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April 2019 Today's Farmer Issue

Life as a small-town vet  cover story
Rural practices provide much-needed services for farmers.
by Nancy Jorgensen

Country Corner
Kids: Get off the tablet, get involved.
by Allison Jenkins

UpFront / Blog
Keeping it local.
Search is on for Century Farms.
Today’s Farmer takes ‘Chairman’s Prize.’

Q&A with MFA
Learn more about your cooperative leaders.
by Allison Jenkins

A mother’s mission
Inspired by her family’s health journey, Missouri cattlewoman promotes pasture-to-plate nutrition.
by  Allison Jenkins

2019 insecticide eartag comparisons (click to view & print)

A little help for my friends
Perryville family works to build all-inclusive playground.
by Kerri Lotven

Choosing the right adjuvant for the job
Proper product can increase effectiveness of herbicide applications.
by Jason Worthington

Plant food helps produce more feed
Fertilizing pastures and hay fields can pay off in extra forage and pounds of gain.
by Dr. Jim White

Know your niche
Mountain Grove MFA adapts to changing industry.
by Kerri Lotven

Portraits of safety (as printed in the magazine)
Farm safety poster contest 2019 winners.

Markets (as printed in the magazine)
Corn: As planting starts, don’t forget to watch markets.
Soybeans: Record U.S. soybean carryover stocks expected.
Cattle: Herd growth likely nearing end.
Wheat: Hard red wheat exports down substantially.

Recipes
Treasure Clove - recipes that use garlic
Click to view as printed
Click to go to Food Page

Viewpoint
We are accountable to you.
by Ernie Verslues

Click HERE to read the magazine as printed via a flipbook.

 

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Know your niche

IT’S A BUSY FRIDAY MORNING at South Central MFA Agri Services in Mountain Grove, Mo. Country music plays softly in the background as em­ployees ring up orders of bagged feed, boots and salt for customers gearing up for an upcoming snow. The weather isn’t the sole reason for the line at the counter, though.

“I’ve been here for about a month,” Manager Dustin DeVore said, “and as far as I can tell, it’s pretty much always like this. I ran the numbers for the month of January [the previous month at press time] and we averaged about 180 tickets a day.”

DeVore became manager of the Mountain Grove location in January after longtime manager Darren Scheets was promoted to another position within the company. DeVore previously managed the Marshfield and Ash Grove lo­cations, served as a livestock consultant and supervised the warehouse in Ash Grove early in his career.

Once an area of the country primarily dedicated to the dairy industry, the farms in the region have had to transform to stay in business. Mountain Grove MFA has changed right along with them. Agriculture here is now mainly centered around beef cattle, though there are goats, sheep and swine, too, DeVore said.

“When the dairies began going out of business, we really had to refocus ev­erything going forward,” said Kelly Warner, who has worked for the company for almost 19 years. “We had to go into a different atmosphere than we were comfortable with—things like jams, jellies, toys, clothing. Stepping out of our comfort zone has been a little crazy, but it’s definitely benefited us.”

Instead of large-ticket sales, the store needed to bring more foot traffic through the door for survival. Items such as toys, sleds, Carhartt gear and food products provided that opportunity. When farmers come in for a bag of feed or seed, they often leave with a package of Burgers’ Smokehouse meat sticks for the field later. And in a community of fewer than 5,000 people, this inventory diversification helps Mountain Grove MFA bring in other customers from the community who may not be farmers.

When the store’s employees began to see the drop in dairy sales, one of the first areas they expanded into was fishing tackle.

“It was an idea William [Hicks, assistant manager] had, and we tried it,” Warner said. “The other day, we had people actually drive here from St. James in the snow and slush to pick up some of our supplies.”

An avid fisherman himself, Hicks said he knew there might be a niche for these products. What started as a small end-cap on one of the aisles eventually grew to an entire wall.

“Mountain Grove may have more fisherman per capita than anywhere else in the state,” Hicks said. “We have a lot of people who come in just for tackle. Last year, we did $9,000 in fishing supplies. That’s quite a bit when each item ranges typically be­tween $1.50 to $3.00.”

Recognizing these kinds of trends in the community certainly helps. When former manager Scheets saw the Twisted X brand of shoes gaining popularity, he contacted the supplier to figure out how the store could begin carrying them. Conversely, when a supplier no longer offered a popular grilling sauce, Hicks went straight to the manufacturer to keep it on the shelves.

“It’s a different market,” Warner said. “It takes a lot of little ticket sales to make up for some of the dairy business we lost, but we don’t dive into a product all at once. We try it out and see if it sells. For example, we saw these peanuts at a trade show.”

She gestures to a rack next to the counter displaying several flavors.

“When farmers are out in the field, sometimes they don’t know when their next meal will be,” she continued. “These and the chocolate-covered coffee beans have gone over well, whereas the chocolate-covered blueberries and cherries haven’t sold so well.”

It’s sometimes trial-and-error, Warner said, but when they find something that works, they order more. Most of their wares are discovered at trade shows, like the MFA Buyer’s Market and the West Plains Veterinary show.

“The entire industry has changed so much. Even our vaccines have changed,” she added. “When I first started, we had 20-plus different vaccine vendors; now we have only four major ones. We’ve had to keep up with that and learn about all the different products. Everything has changed, and we’ve had to adapt with it. Marketing-wise, we just had to know our niche.”

As busy as the retail store is, catching a lull in the warehouse is also rare. Vehicles line the loading dock awaiting orders. Though he hasn’t been there long, DeVore said the store was going through two to three semi-loads a week of bagged feed at the time, making up approximately 25-30 percent of the business. He estimated farm supply and seed make up another 25-30 percent. Seasoned warehouse supervisor Mark Jar­rett, a 23-year employee, said business has picked up over the last several years.

“What orders we’re filling depends on the season,” Jarrett said. “Right now, we’re handling a lot of feed and hay because it’s been a rough winter. We actually sold the last of our hay this morning, but we’ll switch over to seed really quickly in the next couple of weeks.”

It may be Mountain Grove MFA Agri Services that has the right products and ser­vices to keep customers coming through the door, but DeVore credits the employees for the success of the business.

“I really think it’s the continuity of the employee base that sets this location apart,” DeVore said. “They know our customers and their families, have broad knowledge of our products and they use that knowledge to help our customers. That’s really what it’s all about.”

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A little help for my friends

Playground1John and Jennifer Fritsche of Perryville, Mo., serve their community on various local boards—including MFA—and their son, Lucas, is quickly following in their footsteps. Roughly three years ago, the youngster proposed the idea of an all-inclusive playground for his community. Soon, his idea may come to fruition. Pictured from left in back are John and Jennifer, holding 10-month-old Landon. In front are Halie, 8, and Lucas, 11.When Lucas Fritsche was 8 years old, he noticed one of his friends in a wheelchair would come outside during recess but wouldn’t stay long. Some days the friend even pre­ferred to stay inside.

When Lucas asked him why, the fellow third-grader told him it was difficult to get onto the playground and into a swing to play.

“Lucas’ feelings were hurt, and he was saddened that his friend couldn’t play outside with him,” said Jennifer Fritsche, Lucas’ mother. “He started talking to us about how he wanted to build a playground where everyone could play. We ex­plained to him that takes a lot of money and it’s not something that you can just do, but Lucas was persistent.”

“It’s not fair that he can’t play outside with us,” Lucas told his parents. Jennifer and her husband, John, have two other children, Halie, 8, and Landon, 10 months, and live in Per­ryville, Mo., on the farm that has been in the Fritsche family since 1892. John grows 400 acres of corn, wheat and soy­beans every year, helps his father with another 500 acres and raises 40 cow/calf pairs. He also serves on his local MFA board and church council. Jennifer works in accounting for a large construction company.

Soon after their conversation, Jennifer received a call from the principal at Perryville Elementary School. Unbeknownst to her, Lucas had also been talking to his teachers about the idea. The principal suggested speaking to one of the school’s parent groups to see if they could raise funds to improve the playground.

Lucas, who has been diagnosed with high-functioning au­tism, did his homework. Back at school, standing in front of a darkened classroom with a PowerPoint presentation his mom helped him create, Lucas began his pitch to the parent group.

“Some of my friends only get limited time on the play­ground. If they are in wheelchairs, they need more help entering the playground,” he started, reading from note cards with a little help from Mom on the trickier words.

In the small voice of a then 9-year-old, Lucas explained what he wanted to do, why he wanted to do it and how he wanted to raise some of the money.

“Does anybody have any questions?” he asked, concluding the presentation.

With support from parents, Perryville passed a bond mea­sure that allocated money for school improvements, including upgrading playgrounds. Word had spread of Lucas’ idea.

“Coincidentally, I serve on the disability development board for Perry County with the mayor,” Jennifer said. “We were sitting around talking about Lucas’ presentation at one of our meetings, and he told me if we could raise the money, we could pick any of the available city land to build an all-inclu­sive playground from scratch.”

From there, the Fritsches and the Fun For All Committee embarked on a grander plan—Lucas and Friends Backyard Adventures—a playground for everyone.

Since his first presentation, Lucas has done several televi­sion and newspaper interviews. The kind-hearted youngster has posed for photos, been the front man for fundraising events and accepted checks for up to $100,000.

“You can put him anywhere, and he’ll talk about the play­ground,” Jennifer said.

And little by little, with dances, bake sales, movie nights, prize giveaways, and in-kind donations, they’ve raised close to another $250,000.

The Fritsches are work­ing with Unlimited Play in St. Charles, Mo., and Little Tikes equipment to design the playground. The layout includes a merry-go-round that is flush with the ground to allow wheelchair accessibility, high-back and generation swings, spongy surfaces, a tree house structure with ramps, musi­cal elements and more.

PlaygroundThe Fritsches are working with Unlimited Play in St. Charles, Mo., to design the Lucas and Friends Backyard Adventures playground. They hope to break ground in late spring or early summer.“The whole concept behind these playgrounds is parallel play,” Jennifer said. “Kids with disabilities will play side-by-side with other kids. It’s designed to be super fun for everyone, so there’s no difference.”

It will take close to $1 million to complete the full design. About 20 percent to their goal, the Fritsches plan to build incre­mentally by adding different portions of the playground as funds become available. They’re hoping to break ground in late spring or early summer of this year on the selected site at Robert J. Miget Memorial Park in Perryville.

“We want to get started so people know this isn’t just talk,” Jennifer said. “We’re really going to do this.”

Lucas, now 11, said his favorite pieces of equipment in the playground design are zip lines with high-back chairs and the tree house, which will provide ample shade, ramps for alternate entry and specialized handrails.

“The tree house is custom-made for this playground,” Jennifer said. “It even has a hammock underneath for therapists to come and work with the kids. We had a public forum on what aspects people would like to see in the playground, so the community has really been a big part of this.”

But more than the equipment, Lucas said the best part is that there will be a place for everyone on this playground.

“I’m most excited to see all the kids play together and nobody being left out,” Lucas said.

For more information on Lucas and Friends Backyard Adven­tures, visit facebook.com/lucasandfriendsplayground/. Contri­butions can be made online at unlimitedplay.org/playground/lucas-friends-backyard-adventures/. Click the donate button on the right side of the page.

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A mother's mission

Nurturing comes naturally to Tiffanie Weekley.

Her life is devoted to taking care of others, humans and animals alike. She’s a mother of three, labor-and-delivery nurse, lactation consultant, farm wife and cattle producer.

Add “entrepreneur” to that list of job titles. Two years ago, Tiffanie started Morning Glory Farms, selling grass-fed, grain-finished beef from her herd of black and red Angus cattle and made-from-scratch bone broth crafted in her family’s kitchen in Blackwater, Mo.

It’s a business born from a mother’s love.

“My son, Samuel, is the whole reason I formed Morning Glory Farms,” Tiffanie said. “When he was about 7 years old, he started complaining of terrible stomach­aches. He wasn’t growing like he should, and he also had extreme anxiety. I really dug into nutrition to figure out what was going on with him, and we found out he had severe allergies to gluten and dairy. It’s not celiac disease, but he can’t tolerate gluten at all. I made it my mission to change our diet to help him get better.”

Those changes started on the Weekley farm, where Tiffanie and her husband of 24 years, Tim, produce beef as part of their diver­sified row-crop and cattle operation. Tim is the fifth generation to work the land that’s been in the family since 1865, and his father, Douglas, still works part time alongside his son. In addition to Samuel, Tim and Tiffanie have two daughters, Kaitlen, 19, and Allison, 21, whose husband, Justin Griffin, also farms with the family.

Before she got married and completed nurs­ing school, Tiffanie had studied animal science for a short time at the University of Missouri. Using that background along with her medical knowledge and help from a registered dieti­cian, the determined mother began researching ways to improve her family’s health through the food they ate. That research led right to her own backyard—more specifically, her pastures.

“We decided we needed to change the way our animals were fed to limit the exposure to what we were ingesting,” Tiffanie said. “We transitioned them to a more natural, pas­ture-based diet along with hay and grain we raise on the farm and custom supplement from our local MFA for their final ration.”

With changes in their farm-raised beef along with other dietary modifications, the Week­leys began noticing positive results in Samuel. Tiffanie attributes the difference to an improve­ment in his gut health, which plays a critical role in shaping appetite, allergies, metabolism and neurological function.

“It didn’t happen overnight, but Samuel is doing outstanding now,” she said. “He’s 15 and growing like a weed. He has fewer illnesses and his anxiety has lessened. In fact, we all saw our health changing for the better. Our gut affects our immunity and our mental state and many other processes in our body. Keep the gut healthy, and every­thing else kind of falls into place.”

Her family’s health journey inspired the idea for Morning Glory Farms, and the business took root when Tiffanie joined the family operation full time in 2017 after one of Tim’s em­ployees took another job.

“That left us empty-handed,” Tiffanie said. “I quit my full-time nursing job and came back to the farm. I had been talking to other people about what we were doing with our cattle, and the demand for pasture-raised, grain-finished beef was catch­ing on. So, I decided to start my own business and help other families improve their health through the food they eat. My two passions were colliding. I love the nutrition side of things, and I love the animals. It was a great fit for me.”

Maintaining a part-time schedule as a lactation consultant, Tiffanie took over the family’s existing cattle operation and began building a herd for Morning Glory Farms, a name that reflects her strong Christian faith. It’s based on Exodus 16:7, “In the morning, you shall see the glory of the Lord.” She now man­ages a total of 80 cows—40 belonging to Weekley Farms and 40 owned by Morning Glory Farms. Tim admits he was more than happy to turn over the livestock reins to his wife.

“She’s the cattle girl; I like row crops,” Tim said. “She nurtures them like she would kids, and she has the patience that I don’t. It’s worked out pretty well. I just fill in the gaps whenever I’m asked to help.”

Cattle need proper gut health, just like humans, Tiffanie said, which is why her feeding program is focused on forages. However, she also knows that grain-based diets help improve marbling and flavor in the beef.

“Cattle were made to be on pasture, so we help keep their guts healthy by keeping them on grass,” Tiffanie explained. “But if you want a good steak, you also need to feed them grain. Our beef gives you the health benefits right along with the flavor.”

Her bone broth, also known as beef stock, provides other health benefits that can’t be derived from eating meat alone. It’s made from cooking beef marrow bones and connective tissue in a long, slow process that extracts collagen and other beneficial nutrients. Every batch takes 48 to 72 hours to cook. Tiffanie hand-crafts the broth in the Weekley family kitchen and freezes it in 24-ounce and 8-ounce containers for sale.

“Bone broth is rich in collagen, protein and nutrients, which helps the gut heal,” Tiffanie said. “I’ve been making it for Sam­uel for years, and he loves it, so I decided to try marketing it along with my beef. I’m not so much interested in the monetary benefits as I would love to see people be healthier with pre­ventative care. Plus, it’s another way for us to respect the whole animal by using as much of it as we can.”

Direct-marketing the beef and broth has been a welcomed diversification to the family’s otherwise traditional farming oper­ation, Tim said. He raises some 3,500 acres of corn, soybeans, rye and wheat and helps Tiffanie maintain 400 acres of pasture and hay ground. The Weekleys participate in MFA’s Crop-Trak scouting service and Nutri-Track precision program and rely on Heart of Missouri Agri Services for most of their farm inputs.

“The future of this farm depends on how many family mem­bers want to come back, so we have to make sure we diversify and expand,” Tim said. “The farm-to-table business is compet­itive, but I think there’s room for everybody. People want to know where their food is coming from, and health is getting to be a big issue. I think what Tiffanie is doing with her bone broth will help set her apart in that crowd.”

Marketing her farm products beyond friends and family has been one of the biggest challenges, Tiffanie said. She’s devel­oped a loyal, local clientele for her bone broth, and her beef can now be found at Hy-Vee in Columbia, the Blackwater Country Store and several restaurants in Kansas City, about an hour and a half away from the farm.

“Tim farms organically for one of his landlords, and through those connections in organic food circles, I was introduced to a few chefs in Kansas City,” Tiffanie said. “I made it my mission to go into these different restaurants and form a relationship with the chefs. It’s been the neatest experience to see that side of the food business.”

One of those chefs is Michael Foust, owner of The Farmhouse restaurant and Black Sheep + Market. He opened The Farm­house in 2009 in the eclectic River Market district of Kansas City and has been working with Missouri and Kansas farmers from Day 1 to supply fresh ingredients for an ever-changing sea­sonal menu. Black Sheep opened in 2018, following the chef’s farm-to-table tradition plus a fresh market where products such as Morning Glory Farms beef can be purchased.

“Over the past 10 years, we’ve worked with some incredible farmers,” Michael said. “We started working with Tiffanie earlier last year, and she’s come into the fold as one of our full-time suppliers. She’s certainly producing a quality product, but we look at the bigger picture. We also look at the animal husband­ry, how the animals are treated on the farm and whether this is something that’s sustainable. We want to not only make sure the animals are doing well, but also that the farmers are doing well. They’re our partners, so it’s just like family.”

Speaking of family, Tiffanie said her daughters are interested in getting more involved with the business in the future. Kaitlen is studying to be a dietician, and Allison is earning a degree in psychology. Their education fits well with the mission of Morning Glory Farms to improve the lives of its customers, Tiffanie said.

“I think this journey helped form their opinions about what field to go into,” she said. “The kids can be so involved with this whole process, and that’s another reason why I wanted to do something like this. I want them to have a job to fall back on if they need it, and I want my grandkids to be underfoot someday.”

Tiffanie said she’s taking “baby steps” as she grows her enter­prises, careful not to compromise the care of her animals, the quality of her products or her time with family. Her immediate goal is to expand the broth business with wider distribution.

“Bottling broth is really on my radar right now,” Tiffanie said. “I’d love get into more of the nutritional aspect, because that’s where my passion lies. I’m actually talking with someone who is getting ready to build a bottling line for his own business, and I’m looking into whether the state of Missouri has grants for a project like that.”

Though juggling her roles as a wife, mother, business owner, part-time nurse and full-time farmer can be quite challenging, Tiffanie said she wants to set a good example for her children and for other women who have a dream they want to pursue.

“Even though I’m busier than ever, I love what I’m doing,” she said. “I love the autonomy of it, and I love showing that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. You just have to reach for your goals.”

For more information about Morning Glory Farms, visit morninggloryfarms.net or call 660-621-3022.

amothersmissionWatch more of Tiffanie's story.

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About Today's Farmer magazine

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