ZIONSVILLE, Ind. – Former Colts punter Hunter Smith now takes to a different type of field these days; he turns to life on his farm in Zionsville alongside his family.
After finishing up his career in the NFL more than a decade ago, Smith began exploring next steps in life. For him, it centered around family.
“When I was done, I kind of looked around at my life and family and started thinking about how to move forward and what that should look like,” Smith described.
That’s when the former Super Bowl-winning athlete decided to take life to the farm.
“I started thinking about how I wanted to raise my children,” Smith said. “What kind of environment I wanted them to be in, what I wanted them to be exposed to, and I realized growing up anything that was good about me was imparted through the medium of agriculture.”
It’s a return to the old. Smith grew up on a farm in Texas.
“There are three things that my dad taught me to not be afraid of: hard work, getting dirty, and animals,” he said.
Returning to ranching cattle and raising chickens restored a passion of his. That passion took off pretty quickly.
“I had absolutely no plan for it to become what it’s become,” Smith said. “The plan was to raise our kids around egg laying chickens and cow manure and barns and stuff like that.”
He watched the farm grow right before his eyes. What started as a family adventure, transformed into a community experience.
“I just started buying more cattle and buying more birds and building more barns,” Smith laughed. “And it just kind of gradually grew into thousands of people a month.”
The former Colts player and his family now welcome hundreds, if not thousands, of people to the farm each year. WonderTree also has a market where customers can buy Smith’s locally grown meats, eggs and more.
“It’s a beautiful thing and we love taking our life and extending it to the community,” he said. That’s really what we’ve done.”
His work on the farm is known as “regenerative farming.”
“The regenerative model really is just the age-old traditional model of giving back to the land that gives to us,” Smith said. “That’s how people farmed for a long time. If you give back to the soil, the soil gives back nutrients. Your animals take those nutrients and then the food that is produced off of your flocks and herds will be more nutrient dense.”
It may be hard to envision swapping a helmet, pads, and cleats for a pair of boots, blue jeans and a flannel shirt, but for Hunter Smith, it is a feeling of being right back where he belongs.
“It’s because I was raised with it,” he said. “So, it’s really in my blood. It’s a part of who I am. I knew when I began playing football that football would be over, and when it was over there would be a lot of life to live beyond that. And that’s really what this is about. It’s about pivoting from one thing when it ends and moving onto the next chapter of your life.”
Smith said there’s one simple reason he and his family have stuck around in Indiana after all of these years: there’s nothing like Hoosier hospitality. He said he is proud to serve hundreds of people on his farm each year.