SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Greene County Commissioners, other members of Greene County leadership, and representatives of the Springfield Chamber and Springfield Visitors Bureau participated in a tour of local agriculture assets on Friday, Oct 27. The tour visited examples of dairy farming, beef farming/grazing, commercial horticulture and farm to table projects in eastern Greene County.
“Agribusiness makes a significant contribution to our regional economy, and we wanted to get a more in-depth look at some of the local operations that are a vital part of that industry in Greene County,” said Commissioner Harold Bengsch.
Agriculture remains an important economic driver in Greene County and Springfield. However, the agricultural, forestry and related industries in Greene County had an economic contribution of $3.4 billion in sales, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s 2016 Economic Contributions of Agriculture and Forestry study.
Greene County has over 1,750 farms (with an average size of 120 acres) and ranks high for Missouri is several agricultural categories.
“When you have that magnitude of industry it’s important that we’re aware of what’s going on and what the problems may be that the farmers are facing as well as the opportunities,” said Bengsch. “We have to be cognizant of what those planning and zoning policies do for farming as well as inhibit farming because we want to be good partners with farmers and developers.”
Commissioner Lincoln Hough welcomed tour attendees to his beef cattle farm for the first tour stop. He highlighted his work with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District programs.
Hough’s cost-share partnership with soil and water and the NRCS has led to fencing around his timber and the installation of a watering system on the farm.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Hough. “These improvements are not only good for farmers and ranchers but also for taxpayers because they can help reduce runoff and erosion.”
Representatives of Greene County Farm Bureau and the Greene County Cattlemen’s Association gave updates on their efforts during this first stop.
On the tour shuttle to the second stop Kelly McGowan, University of Missouri Extension horticulture educator, discussed new techniques for controlling weeds and pests on farms.
“A lot of our farmers are focusing on sustainable agriculture,” McGowan said. “This includes using integrated pest management techniques for more sustainable agriculture and doing things to keep the soil healthy too.”
Sunshine Valley Farm was stop number two and owner Jan Wooten provided a tour of her hoop house and apple orchard. The hoop house has made it possible for her to expand the growing season of her produce and being close to the city has made it possible to draw customers from a large region.
“We have about 20 varieties of apples. We expanded in to peaches but peaches are always the most difficult weather related plant. Blueberries have been great and black berries and we’re able to do most of that for as pick your own,” said Wooten.
Patrick Byers, MU Extension horticulture specialist, has assisted Wooten on a number of projects including variety selection and other choices focuses on profitability and sustainability.
“We now have farmers interested in 12-month production,” Byers said. “Horticulture is an important part of agriculture in Greene County.”
Tour participants enjoyed a unique lunch at Harvest, which is a farm to table restaurant located adjacent to Sunshine Valley Farm. Craig von Foerster and his wife Tamara, owners of Harvest, talked with the group about the struggles of a restaurant sourcing food locally.
“It is still a struggle to source local food or in some cases to source them at a price that we can make use of them,” said Craig. “Although we raise a lot of our own food we would like to see more farms selling locally to restaurants.”
Alexa Poindexter, coordinator of the Ozarks Food Harvest farm near Rogersville, welcomed participants to the fourth tour stop. She highlighted the farms hoop houses and 76 raised beds where they have raised over 10,000 pounds of food for use at over 200 food pantries and organizations in 28 counties.
“When you’re growing food to feed hungry bellies, it just needs to be edible – and it needs to be safe,” said Poindexter. “At the same time we are teaching our volunteers how to grow produce so they are able to grow their own food or grow it for others.”
The final tour stop was Feemster Dairy located in north Springfield. Tim Schnakenberg, MU Extension agronomy specialist, explained the dire dairy situation in southwest Missouri to tour participants as well as the ways a dairy farm can be an economic generator for the county.
Jordan Feemster showed the group around his family dairy which his dad started in the 1944. The Feemster Dairy worked with collaborating agencies to create a system that would catch manure and wastewater from their milking operation to be used on the land, cutting their fertilizer bill by nearly $20,000 per year.
The family dairy does rotational grazing of cattle, the milk cattle twice a day and they work very long hours.
“I believe milking is an inherited insanity,” Feemster said.
The Greene County Commission funds the local Greene County MU Extension office. Local MU Extension specialists helped to plan and conduct the tour with significant sponsorships from J. Howard Fisk, Soil and Water Conservation District, and Greene County Farm Bureau.
“The University of Missouri Extension program in Greene County was honored to be able to coordinate the agriculture tour for the County Commissioners. We’re already thinking about tour stops for next year,” said David Burton, civic communication specialist with MU Extension.
For over 100 years, MU Extension has engaged Missourians in relevant programs based on University of Missouri research. More information is available by calling the MU Extension office in Greene County at (417) 881-8909 or online at http://extension.missouri.edu/greene.
—David Burton, University of Missouri Extension
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