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Deeply Rooted

As you drive down Highway 72, just south of Rolla, Mo., the natural beauty of the Mark Twain National Forest and the rugged, rocky hills of the Ozark Plateau quickly come into view. This ancient landscape is dotted with caves and natural springs as well as a family history that has deepened and strengthened throughout the centuries.

Tucked in the woodlands here is a tract of land that has been in the Lenox family since the early 1800s. The Lenox line can be traced to a Scottish clan that settled in the Ozark Highlands among native oak, hickory and pine forests. Of that parcel, about 700 acres are documented in the property abstract as being in the family since 1838.

“The history, that’s really what brought me back,” said Angie Lenox Mallery, whose father, Kennard Robert Lenox, took over the family farm from his father, Hamilton Wilson Lenox, in 1977. A sixth-generation farmer, Angie was born with a passion for the land and learned the Lenox farming traditions from her father—lessons that have been passed down through the generations.

The Lenox narrative runs deep, with a few twists and turns along the way. The newest chapter to the family’s story is that Angie, the oldest daughter of Ken and his wife, Joyce, now runs the family’s cow/calf business. It’s the first time in the farm’s almost 200-year history that a woman is the principal operator.

Angie grew up on the farm with her brother and two sisters. After college, she moved to St. Louis and pursued a career in fashion merchandising and retail management. She married Mike Mallery, and they started a family. Mike’s banking job took them to Texas, where they became entrenched in suburban life outside of Dallas. No one thought that Angie would move back to the family farm, especially Angie.

“My family is very close, that includes my cousins and extended family. In 2008 and 2009, during our Lenox family Thanksgivings, we all discussed what the future looked like for the farm,” Angie said, referring to the festive family gathering with no less than 80 people in attendance. “Those discussions about the farm, the family legacy and who was interested in taking it over were on my mind and in my heart for a few years.” 

Putting a plan in place
The wheels started to turn for Angie, but she knew it was a big decision with a lifetime commitment. In 2013, after many conversations with her husband and daughters, her siblings and parents, even cousins and aunts and uncles, she knew that taking over the farm was a real possibility.

Uprooting themselves from Texas, Angie and Mike moved their young family to the Lenox farm the following year to help manage and eventually run the cow/calf operation. 
The task was lofty. Ken, who was 70 years old at the time, handled more than 650 head of black Angus and managed 65 pastures on 3,000 acres of owned and rented ground. He was an expert in growing grass and was on the leading edge of using native forages for hay and grazing.

“When I held the property ledgers in my hands and looked at the history of my family, I realized my roots were too deep not to do this,” said Angie. “My dad asked my Aunt Kris, his oldest sibling, what she thought about me running the farm. She assured him that I could do it. I think he just needed a little convincing that a woman—that I—could do it.”
Once the decision was made, Angie and Mike worked with their attorney and her parents’ legal advisor to formulate a succession plan. Ken had taken over the farm from his parents, and the Lenox family was very open about discussing the future, so the transition process was transparent to all. The land stayed in Ken and Joyce’s estate, while Angie and Mike purchased the cow/calf operation. The Mallerys established Lenox Farms, LLC with her father as the lead foreman.

“I knew I could do…,” Angie started to say, and then paused. “I knew I could do it, but I just knew that it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Part of the succession plan was to find someone to be Angie’s right-hand man to help with the cattle business, pasture management and hay operation. Kevin Shaw, whose father was a hired hand for Angie’s grandfather, grew up on the Lenox farm and helped when he was young. Kevin had since moved on to work as a logger and miner, but Ken and Angie asked him to come back to help with the day-to-day operation.

Going along for the ride 
Once the Mallerys moved back to the farm, Angie said she and Ken spent a lot of time together. Their conversations helped her learn about the farm, his methods and his standards. She took notes and even videoed him explaining aspects of the operation.

“He would say, ‘Let’s take a drive to check that cow we saw that’s about to calve.’ Or ‘Let’s go move that herd to a new pasture,’” Angie said. “I did my best to take in every little thing.”

One of the things she learned was how cattle drives on the Lenox farm evolved through the years. Her grandfather would watch for the return of his older brother and the other cowboys from their cattle drives that lasted weeks and traversed multiple states. As time passed, the cattle drives were shorter but still used horseback riders. Angie remembers often being one of those riders.
Ken expanded the Lenox farm fencing system and learned that cattle drives were more easily accomplished by truck. “Dad honked the horn, and the cows knew they would be fed,” said Angie.

“They also follow the truck if you hold a feed sack out the window and shake it.” While moving one herd to a different pasture, she demonstrated the technique by honking the horn. Sure enough, the herd followed.

Angie recalls many of Ken’s clever sayings that she and Kevin use on the farm regularly, such as, “Always call them when you move them, and always move them when you call them.” Another one is, “You have to move the herd the day before they move themselves.” And when they were dealing with a sick animal, “You can’t save them all.”

Another nod to the past is that the Lenox pastures all have names, either from a relative or how the land was used. There is the Apple Tree pasture, the Burkitt Place, the Via Hollow, the Old School House and the Tombstone pasture, just to name a few.

“My father was a generous steward of his forefathers’ land,” Angie said. “One of his legacies is all the improvement he made. He transformed more than 1,000 acres of raw Ozark land filled with rock and trees to produce more than 650 head of cattle. His father only had a herd of 60. He transformed a few hayfields and rough forest into thriving, diversified grassland pastures that produce hay and sustain our herds.”

Ken worked with Paul Grayson, bulk plant manager at Rolla MFA Agri Services, for all his fertilizer and soil health needs. “We had a great working relationship and would talk about different ideas for his pastures and how to care for the soil,” Grayson said. “I now work with Angie and Mike and help them in whatever way I can. We just recently did soil sampling, and they have new recommendations for some of their fields.”

Lenox Farms also purchases all their fencing needs and some specialized feed from the Salem MFA Agri Services location.
Carrying on the tradition

Each year, Angie took over more of the day-to-day management. She was patient and let the succession plan happen on her father’s timeline.
“Gradually, he became more accepting and would really listen to my ideas,” Angie said.
Six years into their partnership, Angie began to see her father’s pace and demeanor change. She treasured his knowledge but knew she was going to have to start making the decisions.
“I could see it in his eyes,” Angie said. “It was hard for him to step aside.”

When her father was taking over the day-to-day operations of the farm from his father in the 1970s, Ken recalled that there were many struggles between the two of them. Her grandfather didn’t want to give up being in charge. In 2022, Angie and her mother saw history repeating itself as they experienced those same difficulties with Ken.

“Didn’t he learn from the mistakes during the transition with his father? Is he in a state of mental decline that is making him a different person? Is it his ego? Will he ever admit that he is no longer the lead foreman?” Angie said these were some of the questions that she and her mother asked each other.

Soon the answers became clear. Her father was diagnosed with dementia, which led to delusions and a rapid decline in his physical abilities. He passed away in October 2023.
Angie said she is truly grateful for the 10 years she had to learn the daily operation from her father. As the succession plan played out, she was able to spend quality time with him, gaining much more than just a working knowledge of the farm.

“Farming families have a unique definition of tradition,” Angie wrote on her blog in 2014 as she embarked on her new venture. “I am amazed and often scared to death when I think about how I am one of the main people responsible for the future of the tradition and history behind my family farm.”

When asked about her goals for the future, Angie said she plans to maintain the farm and herds to her father’s standards and to make small improvements.

“Who knows? One of our girls might decide to come back and have a story similar to mine,” Angie said. “I think that women who want to work on farms are realistic about what they are getting into. Most are goal-oriented, strong-willed, strong-minded—they are just plain strong. Today, no matter their age or level of responsibility, women who work on farms can be seen as modern-day pioneers paving the way for more women to join them.”

***

Successful succession takes time, thought and communication

With more than 370 million acres of farmland estimated to change hands over the next 20 years, support for farm transitions is greatly needed. According to American Farmland Trust, more than 40% of agricultural land is owned by producers who are 65 years old and older. Yet, one of the biggest challenges for young farmers is obtaining capital to purchase the land.

To help ease some of those succession challenges, Tammy Baldwin, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, and Mike Braun, a Republican senator from Indiana, introduced the Farm Transition Act of 2024 in March. The bipartisan bill would help break down barriers to farming and agricultural land ownership, potentially helping more Americans pursue farming careers.

“I guess the biggest thing to realize is that farm succession takes time and effort,” said Angie Lenox Mallery of Rolla, Mo., who now runs the cattle operation her father once owned. “It’s definitely a process with many different issues that need to be addressed.”

Several different resources can be considered during succession planning. One such option is the University of Missouri Extension Service.

“Having difficult conversations and engaging in intentional communication are critical components of this process,” said Wesley Tucker, MU Extension agricultural business specialist. “Our team is here to offer resources that can equip families for these conversations and help them protect the business and family harmony.” 
Last year, MU Extension offered workshops that addressed topics such as how to minimize conflict, conduct family meetings, develop short-term operation plans and prepare for the next generation of management and ownership.

Each farming operation has its own unique situation and family dynamic, Tucker said, so using a trusted attorney is also very important.

“We have an attorney that we have a great working relationship with,” Mallery said. “She asked us questions to help guide us in the process. She also had things for us to consider that we never thought of.” 

Shannon Ferrell, an Oklahoma State University associate professor specializing in farm transitions and agriculture law, researched farm succession plans. The most common strategy is one of the least successful, he found. More than half of farm owners divide their assets equally among their heirs, regardless of whether they plan on continuing the farm themselves.

Another strategy, which Ferrell calls the “lifetime farm transfer,” involves interested children making farm payments over time to their parents. They would essentially buy shares of the farm as their parents decreased their percentage of ownership.

Ferrell said his research showed the strategy that works the best across farm types and incomes was giving farm assets to children interested in farming but dividing land ownership equally among them.

For more information about succession planning, visit extension.missouri.edu.

 CLICK TO READ MORE FROM THE 2024 MAY ISSUE OF TODAY'S FARMER MAGAZINE.

Read this story as printed on the Today's Farmer flip book version for this issue HERE.

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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 www.mostatefairfoundation.net

INAUGURAL AWARD WINNERS


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.

 * * *

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.

 * * *

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.

 * * *

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.

 CLICK TO READ MORE FROM THE 2024 MAY ISSUE OF TODAY'S FARMER MAGAZINE.

 

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A place of their own

New barn gives California High School students room to raise pigs

Interest in agriculture is strong at Missouri’s California R-1 High School. The numbers tell the story. Out of the school’s 430 students, 310 are enrolled in FFA and ag education classes this year.

However, many of those students don’t live on farms or have a place to raise their own animals. That’s why the school has dedicated space and resources to building facilities that provide those opportunities.

StudentsCALIffaThe newest addition to California R-1 High School’s agriculture campus is a 30-x-30-foot swine barn. Freshman agriculture students, from left, Emily Burger, Cadence Reed and Izzy Hulsey are showing pigs for the first time this year. The new swine barn allows them to house their animals on campus since they don’t have a place to keep them at home. Hulsey’s gilt named “Porky” is one of the barn’s residents.“I believe our program is successful because we have kids who are very goal-driven and know they’re going to get hands-on learning here that they can’t get anywhere else,” said Gary Reichel, FFA adviser and agriculture instructor. “We have a shop where kids can do drafting and engineering. We have our greenhouses where they can grow plants. We have a livestock facility where we raise sheep, chickens and cattle.

These facilities allow students to have supervised agriculture experience projects on campus and take the classroom into the real world.”
The latest addition is a 30-x-30-foot swine barn equipped with 10 pens for students to house their show pig projects. Completed last summer, the facility was built with help from a $5,000 grant from the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation and matching funds from CoBank’s Sharing Success program.

“We were so blessed to get these grants,” Reichel said. “The community is what makes this agriculture program run. Without support from agribusinesses like MFA, none of this could be built. And if they support us while these kids are in school, we hope we can support them with employees in the future.”

The new barn makes it possible for students such as freshman FFA member Cadence Reed to show pigs for the first time. She acquired a Duroc named “Tomato” about two months ago and plans to exhibit her at surrounding county fairs and possibly the Missouri State Fair this year.

“We live out in the country, but our neighborhood has an HOA (homeowners association), and we aren’t allowed to have animals on the land,” Reed said. “I really love how our school provides this barn, because without it, I wouldn’t be able to raise pigs.”
Fellow freshman and FFA member Emily Burger is also keeping her crossbred barrow, “Moon Pie,” in the school’s barn.

“As a kid, I used to help my babysitter raise pigs, and I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I thought it’d be fun to show pigs myself, and this is a great opportunity to get back into it. We recently moved out to the country, but we don’t have any place we can keep pigs, so this barn gives me a way to still participate in the project.”

Likewise, Izzy Hulsey, also a freshman, is showing pigs for the first time this year, thanks in part to the new swine barn. She said the experience is strengthening her love for agriculture and FFA.

“FFA is one of my favorite clubs because it’s a community where we all have the same interests and can talk about it openly,” Hulsey said. “I feel like a big reason we have such a good program at our school is because of all the hands-on opportunities we have here.”
Such enthusiasm for learning and camaraderie is what agriculture education is all about, Reichel added.

“Our students are learning more than just how to raise animals,” he said. “They’re learning the responsibility of completing a project from start to finish and how to work together to reach their goals. They can come away with something they’ve never done before with a sense of accomplishment and work ethic that will help them succeed in the future.”

The MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation’s mission is to assist rural communities in MFA’s trade area by supporting organizations that are dedicated to education, youth, solving community problems and improving quality of life. For more information on grant opportunities, visit online at mfa-inc.com/charity.

CLICK TO READ MORE FROM THE 2024 MAY ISSUE OF TODAY'S FARMER MAGAZINE.

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