Four innovative, hard-working Missouri farm families were recognized by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon last week. They each received the Governor's Award for Agricultural Achievement, which honors outstanding farmers, growers and processors in a variety of agriculture commodities.
"Agriculture has always been, and will always be the heart of Missouri's economy; and operations like these farms are the reason why," Gov. Nixon said during his farm visits Oct. 12-13. "Missouri farmers feed a hungry world, and they help strengthen America's energy independence. Farmers also create jobs and support our economy."
Enterprising grazing dairy
During a visit to Randy Mooney's M&M Dairy in Rogersville, Nixon toured the dairy and presented Mooney with the award certificate recognizing his hard work and accomplishments.
Mooney, his wife, Jan, and partner Kent Miller milk 300 dairy cows at M&M Dairy, which utilizes an innovative grass-based dairy system. This pasture management system was adopted in 1992 and is designed to maximize forage use by intensively managing plant growth and grazing time.
Mooney is an active leader in the dairy industry. He chairs the Dairy Farmers of America Inc. board of directors and the National Milk Producers Federation, and also serves on the Missouri State Milk Board. He was presented with the 2009 Dairy Leadership Award by the Missouri Dairy Hall of Honors.
Thiel family farm – Growing confidence in corn
Gov. Nixon recognized members of Thiel Farms on Oct. 12 for their longstanding advocacy on behalf of the state's corn producers. Located near Malta Bend in Saline County, the Thiel family was presented with their achievement award during a press conference held at their farm.
Thiel Farms is comprised of Don and Barbara Thiel, sons Donnie and Billy Thiel, and nephew Bryan Thiel. Billy is president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association.
"As corn growers we need to keep sharing our stories with the people making decisions that impact our daily lives," said Billy Thiel. "We want people to better understand how advancements in today's farming practices are helping growers produce a safe, abundant crop for families all over the world."
Last year, the family was part of an effort that harvested more than 3,300 pounds of sweet corn that was donated to Harvesters-The Community Food Network of Kansas City to help provide nearly 2,600 meals for hungry families. The Thiels have also hosted a Lunch and Learn event on their farm, informing local and state decision makers on the importance of agriculture.
Great graziers & conservationists
Gov. Nixon traveled to Salem to recognize Leon and Helen Kreisler, owners of Oak Knoll Ranch.
The Kreislers started their operation near Salem in 1985 with 60 cows on 280 acres. In 1991, after reading about management-intensive grazing, which involves regularly moving the herd to different pastures so grass can grow back, they experimented with 22 acres. Later that year, Leon attended the first grazing school offered by the University of Missouri at its Linneus Research Center to learn more about setting up a permanent management intensive grazing system. The next year, he divided 69 acres into 15 paddocks. All acres of grass at their Oak Knoll Ranch are part of a management intensive grazing system.
Leon has been a board member of the Missouri Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative Committee since its inception in 1995. As one of six board members of the Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Districts Commission, Leon oversees Missouri's 114 soil and water conservation districts. Leon is also the former chair and a current member of the University of Missouri's Hugo Wurdack Farm Advisory Committee; the two-time chair of the Missouri Beef Council; the former state director of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association; and was the Missouri beef producers representative to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Branching out with trees, agritourism
Heritage Tree Farm owners Vern and Bee Spaunhorst of Washington also earned a visit from the governor.
The 75-acre farm, recognized by the Missouri Century Farm program, has been family-owned for more than 100 years. Its current operations as a tree farm began with the planting of the first evergreen seedling in the spring of 1983. Today, the tree-growing family tradition continues with the addition of an apple orchard and a pecan grove. The farm also boasts an historic 160-year-old log cabin farmhouse available to guests as a bed and breakfast.
During his visit, Gov. Nixon toured the farm's operation and presented the Spaunhorsts with a certificate recognizing their hard work and accomplishments.
The Spaunhorsts' tree farm is one of Missouri's thousands of agritourism operations, which range from bed and breakfasts to pumpkin patches to livestock farms. Through the AgriMissouri program, the Spaunhorsts are able to promote their farm as a destination, market their produce and connect with consumers hoping to learn more about their tree farm business.
Missouri's forests account for roughly 14 million acres, in addition to the more than 685 recognized tree farms that encompass more than 179,000 acres.
Sources: DFA, MCGA and Governor's office