By Chris Chinn, Director of Agriculture Chinn’s monthly column from Missouri Ruralist entitled Ag Matters.
“You keep your fence rows clean, and I’ll do the same.”
Shortly after we were first married, my husband, Kevin, and I moved into our first home near Emden, Mo. The first visit we had was from a friendly neighbor named Keith. He introduced himself and explained the farmers and ranchers who lived on that gravel road took a lot of pride in how they farm. Keith expected us to keep up our part of the bargain.
Over the years, Keith and two other neighbors named Shorty and Becky became part of our family. They mentored us. They were part of the village that helped raise our two kids.
I share this story as a reminder that no matter how each of us farm, we all have a place in pulling our own weight and making sure we’re supporting the next generation. This was a prevailing theme at the 48th Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture.
More than 550 farmers, ranchers and agricultural leaders packed the Missouri Agriculture Awards Luncheon to hear from Missouri Governor and cattle rancher Mike Parson.
“The most important question we all have to ask ourselves is this: who am I going to pass this on to,” Parson said.
This conference left me feeling certain that Missouri agriculture is in good hands. Gov. Parson, our team at the Department of Agriculture and I all understand the challenges facing you: Mother Nature, low farm income, volatile commodity prices and a trade future that hangs in the balance.
One thing always defeats those challenges: the resiliency and loyalty of our farmers and ranchers. We are dedicated to providing affordable and nutritious food for all Missourians.
For those of us who weren’t able to join us at this year’s conference, here are a few takeaways:
• feedMORE Session. There is untapped potential in Missouri agriculture, centered around food and beverage manufacturing, to the tune of $25 billion according to a study commissioned by the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
• reachMORE Session. Advocacy can start from a place of pride in our rural communities. Look around you, find what you are most proud of in your hometown and share that story. Establishing an audience outside of agriculture primes those listeners to hear the positive story of our farmers and ranchers down the line.
• connectMORE Session. Connecting rural Missouri to high-speed internet in small towns such as Archie, Mo., can revitalize business, health care, education and agriculture.
• empowerMORE Session. Agriculture is hungry for technology. Experienced farmers can help the next generation get into farming, and the next generation can return the favor by implementing these new technologies.
So, just like the governor, I want to leave you with a few questions to think about:
• What am I doing to support young farmers in my community?
• How can the organizations I’m a member of partner with others to benefit Missouri agriculture?
• Am I utilizing every skill on my farm to implement new technologies?
Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence, Mo.