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Story and photos by Jessica Ekern

First-generation dairy farmer Dennis Schnell finds harmony with nature, milk and cows

Delighting in dairy

Sunshine makes happy cows and happy dairy farmers. In the warm light of late spring, the grass grows, the mud dries up and Holstein cows graze green pastures to the delight of Dennis Schnell, a first-generation dairy farmer in Sturgeon, Mo.
“This has always been my dream,” said Schnell, who grew up in the area. “My father was a schoolteacher, so I did not have a farming background, but it was some-
thing that I always wanted to . . .

NOTE: Click to learn more about Schell Dairy


Popular option allows growers, MFA to benefit from direct shipments to grain buyers

The complexities involved in grain marketing can frustrate or intimidate even the most seasoned farmer. There’s a ton of information to sift through. Ever-changing crop prices to monitor. Multiple contract types to consider. Global volatility and production uncertainty to make decisions more stressful.

MFA simplifies these challenges with comprehensive resources and expert guidance to help producers capture increased value and manage risk when marketing their grain.

“We want our producers to be as profitable as possible. That’s the ultimate goal,” said Eric Williams, senior director of MFA Grain Operations. “We’re involved in every aspect of their crop production—seed, fertilizer, chemicals, farm supplies—so it stands to reason we would want to see them make more money from the crop they produce in the end. We have the people and tools to do just that.”

Those tools range from simple to sophisticated, whether it’s a traditional cash price contract or alternatives that take a deeper understanding of grain-marketing strategies, such as deferred payment, accumulator, open basis or futures-only contracts. Each comes with its own set of benefits for producers as well as various levels of risk security, pricing flexibility and cash . . .

In Full Bloom

New barn gives California High School students room for pork projects.

Many students will say that spending time outside the classroom is where they would rather be during the school day.
At the Willow Springs School District in south-central Missouri, high school agriculture students are realizing that wish and benefiting from the experience. Agricultural instructors and FFA advisers Grant Talburt and Shiloh Walden offer an engaging learning opportunity that involves lessons outside of the classroom and inside the greenhouse.

When Walden and Talburt started teaching at Willow Springs six years ago, they saw incredible potential to expand the ag curriculum with the two existing greenhouses. “The ag department has been operating Greenhouse 1 for more than 20 years, and we knew it needed some work,” said Walden. “Greenhouse 2 has been operational for the six years that Grant and I’ve been here, but we knew we could do more.”

To help fund some of the greenhouse enhancements that were needed, Talburt applied for an MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation grant in 2022, an opportunity he learned about from Dawn Sigman, MFA Willow Springs Agri Services manager. “We have a great 

StudentsAbove top: Teachers from the Willow Springs School District stop by the greenhouse to purchase plants before the big sale.   Above: Michael Williams, left, and his agricultural instructor, Shiloh Walden, search the aquaculture tank for the tilapia they are raising. The fish waste is used as a fertilizer for the plants in the greenhouse.  

relationship with our local MFA,” said Talburt. “Dawn was interested in selling plants at MFA that our students grow in the spring. We had some plants, but we didn’t have the facilities to accommodate a true wholesale and retail operation. MFA’s grant, plus one through the Missouri Department of Agriculture, allowed us to make the many upgrades needed to expand our operation and the educational opportunities for our students.”

MFA’s $5,000 grant was used to update Willow Spring’s plant science curriculum by modernizing the current greenhouses. Improvements include the installation of irrigation controls, capillary matting, cooling panels and hydroponics. . . .


June/July 2024 Today's Farmer

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In it's 116th year, Today's Farmer is just getting started sharing the stories of MFA members and the cooperative that is your whole farm solution.

SUBSCRIBERS & MFA members typically get the printed issue of Today's Farmer before we post the magazine online. The August/September 2024 issue is in production and will ship in early August 2024.