Why would the average resident of southwest Missouri want to read about agriculture?

For starters, we need to be knowledgeable about the sources of our food and fiber products. Surveys continue to show that most Americans no little about their food or fiber sources.

This lack of knowledge about agriculture can affect public policy that directly impacts producers and consumers. That means having an agriculturally literate society is essential.

As the U.S. public continues to lose its connection with production agriculture, the role of media in conveying agricultural information grows. That is one of the reasons I have been so thankful for this column space in the Springfield News-Leader for 20 years.

Based on surveys I did annually for 20 years with area journalists, I also know that agriculture-related topics interest readers. Topics like water quality, gardening, animal health, food safety, urban and rural conflicts, food access and security, pest and disease control, are of high interest.

Another reason residents of southwest Missouri should be interested in agriculture is evident in the numbers. The latest Missouri Economy Indicators from the  University of Missouri's Exceed program review the sale of local foods in Missouri.

In Missouri, 5,175 producers sold local food in 2020, 7 percent more than in 2015. And 57% of U.S. farms marketing local food directly to consumers were in metropolitan counties, along with 62% of all sales. Surprisingly, 76% of local food sales in Missouri included added value through processing or packaging farm products.

The USDA's Local Food Marketing Practices Survey found that nationwide, farmers in 2020 produced and sold $9 billion of local food – a 3 percent increase in total sales from 2015.

In 2021, Missouri's agriculture, forestry and related industries provided $93.7 billion in economic contribution, $34.9 billion in value-added, 456,618 jobs, and $31.8 billion in household income.

Agriculture is a multi-billion-dollar industry in southwest Missouri, and it touches the lives of every single resident. To learn more about the impact of agriculture on your specific county, go online to


I have been privileged to write about agriculture for this newspaper for 20 years. Every week has been a learning experience for me.

My maternal grandfather (Orlis Farmer) had cattle, and I got to "help" on the farm regularly. Honestly, I may have been in the way most of the time. But I did get to haul hay, work on fences, and help with general chores.

That little bit of help was the extent of my agricultural knowledge when I joined MU Extension. I have enjoyed, over the years, getting to interview people who know much more about agriculture than I do! I hope some of it has been useful to you as well.

You can still find research and helpful information about agriculture online at


My partnership with the Springfield News-Leader has been invaluable to our programs and our efforts to educate people about agriculture-related events. But just because I have chosen to stop writing this column does not mean I am retiring or leaving MU Extension.

I remain a community development specialist with MU Extension. You can still follow me on LinkedIn, follow the Greene County Extension Council or Becoming an Engaged Neighbor on Facebook