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Story and photos by Jessica Ekern

Succession plan survives the test of time for Lenox Farms

Deeply Rooted

As you drive down Highway 72, just south of Rolla, Mo., the natural beauty of the Mark Twain National Forest and the rugged, rocky hills of the Ozark Plateau quickly come into view. This ancient landscape is dotted with caves and natural springs as well as a family history that has deepened and strengthened throughout the centuries.

Tucked in the woodlands here is a tract of land that has been in the Lenox family since the early 1800s. The Lenox line can be traced to a Scottish clan that settled in the Ozark Highlands among native oak, hickory and pine forests. Of that parcel, about 700 acres are documented in the property abstract as being in the family since 1838.

“The history, that’s really what brought me back,” said Angie Lenox Mallery, whose father, Kennard Robert Lenox, took over the family farm from his father, Hamilton Wilson Lenox, in 1977. A sixth-generation farmer, Angie was born with a passion for the land and learned the Lenox farming traditions from her father—lessons that have been passed down through the generations.  . . . .

NOTE: Click for more photography and learn more about succession planning for your family.

Beauty in Bronze

Sculptor Clay Gant turns his talents from equine awards to create a custom statue for the Missouri Agricultural Hall of Fame

Starting at age 4, Clay Gant has spent most of his life working with horses, as a farrier, exhibitor, owner and trainer. In 2000, at the age of 46, he decided to try his hand at sculpting them instead.

When he has time between commissioned pieces and customer orders, Clay enjoys working on sculptures such as this to challenge his abilities. Tackling the fine art world is next on his list.

He’d taken no art classes. Never studied sculpture techniques. Had no experience in carving clay and casting bronze. But he had an entrepreneurial mindset, the courage to try something new and the faith that he could succeed.

“I’m 100% self-taught,” Clay said. “But I don’t consider myself to be an artist. I’m an artist in training. Actually, I’m a businessman who happens to be able to sculpt, and I’m still learning every day.”

He and his wife, Betty, operate Cowboy Bronze from their Rusty Spur Ranch in Cross Timbers, Mo., where they have built a reputation for creating exquisite bronze-plated statues that are coveted prizes and cherished pieces of art. By design, they focus on awards for equine shows and breed associations, inspired by the industry that gave them both careers.

“We showed hard . . .

A place of their own

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

Interest in agriculture is strong at Missouri’s California R-1 High School. The numbers tell the story. Out of the school’s 430 students, 310 are enrolled in FFA and ag education classes this year.

However, many of those students don’t live on farms or have a place to raise their own animals. That’s why the school has dedicated space and resources to building facilities that provide those opportunities.

StudentsCALIffaThe newest addition to California R-1 High School’s agriculture campus is a 30-x-30-foot swine barn. Freshman agriculture students, from left, Emily Burger, Cadence Reed and Izzy Hulsey are showing pigs for the first time this year. The new swine barn allows them to house their animals on campus since they don’t have a place to keep them at home. Hulsey’s gilt named “Porky” is one of the barn’s residents.“I believe our program is successful because we have kids who are very goal-driven and know they’re going to get hands-on learning here that they can’t get anywhere else,” said Gary Reichel, FFA adviser and agriculture instructor. “We have a shop where kids can do drafting and engineering. We have our greenhouses where they can grow plants. We have a livestock facility where we raise sheep, chickens and cattle.

These facilities allow students to have supervised agriculture experience projects on campus and take the classroom into the real world.”
The latest addition is a 30-x-30-foot swine barn equipped with 10 pens for students to house their show pig projects. Completed last summer, the facility was built with help from a $5,000 grant from the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation and matching funds from CoBank’s Sharing Success program.

“We were so blessed to get these grants,” Reichel said. “The community is what makes this agriculture program run. Without support from agribusinesses like MFA, none of this could be built. And if they support us while these kids are in school, we hope we can support them with employees in the future.”

The new barn makes . . .


May 2024 Today's Farmer

The new design, which is just a couple months old, really shows off the award-winning photography of photojournalist Jessica Ekern and editor Allison Jenkins.

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

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