Diversity in ag is our strength

As the director of the University of Missouri’s Southwest Research, Extension and Education Center, I get involved in a variety of projects each day.

In mid-September, we hosted more than 1,500 high school students during our Career Exploration Field Day. It was a busy day and everyone at the Center was involved. The very next day, our grape harvest started, and our sorghum sudan plots needed to be cut. We also started calving that week, and since we utilize artificial insemination, we had nearly 50 calves in a 7-day period. Today, as I started writing this article, I was shaking black walnut trees for another study that we have going.

In other words – we’re busy and we go a lot of different directions each day.

All this activity started making me think about how diversified agriculture is in southwest Missouri. Now, I know not every farm is going to have the numerous crops that we raise at a university research farm. But most farms in our area are diversified in many other ways.

I believe our diversification of our agriculture production is one of our greatest strengths in this area. Most people will run a few head of cattle, and many will also supplement their income with poultry or crop production. This type of diversification allows for many families to continue to farm. Some may be full-time, while others may have a spouse that works off the farm. Regardless of how families divide their income, the rural economy is stronger because of diversification. In the 2017 ag census, Lawrence County led the way in cow / calf sales when compared to other counties. It was also ranked No. 1 in hay production. While Barry County was number one in poultry production and milk production. The success of ag producers in this area is due to their hard work and willingness to take risks into different types of agriculture that fuels our rural economies.

Managing multiple livestock ventures while combining it with crop production takes perseverance and hard work. Luckily, these are the characteristics of farmers in the area. Their ability to manage these diversified farming operations is what drives the $ 95 billion dollar agriculture economy in the state, and I think that this diversity allows us to do a better job caring for our precious natural resources of soil, forest, and water.

So, celebrate the complexity and diversity of agriculture in southwest Missouri. It strengthens our farms, communities and families.

Jay Chism is the director of the Southwest Research, Extension and Education Center for the University of Missouri. He my be reached at [email protected]

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