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Agriculture Grows Families

A couple of months ago, Chris had the opportunity to speak at the Missouri Governor's Conference as a representative of the dairy industry. In honor of National Ag Week, I'm sharing his comments here, as one dairy farmer just telling his story. 

 Hi, I’m Chris. I'm a dairy farmer in Missouri.  My wife and I farm together with my parents.  We milk Holstein cows, farm acres of row crops, in addition to raising about  replacement heifers on local pastures.   Now, my wife, she grew up on a hog farm in northwest Iowa.  So, naturally we never, ever argue about which animal is better…about which animal smells better, looks better, tastes better…
As I was thinking about what I wanted to say here today, my thoughts were drawn to my little 11 month old daughter crawling around and to my wife who is carrying our next child due in March.  And I thought about my great grandfather who lost everything in the Great Depression and about my grandpa who started all over again with nothing.  I thought about the five generations before me who have dairy-ed in Missouri; about the challenges they faced, the opportunities they made, the families they built.  

By nature, agriculture draws families; or better put, agriculture grows families.  As a result, many of us in agriculture have been here in Missouri for generations; perhaps one generation, or three generations or six or more.  And each of those generations have seen their fair share of challenges.  They’ve seen droughts and floods; humid, oppressive summers and icy, bone-chilling winters; blights and insects; weeds and failed crops; and a financial or farm crisis or too.  And yet somehow, here we are today.  
Imagine the challenges that those early settlers of Missouri saw as they came up the river or through the forests.  And yet, they saw the potential, the rough forms, the uncut gems that could be someday.  And in the fields, in the forests, in the pastures, in the barns, they sweated and they bled and they dreamed and they seized the opportunities they were given.  Heck, sometimes they made their own opportunities where there were none and built a rich heritage of agriculture in the process.

Those are the stories I think about when I think the challenges and opportunities that face my farm and my family and my dairy.  Are there challenges in the dairy industry?  You bet.  Missouri summers are tough, prices have been low, few members of the workforce have dairy experience, and we don’t have the extent of infrastructure that we used to.   
 But we are not without opportunities.  We have plentiful, high quality feed that’s readily available and affordable:  corn silage, soybean-meal, soybean hulls, distiller’s grains, brewer’s grains, corn gluten, cottonseed, alfalfa, and plentiful pasture land.  We have micro-creameries popping up across the state, reintroducing people to specialty dairy products.   We have a good water supply supported by plentiful rainfall.  In the end, though, it’s not about those physical challenges and opportunities; it’s about how we react to them.  

The opportunities afforded us go beyond the physical necessities of dairying.  I find that we have a tremendous opportunity to connect with consumers and to help build consumer confidence.  We have the opportunity to strengthen our social license to operate.  People love dairy cows; they love seeing a calf running through a pasture; they love seeing the care and concern that we have for our animals.  People love the story we have to tell, and they love the way our families are interwoven with our farms.  I strongly believe that this is one opportunity that will have a  positive impact upon our industry for decades to come.
Similarly, we have the opportunity to impact our communities through those employees who work on our farms.  Not only does capital flow back into the local community, but so does character.  I strongly believe dairy farming is character-building work…trust me, I grew up scraping manure and chasing calves.  The character that our employees develop…well, they carry that character and work ethic back into their communities, into their churches, into their families.  As I said before, at its core, agriculture grows families.

So both opportunities and real challenges are present.  But if our forebears who settled this state could overcome the mammoth challenges, we can too.  I believe the future can be very bright for Missouri dairy, for those who have the eyes to see the opportunities and the fortitude to capitalize on them.  To quote President-Elect Trump: “If you’re going to think, you might as well start thinking big.”
Each of us up here represents a different industry with different opportunities and different challenges. It’s a pleasure to be a part of that agricultural community here in Missouri, and a pleasure to be with all of you here today. 


  1. Wow this was quite a touching post, never knew farmers went through all this, Chris did a good job writing all this. Hope to see more posts from you soon, keep up the good work!


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