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Words and photos by Jessica Ekern

David Heggemeier broke from his family’s farming tradition to raise upland birds

Game Changer

Tucked between the rolling hills of mid-Missouri farmland and the white oak forest of the Rudolf Bennitt Conservation Area lies Heggemeier Game Birds and Kennels, a thriving farm for pheasants, quail, chukars and ducks along with a popular hunting club.

“I bought this 80-acre farm in 1998,” owner David Heggemeier explained. “I knew there wasn’t enough room for me on my family’s farm in Nashville, Ill., and frankly, my interest was not really in farming dairy cows and sheep.”
Heggemeier began raising ducks in high school but soon migrated to a different flock.

“I started working for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at the Mount Vernon Game Propagation Center while in college,” Heggemeier said. “I saw doctors, lawyers and other white-collar professionals hunting game birds, and I was interested in learning more.”

Realizing that the stock of game birds was relatively low and that there were few public places open to hunt, Heggemeier saw that the opportunity was there.
“I knew that birds were the wave of the future—my future,” he said with a laugh.

The game bird farm
Venturing across the Mississippi River into the Show-Me State, Heggemeier purchased an old cattle farm west of Higbee, Mo. He began transforming the land, barns and outbuildings to raise game birds a . . .

TF Opinion

We'll see you at the Western Farm Show

MFA brings stockmanship expert Ron Gill to Western Farm Show for low-stress cattle-working demonstrations

The 2024 Western Farm Show returns to the American Royal Complex in Kansas City Friday, Feb. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 25. More than 400,000 square feet of exhibit space will be filled with new farm and ranch equipment and wide-ranging displays of other agricultural products and services.

MFA Incorporated is once again a primary sponsor of the event, now in its 62nd year. MFA will have booths featuring agronomy, livestock and rural lifestyle products as well as recruitment specialists discussing internship and employment opportunities. MFA will also host two livestock seminars promoting quality health performance for cattle, sheep and goats, topics of special interest to 4-H and FFA exhibitors. In addition, MFA is bringing back stockmanship expert Ron Gill, who will demonstrate low-stress livestock handling techniques at two different sessions on Saturday (see adjacent story).

Coinciding with FFA week, the Western Farm Show offers agricultural students several ways to participate. During FFA Day on Friday, teams from high school chapters will compete in the Farm Equipment Career Development Event, and students can attend 30-minute leadership sessions exploring technology and innovation.
Also on Friday, FFA students from Missouri and Kansas can take part in the “Unite Against Hunger” food drive. Each chapter that brings in a minimum of 200 canned and nonperishable food items will qualify for a drawing.

Other popular activities include “Let’s Talk Shop” educational sessions, the Health and Safety Roundup, and the Family Living Center with shopping opportunities for the whole family. Free health screenings will also be offered.

This year’s show hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Feb. 23 and 24; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Feb. 25. Adult tickets are $10 daily, and children ages 12 and under are free. First responders, military and veterans are free on Sunday with proper identification. Visit your MFA Agri Services for a coupon to save $3 at the door.

For more information, visit and follow the Western Farm Show on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter).

February 2024
The Domestic Production Activities Deduction (DPAD) serves as a benefit unique to cooperatives and is one of the many advantages of doing business with MFA.

What is DPAD?

DPAD is intended to provide tax benefits to companies that manufacture, mine or produce products in the United States. Agricultural cooperatives are allowed to treat products produced by their members—such as grain—as manufacturing activities of the co-op for purposes of this deduction.
Because MFA’s business includes grain marketing, we can choose to apply DPAD to our corporate income tax return or pass through this deduction to our members who sell grain to MFA. This determination is made on a year-to-year basis by MFA’s board of directors. For our fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2023, the cooperative passed $29 million in DPAD tax deductions to our grain members.
Here’s how it works: MFA computes the DPAD deduction based on all production activities occurring during our tax year. Production activities include grain produced by our members and sold to MFA elevators during our fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31. MFA then determines each member’s share based on their grain sales to MFA during our fiscal year and provides an IRS form 1099-PATR with the allocated deduction. The benefit can add up to significant dollars for eligible patrons to use as a deduction on their income taxes.
Members who are eligible for the DPAD deduction should consult with their tax professional about how it affects each individual situation.

Learn, Laugh, Lead

Taking time away from their business to work on their business. That’s what a group of some 70 young farmers and ranchers were doing in mid-January at the annual Emerging Leaders in Agriculture Conference, jointly hosted by MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil.

Now in its third year, the conference brings together a select group of professional producers between the ages of 21 and 45 for education and networking. The 2024 edition was held Jan. 10-12 in Lake Ozark, Mo.

“One of the more challenging things in the world today is . . .


February 2024 Today's Farmer

It has been a few years since we updated the look of our magazine. We hope you like it.

Today's Farmer is just getting started sharing the stories of MFA members and the cooperative that truely is your whole farm solution.

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