Interns experience real world of production agriculture

The 2018 group of MFA Ag Experience interns started their summer session on May 21 with an orientation at the home office in Columbia, Mo., and will complete their 12-week program on Aug. 10. The work-study internship allows college students to experience the real world of production agriculture with hands-on assignments. The interns work with MFA Incorporated and its members in areas that match their career objectives.

MFA’s 2018 Ag Experience participants are, front row, from left: Cole Upton, Krista Gilmartin, Sydnee Mason, Malynda O’Day, Nicole Webber, Madison Byrd, Levi Banner, Jacob Hoellering and Cassidy Brown. Back row, from left: Avery Kuhns, Alex Morgan, Eric Allen, Andrew Welch, Matthew Reidenbach, Garrett Niemeier, Cole Diggins, Dylan Boling and Lane Groce.

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Prime swine

Landry Layton has been raising show pigs since she was 8 years old. Now at 14, she’s accomplished something some top swine producers have worked toward their entire lives.

At the 30th annual World Pork Expo in early June, Landry took home the highest honors with her grand champion Yorkshire boar. But that wasn’t all. Her prize pig then brought $150,000 as the top-selling York at the prestigious show.

“I was pretty shocked,” Landry said. “It was the first national show we’d ever been to, and I knew there would be a lot of competition, so it was pretty hard to wrap my head around the fact that we won and that he sold for so much.”

Landry, daughter of MFA Retail Sales Representative Rowdy Layton, made the trip with her father to Des Moines, Iowa, to exhibit the boar, which she affectionately called “Jimmy” at home on the family’s farm near Welch, Okla. They almost didn’t make it to the show, however. Landry’s older sister, Aubrey, was attending FFA’s Washington Leadership Conference, and their little brother, Lucas, was scheduled for surgery the day before the show.

The Laytons enlisted the help of family friend Joe Snedden, a representative for Ralco Show Feeds, to take the hog to Iowa and care for him until Rowdy and Landry could get there.

“We were able to get there in time for the show,” Rowdy said, “and we’re sure glad we did!”

The family got in the show pig business about nine years ago, with Aubrey raising and exhibiting Durocs. When Landry began showing, too, she chose Yorkshire breed instead. Lucas also shows swine.

“My first pig was a York named Henry, and I just fell in love with him,” Landry said. “I was so sad when I had to sell him at the fair, and I decided I wanted to try to raise more like him.”

The girls started showing locally at county fairs and have shown at the Oklahoma Youth Expo for the past couple years. Landry said they decided to try the World Pork Expo for a change of pace.

“We knew we had a pretty good boar,” she said. “He was just a really good, structured hog. And we wanted to do something different than the local fairs—see what a national show was all about.”

The Laytons raised the grand champion boar from birth, feeding MFA’s swine starter pellets in the beginning and transitioning to Ralco Show feeds sold through AGChoice in Chelsea, Okla.

“Everything the boar ever ate came from MFA’s Aurora feed mill,” Rowdy said.

Jimmy is now standing at Thompson Brothers Genetics in Pleasantville, Ohio, which partnered with Chuck and Ben Olsen of South Dakota and Schenken Genetics of Texas to buy the boar.

Rowdy anticipates they will have a couple more litters from the same sow and sire, and Landry said she hopes to return to the World Pork Expo with another champion-quality pig.

“Even though showing is a lot of work and responsibility, it’s a great experience, especially when you see it pay off,” said Landry, who also shows cattle. “This year may have been a once-in-a-lifetime win, but I’d like to try to repeat it.”

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Agriculture's simple mission

It is a mission with momentum. The Drive to Feed Kids is once again under way, and this year’s goal is to pack 100,000 nutritious, kid-friendly meals at the Missouri State Fair.

In 2017, Missouri Farmers Care launched this effort to combat childhood food insecurity and showcase Missouri agriculture. The inaugural campaign raised close to $150,000 along with more than 9,000 pounds of food donations. With the help of Missouri FFA students, some 52,000 nutritious meals were packed for children in need. The meals were distributed by Feeding Missouri, a coalition of Missouri food banks.

Organizers want to build on last year’s success.

For those not affected by it, food insecurity might not be top of mind, but it is more pervasive than most people realize. According to 2017 research from USDA, 15 percent of households in rural areas are food insecure. Some factors that lead to higher levels of food insecurity among rural residents stand out. Compared to urban areas, rural places have a higher concentration of low-wage employment and, on average, lower levels of education. Yet, some contributors to food insecurity in rural areas are less obvious. There are fewer work-support services such as flexible and affordable childcare. Public transportation is less available. The combination of these factors makes food insecurity among rural households generally higher than in urban households.

Wide-based research shows that food insecurity is an obstacle to educational success, which has knock-on effects on social costs for rural communities. Such problems can become self-perpetuating.

Funds raised from the Drive to Feed Kids campaign are focused on child-friendly meals that are often distributed in backpacks or after-school programs that put food directly in the hands of children in need.

“We have seen hunger and food insecurity increase in rural areas over the past decade,” said Dr. Alan Wessler, vice president of MFA’s Feed Division and chairman of Missouri Farmers Care. “Some things are out of our control. We can’t control the economy. We can’t make rapid recoveries for rural communities who have suffered economic setbacks. What we can do is join together as an agricultural community to do what agriculture does best—feed people. That’s why Missouri Farmers Care, with its more than 40 member organizations, is leading the way with Drive to Feed Kids.”

The 2018 Drive to Feed Kids event will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. The event coincides with the Missouri FFA Food Insecurity Service Day where hundreds of FFA members from across the state will come together to pack 100,000 meals. On Saturday, Aug. 18, the drive will culminate with a check presentation to Feeding Missouri during the Cole Swindell concert.

If you would like to become a partner with Drive to Feed Kids, contact Dr. Alan Wessler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Individual donations can be directed to mofarmerscare.com/drive.

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