If you need a reason to wander the rural backroads of Indiana, try “road farming” … driving around looking at fields lush with corn, soybeans and more. Grab your sunglasses, roll down the car windows or hop on a registered four-wheeler and explore the roads between the fields. No destination. No plan. No schedule. Only breathing the fresh country air and slowing down to enjoy life.
Heading into Parke County on a random backroad, pinkish-brown and golden brown sorghum heads stretch out across the horizon. At harvest time, the thick stalks are crushed and cooked down into a rich syrup, a sweetener still a celebrated throughout Indiana. There is nothing better for breakfast than a warm buttermilk biscuit dripping with sorghum! Sorghum was a major crop in Indiana until sugar and honey production replaced this widely-produced sweetener.
Riding between lush green corn and soybean fields, we cross the covered bridge into Mansfield. We wade in the stream before checking out Our Back Porch restaurant in the middle of Mansfield (open Saturdays and Sundays June through August and during the Covered Bridge Festival). A throw-back to your grandmother’s kitchen, this little gem is filled with antiques and chrome tables and chairs. “Come on in – I’ll feed you!” We order cheeseburgers and grab a drink for the Coca-Cola cooler. “Don’t worry about your wet shoes – this place has been here since the 1800s!”
Winding through woods and more corn and soybean fields, the Bridgeton Mill is open. Visitors are enjoying fishing and wading in the stream below the covered bridge.
Wandering Parke County, iron bridges from a bygone era dot the landscape. Fallen Rock Road winds south from Rocky Fork Creek along sandstone bluffs and a massive limestone rock that broke away years ago.
The slow pace of road farming allows time to wave to folks, watch fox, wild turkey or deer and explore old cemeteries. Traveling on the four-wheeler, the wind in your face almost breathes for you! Stop for a brief greeting along the road and get invited to a friend’s high tunnel for organic tomatoes and cucumbers.
Indiana backroads change every day. They welcome “road farmers” as crops emerge, corn stalks reach “knee-high by the 4th of July,” and harvest approaches. Even in winter, the fields yield a beauty all their own. Take your time – it’s hard to get lost when beauty awaits in around every turn!