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Central Region

MU Extension's Central Region consists of 14 counties — Audrain, Benton, Boone, Callaway, Carroll, Chariton, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Morgan, Moniteau, Osage, Pettis and Saline.
Sunset over the Missouri River

Sunset over the Missouri River at Jefferson City. Photo by Emily Kaiser, MU Extension Cooperative Media Group.

The region is bisected by the Missouri River with 10 of the 14 counties adjoining the "Mighty MO." Rolling hills dominate the topography north of the Missouri River and are primarily used for row crops and pasture. South of the river the land begins the transition to the Ozark hills with pasture and forest more prominent than row crops.

While mostly rural, with a population of 488,000, the Central Region is home to several state institutions and private enterprises. Jefferson City (Cole County) is home to the state’s capital; Columbia (Boone County) hosts the University of Missouri; and the state fair is held each year in Sedalia (Pettis County). The only nuclear power plant in the state is located in Callaway County. It’s owned by Ameren UE and produces about 19 percent of the company’s Missouri-generated power. Boone County serves as headquarters for Shelter Insurance and hosts several regional medical facilities.

The 2010 high school graduation rate for the region is 87 percent. More than 84 percent of the region’s residents have a high school diploma, while 26 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Boone County, home of MU, has the largest percentage of residents, 45 percent, with college degrees in the region. Boone also contains the largest city in the region, Columbia, ranking fifth in the state in population.

In addition to the Missouri, other rivers flowing through the region include the Osage, Gasconade, Blackwater, Moreau and Maries rivers. These rivers are associated with Missouri Department of Conservation and National Fish and Wildlife public facilities and offer outdoor enthusiasts many recreational opportunities.

[In January 2013, MU Extension realigned regions to reflect changes in the economic development needs of Missouri, population demographics, societal changes and funding constraints. The Central Region blended into surrounding regions, and one urban region was created to better serve both major metropolitan areas of the state.]