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Partnership in stewardship

Summit brings together agencies, organizations and producers to learn about native Missouri grasslands

With stewardship defined as one of MFA Incorporated’s core values, it’s fitting that the cooperative has teamed up with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Conservation Federation of Missouri and Missouri Natural Resources Conservation Service to present the 2024 Missouri Native Grasslands Summit April 9-11 at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City, Mo.

The program will take a collective, deeper look into Missouri’s native grassland ecosystems, from remnant prairies to working lands establishment and management, and foster collaboration on ideas and solutions to reverse the current trend in habitat loss. The event is open to anyone who has an interest in enhancing, protecting and restoring Missouri’s prairies and those who would like to expand and manage native grasses for cattle production.

MFA Conservation Grazing Specialist Landry Jones says these topics are highly relevant to producers in Missouri, where native grasses grow well in the state’s soils and climate. Native grasses also prevent soil erosion, require less water than other forages and provide critical habitat for bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

“In the summer, when cool-season fescue shuts down, native grasses continue to thrive,” Jones said. “Because of the deep root system, during a period of drought, the native grasses are lush and green, making the cattle very happy.”

The conference will be packed full of presentations, including information on grazing native grasses, preserving remnant prairies and capturing the economic benefits of native warm-season grasses in a production setting. Experts will also share the status of Missouri’s grassland fauna, such as birds, frogs and pollinators, and how land management affects their population. Sessions on prescribed burning are on the agenda as well as a panel presentation by producers who will discuss their experiences in adopting native forages and keys to incorporating them successfully into cattle operations. Attendees will also learn more about weed control, grazing regimes and species diversification among many other topics.

Input will be gathered from the audience on how best to increase the adoption of native grasses for grazing and other uses and preserve Missouri’s remaining prairies. Recommendations from the Summit will be shared with the leadership of partner organizations that have an interest in these native grasslands.

To learn more and register for the Summit, visit or contact Micaela Haymaker, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Bill White, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or Frank Loncarich, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Read more of the Feb. 2024 Today's Farmer Magazine Issue HERE.

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Hays to lead Missouri Pork as executive director

Scott Hays, a fifth-generation pork producer from Monroe City, Mo., will be the next executive director of the Missouri Pork Association. He is currently serving as president of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Board of Directors.

ScottHaysScott Hays will succeed the retiring Don Nikodim as executive director of the Missouri Pork Association.Hays will join the Missouri Pork team on April 1, 2024, stepping into the role following the retirement of Don Nikodim, who has led the Association for 40 years.

“I am excited about the opportunity to advocate for an industry that I’ve been passionate about since childhood,” said Hays. “I look forward to helping producers navigate the challenges they face running their business, while representing the pork industry in Jefferson City, continuing our relationship with the University of Missouri, and promoting our fabulous products.”

After growing up on a farm in Monroe County, Scott served in the U.S. Army in Europe before returning home to grow the family’s pig farm. Scott, and his wife, Riss, have six children and 12 grandchildren.

“Scott’s experience in many different leadership positions throughout his career and his passion for the pork industry make him an excellent fit as our next executive director,” said Adam Dohrman, chairman of the MPA Board of Directors. “We’re excited to have him join and lead the team at Missouri Pork.”

In addition to his involvement on the NPPC Board of Directors, Hays is the current board president of Missouri ALOT (Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow) and is a member of the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Monroe City FFA Alumni and Missouri Institute of Cooperatives. He was chairman of the MPA Board of Directors from 2011-2012.

Read More of the December 2023 / January 2024 Today's Farmer magazine Issue.

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Heroes to Hives program expands in Missouri

Military veterans will soon have additional opportunities to learn about beekeeping

HeroesToHivesUniversity of Missouri Extension agronomist and beekeeper Travis Harper teaches veterans and their families how to do beekeeping through the Heroes to Hives program.A free program to introduce military veterans to beekeeping will expand to a fourth site in Missouri this spring.

The program, “Heroes to Hives,” will now serve the St. Louis area, along with existing sites in Warrensburg, Mount Vernon and Poplar Bluff. More than 250 Missouri veterans have participated in the program, now in its third year.

The need for such programs is great for the more than 400,000 veterans who call Missouri home, said University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch. She oversees the program with MU Extension agronomist Travis Harper. Heroes to Hives offers training and community development centered around beekeeping, teaching veterans how to establish apiaries and sell honey and wax products. Students participate in a nine-month comprehensive education program that couples online lectures with hands-on learning. The group also tours veteran-owned businesses throughout the state.

Heroes to Hives participant Larry Soles, who served in the U.S. Army with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, said he enjoys the camaraderie of other veterans who are beekeepers or aspire to become beekeepers.

“Heroes to Hives and working with bees help me with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Soles said, describing the “wave of calmness” he feels when opening a beehive and hearing the humming of bees. “It does me good.”

Read More of the December 2023 / January 2024 Today's Farmer magazine Issue.

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