the farm, which raises corn and soybeans.
Garr said his grandfather, Clarence, is among the many other people he’s come into contact with that deserve credit for his accomplishments.
He was in his early teens when his grandfather planted a seed that grew into him being able to think out of the box.
Garr said his father, John, told him to plow the field in a manner different from what his grandfather suggested. Garr said he went back to his grandfather who replied, “take the best ideas from your dad and me, throw your own twist into it and plow the field.’’
From then on, Garr said he went to people with experience for advice to increase the odds of better accomplishing tasks the first time.
That mindset further enhanced in 4-H is what led to his success at developing his own products and acting on the suggestions of other individuals to start the company.
“You ask people their opinion. You might use all of it, none of it, or part of it, but why not try to do that if it makes things go smoother or your life better,” he said.
His answer to children thinking about joining 4-H is, “if you let it, it would be probably one of the greatest experiences and help you become a better person down the road.”