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  • Missouri’s rate of childhood food insecurity is among the highest in the nation, and the state’s agricultural industry is working to change that through the Missouri Farmers Care Drive to Feed Kids. Over the summer, this collaborative partnership raised resources to feed more than 1.8 million hungry children across the state.

    “Kids coming to school hungry or not knowing if there will be food to eat at home over the weekend is a harsh reality,” said Dr. Alan Wessler, MFC chairman and MFA Incorporated vice president of feed operations and animal health. “Food insecurity in Missouri is a silent problem in our own communities and hometowns. All of the funds raised, 100 percent, will go to the backpack programs for Missouri kids.”

    A check for $165,284 for childhood food insecurity programs was presented Aug. 10 at the Missouri State Fair to Feeding Missouri, the association of Missouri’s six regional food banks. The check presentation was made just before the fair’s Sawyer Brown concert, which also supported the cause. The group’s lead singer, Mark Miller, has been an avid supporter of hunger relief across the U.S., and he co-wrote and produced the movie, “Where the Fast Lane Ends,” which was shown earlier that day to Drive to Feed Kids collaborators at the fair. The film was created by Farming to Fight Hunger, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the knowledge gap between agriculture and consumers and increasing awareness of food security issues.  

    On Aug. 15, the first-ever Missouri FFA Food Insecurity Service Day was held on the fairgrounds in Sedalia. More than 350 FFA students and volunteers spent the day packing 52,032 meals to feed families of up to six people.

    “Missouri FFA was proud to be a part of this effort to bring awareness to food insecurity in our state,” said Keith Dietzschold, Missouri FFA executive secretary. “This type of activity brings to life the FFA motto of ‘Living to Serve’ while working to complete our FFA vision of ‘Growing Leaders, Building Communities, and Strengthening Agriculture.’”

    In addition, a total of 8,950 pounds of nonperishable food was given to local pantries through donations of fairgoers during the Missouri Farmers Care Food Drive Day and the Can Creation Contest, in which FFA teams used canned food items donated by Woods Supermarket. Missouri FFA also donated 900 pounds of fresh produce from student projects on display at the fair.

    “Seeing Missouri’s agriculture groups walk the walk during the Drive to Feed Kids is heartening and inspiring,” said Scott Baker, state director for Feeding Missouri. “It has gone a long way to making this one of the most hopeful years in Feeding Missouri’s history. We are grateful to all who donated.”

    MFA was a sponsor of the Drive to Feed Kids along with many other agricultural organizations, businesses and individuals.

  • When the elegant Kansas City Southern Belle passenger train rolled onto the property of Central Missouri AGRIService in Marshall, Mo., the retro railcars were unlike anything this modern grain-handling facility had ever seen. Here, it’s usually utilitarian hopper cars that are being loaded with corn and soybeans, not plush Pullman cars being loaded with people.

    But the grand opening of the new shuttle-loader in June called for a special celebration, so railroad officials offered to bring out the Belle, said John Fletcher, CMAS general manager.

    “The KCS wanted to bring the train out to show their appreciation for our business, and it certainly added an extra-special touch to our grand opening,” Fletcher said. “Our guests who rode the train told me it’s an experience they’ll never forget.”

    Not only did the Southern Belle transport invited guests to and from the ceremony but also to a time when travel by rail was preferred. The train is a reproduction of the original Southern Belle streamliner, which operated between Kansas City and New Orleans between 1940 and late 1969 until hard times and a weakening passenger market forced its cancellation.

    In 1995, the president of KCS at the time, Michael Haverty, ordered the creation of an executive train to entertain company leaders, customers and guests. Just like the Belle of old, the new version is built for comfort and includes dining and lounge cars, a glass-domed observation deck and luxurious sleeping quarters. In 2007, the train was repainted in the railroad’s heritage colors of dark green, yellow and red.

    Each December, the train transforms into the KCS Holiday Express, a six-car train that brings Santa Claus and his elves to communities throughout the company’s U.S. rail network in November and December. Guests can visit with Santa and walk through three cars filled with holiday displays. Each event is free and open to the public. Several cities in MFA territory are typically on the Holiday Express scheduled stops, including multiple dates in Kansas City.

    Visit www.kcsouthern.com for more information.

  • Just ask any farmer during harvest. Most will say there’s never enough time to get everything done.

    While hours can’t be added to the day, a new law in Missouri gives farmers more time they can legally operate their equipment on the highways. Senate Bill 8 was signed into law by Gov. Eric Greitens in June and went into effect Aug. 28, just in time for corn harvest to begin.

    Though rarely enforced, the way this regulation was worded previously meant it was illegal to drive equipment such as tractors, combines and sprayers on public roads between sunset and sunrise. Now, farmers can lawfully operate 24/7 as long as the vehicles have provisions such as a white light on the front and red light on the rear—both of which must be seen from at least 500 feet away.

  • While farmers were in the midst of harvesting traditional crops such as corn and soybeans this year, researchers at the University of Missouri’s Bradford Research Center in Columbia, Mo., were harvesting from plants not typically found in this area.

    This was the first year for MU’s research on hops, a key ingredient found in beer. Though hops are typically grown in northern climates with less humidity, a growing craft beer movement has cultivated interest in producing the crop locally, according to Extension horticulturist James Quinn. Missouri is on the southern edge of where hops can grow successfully.

    MU Extension received a specialty crop grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture to research what types of hops grow best in Missouri. Quinn and another MU Extension horticulturist, Patrick Byers, planted more than 10 varieties on the ¼-acre hops yard at Bradford. The perennial plants can produce for more than 40 years.

    Hop plants are climbing bines (vines without tendrils). The flower of the hop plant is a papery-thin, pale-green cone that is used to add unique flavors and aromas to most beers, especially small craft brews. The bitterness of hops balances the sweetness of beer’s malt sugars. They also are a natural preservative, extending the life of the brew. Hop cones dry in late summer and develop a strong odor. Most home brewers harvest the hops by hand; larger growers use specialized machinery.

    According to a USDA report released at the end of 2016, hop acreage in the U.S. grew 72 percent over the past five years. To help this new wave of growers, universities such as MU are conducting research. Quinn says similar grant-funded projects are also under way in Nebraska, Iowa, West Virginia and North Carolina.

  • Show season may be winding down for many 4-H and FFA members, but many will also be starting new livestock projects for next year. MFA understands the work and dedication required to raise and show a prize-winning animal, and we take pride in rewarding our youth who work hard and achieve success. That’s why MFA’s Feed Division and your local MFA feed supplier want to remind participants that special incentives are available for using MFA feed with your show animals.

    This year’s project premiums are $50 for a steer, beef heifer or dairy heifer and $20 for a market hog, market lamb, goat or bucket calf. To participate, animals must be fed a qualifying MFA feed product from weigh-in and it must be fed at recommended amounts throughout the project. The animal’s initial weight, ending weight and other information is verified by the group leader and should be submitted to your local MFA feed supplier.

    For project animals that place at the top of county rate-of-gain contests or state or national carcass-evaluation contests, there are additional financial rewards of up to $1,000.

    There is one project premium and one contest cash prize allowed per participant. Youth interested in the 4-H/FFA Livestock Project Premium Program must visit their local MFA to complete the enrollment and results forms. For more information on the program and qualifying feed products, visit http://mfa.ag/livestockproject.

  • Autumn leaves and cooler temperatures also mean it’s time for the Ozark Fall Farmfest in Springfield, Mo.

    The 38th edition of the event is planned Friday through Sunday, Oct. 6-8, at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. It’s billed as the largest farm and ranch show in the Ozarks, featuring the latest in agricultural technology and rural living products and services.

    With more than 800 booths and 500 head of registered livestock on display, visitors will find plenty to see and do during the Farmfest weekend. MFA has one of the larger displays in the E-Plex, and several MFA locations will have booths offering everything from apparel to livestock chutes, feeders and agronomy products.

    Stock-dog demonstrations by Danny Shilling will return at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m., noon, and  2 p.m. Sunday. A display of the evolution of agricultural technology will be featured by the Ozarks Steam Engine Association and the Southwest Missouri Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association members.

    Farmfest hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The Ozark Empire Fairgrounds are easily accessed on the north side of Springfield, just off Interstate 44 and Highway 13.

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