A new group has formed to promote what many just a few years ago might have thought didn’t need promotion: the value of agriculture to Missouri.
Missouri, one of the nation’s top farm states, is losing touch with its farm roots, at least according to pork producer Sharon Oetting, a member of the Missouri Farm Family Agriculture Alliance. Oetting farms with her husband, Steve, near Concordia. She tells of visiting with students at a grade school near her town of 2,000 located between Kansas City and Columbia. None lived on a farm. Few had any immediate relatives who lived on a farm.
“What that says is that you don’t have a grandparent or an aunt and uncle or a parent or anyone close to you that has a farm so that you have a working knowledge of where food comes from,” Oetting says. “I mean there are people who think the bread and milk comes from the grocery store.”
Oetting believes that could become a problem, even in Missouri. Members of the Missouri Farm Family Agriculture Alliance worry about the impact on agriculture of animal rights activists, extreme environmentalists and what they term “overzealous lawyers”. The alliance claims such activists could threaten the livelihood of farmers. It has kicked off a yearlong educational effort to promote Missouri agriculture and preserve its agri-business industry. It is composed of various farm interests, not just restricted to family farms.
Oetting says education is the key.
“Well, the challenge is that farmers are just good, hard-working, salt of the earth people and they think because they are doing a good job people will understand and they won’t question how they do things and why they do things,” according to Oetting.
Missouri has more than 100,000 farms with a wide range of crops and livestock that generates $12 billion a year, ranking it as the state’s number one industry.