We’re now in the midst of what we call the season of giving. More than 30% of annual donations to charities and nonprofits happen in December, with the majority of those gifts occurring in the last three days of the year. The Christmas spirit inspires philanthropy, compelling us to drop change in those ubiquitous red kettles, volunteer at the local soup kitchen, or write a generous check to support our favorite cause.
However, for agriculture and MFA, the season of giving is never-ending. The MFA Charitable Foundation is continually evaluating proposals and awarding grants to organizations and projects that will benefit the communities where we do business. It’s an important part of who we are as a farmer-owned cooperative.
This fund is separate from the MFA Foundation Scholarships, which are awarded to children, stepchildren or grandchildren/step-grandchildren of MFA member-level customers. In total, more than $16 million has been awarded since that program began in 1965. The 2022 application period is now open and runs until Feb. 15.
The MFA Charitable Foundation is a more recent avenue for cooperative giving. It was founded in 2005 to provide financial support for worthy projects related to rural youth, agriculture and cooperative education. It also benefits organizations that are active in improving quality of life in their communities. This fall, we’ve had the opportunity to award a substantial amount of funds that will further those causes.
For example, Forsyth High School in Taney County, Mo., has big plans for developing a learning-by-doing livestock program. Teachers and students want to establish a cattle herd on the school’s 52-acre farm and provide lessons on feed, herd health, artificial insemination and more.
A similar project is in the works for the Nevada R-V Agriculture Department, which plans to build an animal science lab with all the necessary equipment to teach students about livestock health, nutrition, reproduction, selection and handling.
Ag students at Hollister R-V High School in southwest Missouri are also excited about improvements to their animal science facility. A proposed expansion will allow students to work with cattle in a real-world setting.
The MFA Charitable Foundation provided grants to each of these schools to help fund their efforts.
Monetary support also went to improve the Belle Community Fair Beef Barn, helping to provide a more open, safer place for exhibitors. The Cooper County Fairgrounds in Boonville also has a new, modern sound system, thanks in part to foundation funds.
Successful grant applications aren’t always directly related to agriculture. In Lexington, Mo., an MFA donation will go toward completing 1 mile of a proposed 2.9-mile “Rail Trail” along the former Union Pacific lead line. Organizers say the trail will provide a safe connector to existing sidewalks and provide multiple recreational opportunities.
These examples are part of the bigger picture of giving across the agriculture industry. Take, for instance, the Drive to Feed Kids. This program, led by Missouri Farmers Care, raises awareness of childhood food insecurity and supports food banks across the state. The problem is real: one in five Missourians faces hunger, and the number is even higher among children. This year, a total of 2,015,088 meals were provided to Feeding Missouri, a coalition of the state’s six major food banks.
Hunger relief in Missouri took center stage at the recent Governor’s Conference on Agriculture, where the spotlight was turned on local, student-led activities that are making a positive impact in their communities. These are just a few examples:
- Lacking a local food pantry in their town, the Ashland FFA chapter built a “Giving Shed” and stocked it with nonperishable food and hygiene items.
- A project launched last year by the Halfway FFA Chapter has provided 1,000 gallons of whole milk to accompany the “Buddy Packs” of food that go home with students in need.
- For the past three years, Concordia FFA members have organized a food-packing event that involves students from kindergarten through 12th grade. In a community of about 2,500 people, they distribute more than 30,000 meals each year.
The passion and purpose these young people displayed were incredibly inspiring. And it made me want to do more. That’s one reason I chose this topic for my last column of 2021. There is no better way to end the year than by giving back.
But the needs of our fellow Missourians and local communities don’t disappear after the holidays. They’re year-round. I challenge you to identify those needs and assist through donations of money, talents or time. Find solutions to problems in your hometown. Support 4-H and FFA members in the good work they’re doing. Contribute to ongoing efforts such as the Drive to Feed Kids. And let MFA help. You can find out more about the MFA Charitable Foundation grants at mfa-inc.com/About/Charity.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year ahead.
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