Belle of the ball

When the elegant Kansas City Southern Belle passenger train rolled onto the property of Central Missouri AGRIService in Marshall, Mo., the retro railcars were unlike anything this modern grain-handling facility had ever seen. Here, it’s usually utilitarian hopper cars that are being loaded with corn and soybeans, not plush Pullman cars being loaded with people.

But the grand opening of the new shuttle-loader in June called for a special celebration, so railroad officials offered to bring out the Belle, said John Fletcher, CMAS general manager.

“The KCS wanted to bring the train out to show their appreciation for our business, and it certainly added an extra-special touch to our grand opening,” Fletcher said. “Our guests who rode the train told me it’s an experience they’ll never forget.”

Not only did the Southern Belle transport invited guests to and from the ceremony but also to a time when travel by rail was preferred. The train is a reproduction of the original Southern Belle streamliner, which operated between Kansas City and New Orleans between 1940 and late 1969 until hard times and a weakening passenger market forced its cancellation.

In 1995, the president of KCS at the time, Michael Haverty, ordered the creation of an executive train to entertain company leaders, customers and guests. Just like the Belle of old, the new version is built for comfort and includes dining and lounge cars, a glass-domed observation deck and luxurious sleeping quarters. In 2007, the train was repainted in the railroad’s heritage colors of dark green, yellow and red.

Each December, the train transforms into the KCS Holiday Express, a six-car train that brings Santa Claus and his elves to communities throughout the company’s U.S. rail network in November and December. Guests can visit with Santa and walk through three cars filled with holiday displays. Each event is free and open to the public. Several cities in MFA territory are typically on the Holiday Express scheduled stops, including multiple dates in Kansas City.

Visit www.kcsouthern.com for more information.

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Hops are newest crop to be studied at MU

While farmers were in the midst of harvesting traditional crops such as corn and soybeans this year, researchers at the University of Missouri’s Bradford Research Center in Columbia, Mo., were harvesting from plants not typically found in this area.

This was the first year for MU’s research on hops, a key ingredient found in beer. Though hops are typically grown in northern climates with less humidity, a growing craft beer movement has cultivated interest in producing the crop locally, according to Extension horticulturist James Quinn. Missouri is on the southern edge of where hops can grow successfully.

MU Extension received a specialty crop grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture to research what types of hops grow best in Missouri. Quinn and another MU Extension horticulturist, Patrick Byers, planted more than 10 varieties on the ¼-acre hops yard at Bradford. The perennial plants can produce for more than 40 years.

Hop plants are climbing bines (vines without tendrils). The flower of the hop plant is a papery-thin, pale-green cone that is used to add unique flavors and aromas to most beers, especially small craft brews. The bitterness of hops balances the sweetness of beer’s malt sugars. They also are a natural preservative, extending the life of the brew. Hop cones dry in late summer and develop a strong odor. Most home brewers harvest the hops by hand; larger growers use specialized machinery.

According to a USDA report released at the end of 2016, hop acreage in the U.S. grew 72 percent over the past five years. To help this new wave of growers, universities such as MU are conducting research. Quinn says similar grant-funded projects are also under way in Nebraska, Iowa, West Virginia and North Carolina.

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Livestock Project Premium Program rewards hard work

Show season may be winding down for many 4-H and FFA members, but many will also be starting new livestock projects for next year. MFA understands the work and dedication required to raise and show a prize-winning animal, and we take pride in rewarding our youth who work hard and achieve success. That’s why MFA’s Feed Division and your local MFA feed supplier want to remind participants that special incentives are available for using MFA feed with your show animals.

This year’s project premiums are $50 for a steer, beef heifer or dairy heifer and $20 for a market hog, market lamb, goat or bucket calf. To participate, animals must be fed a qualifying MFA feed product from weigh-in and it must be fed at recommended amounts throughout the project. The animal’s initial weight, ending weight and other information is verified by the group leader and should be submitted to your local MFA feed supplier.

For project animals that place at the top of county rate-of-gain contests or state or national carcass-evaluation contests, there are additional financial rewards of up to $1,000.

There is one project premium and one contest cash prize allowed per participant. Youth interested in the 4-H/FFA Livestock Project Premium Program must visit their local MFA to complete the enrollment and results forms. For more information on the program and qualifying feed products, visit http://mfa.ag/livestockproject.

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