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Missouri Agricultural Hall of Fame inducts first members

MFA Incorporated is among supporters of new initiative to honor outstanding contributions to the state’s farming industry

The first inductees to the newly created Missouri Agricultural Hall of Fame were honored April 9 during a ceremony at the Capital Bluffs Event Center in Jefferson City. The inaugural recipients were William H. Darr, Jay Fischer, Blake and Julie Hurst, Charlie Kruse, and Forrest and Charlotte Lucas.

Gov. Mike Parson met with the honorees during a private reception at the Missouri Governor’s Mansion before addressing the 425 industry leaders gathered for the induction ceremony.

“Agriculture is the heart and soul of Missouri, and the recipients of this award truly deserve the honor,” Gov. Parson said. “To be able to recognize them and be part of this first-ever Hall of Fame makes me so proud of our state and proud to be your governor.”

The Missouri Agricultural Hall of Fame was created in 2023 to recognize farmers, ranchers and agribusiness leaders who have made outstanding contributions to the state’s agriculture industry. Inductees are selected by a committee and honored annually.

"The inaugural class represents a wide swath of the industry—entrepreneurs and educators, businessmen and advocates—but most of all, they’re dedicated to Missouri agriculture," said Karri Wilson, Missouri State Fair Foundation executive director. “The foundation congratulates our first members of the Missouri Agricultural Hall of Fame. This is just the start of what we hope will become a lasting tradition of honoring the men and women who make up the fabric of agriculture here in the great state of Missouri.”

Missouri Agricultural Hall of Fame inductees received an exclusive award created by Missouri artist Clay Gant, who operates “Cowboy Bronze” in Cross Timbers. The custom sculpture represents the power and diversity of Missouri’s agricultural landscape and features a beef bull, wheat and corn.

MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil are presenting sponsors of the Agricultural Hall of Fame, which is also supported by other key sponsors such as Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Dairy Farmers of America, Allstate Consultants, ADM, Nabholz & Kinetic and Central Missouri AGRIService.

“As one of the oldest agricultural businesses in Missouri, it was an honor to be a presenting sponsor of the event that recognized the inaugural Agricultural Hall of Fame class,” said MFA Incorporated CEO Ernie Verslues. “The ag industry has done so much for MFA over the years. This is just another example of MFA giving back by supporting organizations that develop and recognize leaders in agriculture.” 

The Inaugural Recipients Were William H. Darr, Jay Fischer, Blake And Julie Hurst, Charlie Kruse, And Forrest And Charlotte Lucas.

The Hall of Fame is also supported by the Missouri State Fair Foundation’s 1901 Society, named in homage to the first Missouri State Fair held in September 1901. The society was established in 2023 to recognize lifetime giving to the foundation. MFA Incorporated’s longstanding support for the fair places it as a “Founder’s Medallion Level” member of the 1901 Society.

“The future is bright for the state fair, and lots of things are going on right now,” said Brent Dunn, Missouri State Fair Foundation member. “When we were putting tonight’s information together, we found a fair booklet published in 1901 that said, ‘The Missouri State Fair will be what Missourians make it. It should be the greatest institution of its kind on earth because of the fertility of our soil, the great variety of our products, the superiority of our herds and the progressive character of our citizenship.’ That was true in 1901, it is still true today, and through your support, it will be true in the future.”

For more information, visit the Missouri State Fair Foundation online at


DarrBill Darr and his wife, Virginia, were on hand at the induction ceremony to receive the Hall of Fame award.

William H. Darr

The wide-ranging contributions of William “Bill” and Virginia Darr to Missouri agriculture include business, academics and philanthropy. The Darrs have been dedicated to improving the quality of life in communities throughout Southwest Missouri, including Springfield and Bill’s hometown of Ellington. Bill earned an agriculture degree from what is now Missouri State University in Springfield and credits his education for fostering an entrepreneurial spirit that led him to establish several highly successful companies that specialized in dehydrated food products. Over the years, the Darrs have continually given back to Missouri State University and its aptly named Darr College of Agriculture. The family also endowed a scholarship program to recognize students for exceptional academic excellence and established the Darr Family Foundation in 2002 to continue their commitment to supporting people in need.

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Jay Fischer and his wife, Kim, left, are congratulated by First Lady Teresa and Gov. Mike Parson at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion prior to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.Jay Fischer and his wife, Kim, left, are congratulated by First Lady Teresa and Gov. Mike Parson at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion prior to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Jay Fischer

Jay Fischer has farmed for more than 30 years, growing corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, pumpkins and watermelons in Jefferson City. He, his wife, Kim, and daughter, Jena, also operate an agritourism business, welcoming more than 20,000 visitors to their corn maze and pumpkin patch each fall. Jay works on behalf of the state’s corn farmers, having served as the Missouri Corn Growers Association (MCGA) president and vice president and Missouri Corn Merchandising Council vice chairman and secretary. He currently serves as an ex-officio MCGA board member through his role on the board of directors for the U.S. Grains Council, a partner of Missouri Corn, focused on strengthening and building corn and ethanol markets around the globe. Fischer is active within his community and serves as president of the Capital View Levy District. The family was also recognized with the Governor’s Award for Agriculture in 2011.

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HurstJulie and Blake Hurst, left, are congratulated by First Lady Teresa and Gov. Mike Parson at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion prior to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Blake & Julie Hurst

Blake and Julie Hurst started farming in 1977 on a rented farm near Tarkio. Since then, they’ve produced three children and six grandchildren, added a greenhouse business and grown 44 crops of corn and soybeans. The Hursts have both been active in farm policy. Julie was chairman of Missouri’s Farm Service Agency committee, and Blake served for 10 years as president of Missouri Farm Bureau. While at Farm Bureau, Blake helped the organization successfully lobby for farmers across the state and grow in financial strength. Blake also served for 10 years on the American Farm Bureau board. Julie accompanied him during those years, supporting Farm Bureau at hundreds of meetings and events. Blake has also written articles on farm policy for numerous national publications and continues to write today, as his muse and time allow. The Hursts are still farming, growing flowers, watching their grandchildren participate in sports, and traveling together.

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KruseCharlie Kruse and his wife, Pam, left, are congratulated by First Lady Teresa and Gov. Mike Parson at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion prior to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Charlie Kruse

Dexter native Charles “Charlie” Kruse has a distinguished legacy of service to Missouri agriculture. A graduate of Dexter High School, he received a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Arkansas State University in 1967 and a master’s degree in plant genetics from the University of Missouri in 1974. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout at age 14, and in 2003 was named a Distinguished Eagle Scout by the Boy Scouts of America organization. He spent 26 years in the National Guard, retiring with the rank of brigadier general. He served on the MU Board of Curators, as Missouri director of agriculture and as president of Missouri Farm Bureau from 1992 to 2010. He also served on the board and executive committee for the American Farm Bureau and received its highest honor, the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award, in 2012. He and his wife, Pam, farmed for 38 years, retiring in 2014. They raised two sons, Ben, who died in an ATV accident at age 28, and Scott, principal of Dexter Middle School. Scott and his wife, Kerri, have two daughters, Addie and Andie.


LucasForrest Lucas, center, is congratulated by First Lady Teresa Parson and Gov. Mike Parson at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion prior to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Lucas’ wife, Charlotte, was unable to attend.

Forrest & Charlotte Lucas

Forrest and Charlotte Lucas are leaving an enduring legacy for the agricultural industry and communities they serve. Through Protect The Harvest and Lucas Cattle Company, the Lucases have demonstrated what it means to champion causes that protect and nurture American agriculture and rural life. Founded in 2011, Protect The Harvest is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting farmers, ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts and animal owners. The organization continues to achieve important milestones in its mission to ensure “A Free and Fed America.” Located in Cross Timbers, Mo., Lucas Cattle Company spans more than 16,000 acres and is home to the nation’s largest registered Simmental cattle herd and a breeding program for elite cutting horses. In partnership with the Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, Forrest and Charlotte have also dedicated themselves to fighting food insecurity in the state through the Hogs for Hunger initiative and the annual Drive to Feed Kids.



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