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Story and photos by Jessica Ekern

Expertise in the field, on the farm highlight MFA's Forage Tour

Progressive paddocks

Tom Spriggs was planting native grasses “before it was cool.”

That’s how Landry Jones, MFA conservation grazing specialist, described the host of the 2023 Forage Tour, held June 15 on Spriggs’ farm in Marshfield, Mo.

“I started in 1982 on a small field that was not productive,” Spriggs explained. “Each year, I would plant a few more acres in native grass. Pretty soon, those three acres become 30.”

Spriggs continues to improve and build on his plan to manage the farm’s cool-season and native warm-season grasses. He now has about 70 acres in native grasses to supplement his cattle operation with plans to establish more this year.

“My goal is to have about 25-30% of warm-season grasses in the pastures I use for the cattle,” Spriggs said.

Before visiting Spriggs’ farm, attendees at last year’s Forage Tour gathered at the Marshfield Community Center for presentations that included Ryan Lock, former University of Missouri Extension specialist in forage and livestock systems, who discussed PaddockTrac, an innovative way to measure and monitor forage production.

“If you are not measuring, you can’t manage,” Lock said.
Developed by MU, PaddockTrac uses a patented method of collecting forage data with sensors that attach to an ATV or UTV and collect data as the producer drives through the pasture. Data is uploaded to MU’s Grazing Wedge cloud-based server, where producers can get reliable information within minutes—saving thousands of hours in  . . . .

NOTE: The 2024 Forage Tour is scheduled for July 25, at the University of Missouri’s Research Farm in Linneus, Mo.

Life with lavender

Missouri farmers find the sweet smell of
success with this fragrant, flowering crop

"I love having dirt on my hands,” said Katie Lockwood, grinning from ear to ear as she walked into the drying Lavbarn from the fragrant fields of Battlefield Lavender in Centralia, Mo. There is a true sense of joy and calm here, not only in the vibrant fields but also in the retail shop where customers are treated to the enticing aroma of lavender, a beautiful array of colors and the soothing sounds of “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” Frank Sinatra, playing in the background.

The foundation of this tranquil oasis started to form more than 20 years ago, when Katie and her husband, Jason, started dabbling in hobby farming at their home in nearby Columbia. “We had a small piece of land where we enjoyed gardening and experimenting,” said Katie who, along with Jason, works full time for the University of Missouri’s Information Technology Department.  

Their hobby farming dream began to take root in 2011 when they purchased a home in Centralia with a few acres of open space. “It was land we could work with,” Katie said.


Jason and Katie Lockwood never thought their dream of hobby farming would bloom into a life-affirming, joy-filled reality.

Strawberries, elderberries, blackberries, garlic, dill and different vegetables and herbs were among the first crops the Lockwoods produced. The couple learned how to save seeds, propagate plants and reclaim and recycle water. In 2016, they decided they wanted something more from their endeavors in the dirt. In their research  . . .

Today's Farmer Opinion

MFA Connect

This spring, MFA is launching a new customer portal that will provide a digital experience to enhance service, convenience and correspondence.

MFA Connect, an integrated web and mobile application, will give producers and their MFA representatives instant access to key information and streamline communications. The simple, secure portal links MFA customers to their statements, purchase history, grain contracts and more while also providing a convenient way to pay invoices, request quotes, browse products and message their account manager.

April 2024

Picturing Safe Practices

MFA youth illustrate ideas to avoid danger on the farm, at the workplace

 No one can take your place. That was the theme of last year’s National Farm Safety and Health Week, which is observed each September. It’s also a fitting reminder as the busy spring season begins and MFA continues to emphasize safety at work and on the farm.

SHIELD blueBest of Show - Artist Maggie McDowellWhen MFA relaunched its workplace safety program in 2015 as “SHIELD: Safe Habits Improve Employees’ Lives Daily,” the goal of the behavior-based system was to reduce workplace accidents. The program relies on employees throughout the company being trained to talk about safety with their fellow workers. From truck drivers to office staff to personnel at feed mills and fertilizer plants, MFA employees have many conversations about safe work practices and document those discussions. In fact, some 21,700 safety conversations were logged last year.

The company also continues to remind employees that they have very important reasons to make safety a motivator—children and other family members. That’s why MFA holds an annual Farm Safety Poster Contest to help us picture these positive practices through the eyes of the next generation.

Again this year, we asked children and grandchildren of MFA employees and affiliates to share their ideas about safety on the job and on the farm. All MFA staff members were allowed to vote for their favorite poster in each class as well as choose “Best of Show” through the company’s intranet, myMFA. We’re proud to feature this year’s top entries here in Today’s Farmer.



April 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.

Today's Farmer is just getting started sharing the stories of MFA members and a 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.