Missouri is a rich and diverse state in many ways, especially in terms of its agricultural production and its people.
Monday night was an opportunity to celebrate the best of both entities as the Missouri State Fair honored 114 farm families from across the state.
“Tonight is an opportunity to recognize the great efforts of the individuals from across the state who continue to contribute daily to the agriculture industry,” Richard Fordyce, Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture said early Monday morning. “I don’t know if we can ever recognize them enough, though.
“They are leaders in their community who don’t require props for their work,” he added. “We need to recognize them, though for all their contributions.”
For Don and Sandy Hutchinson, the Pettis County Farm Family of the year recipients, the work they do on a daily basis is recognition enough.
“I don’t know how to put into words what I felt when they told me about the recognition,” Don Hutchinson said. “It was humbling because there are a lot of good people who farm for a living who are just as deserving if not more so.
“We like our cows, and the land and we try to be good stewards of not only our land but the land that we rent as well,” he added. “We have two very good landowners who we rent from and they own the land, so we work to try to keep them happy; we have to think of their wants and needs in our work.
The Hutchinson’s own 40 acres and rent an additional 100 acres.
The land they rent is primarily brush and timber but their 40 acres provides space for the 40 or so head of cattle the couple and their children own and raise.
The couple have five children, daughter Leah Coleman who, with her husband, has two children, Liauna Coleman, 3 and Eliakim Coleman, nine and a half months, Nan Hutchinson a 4-H Youth Program Associate in Pettis County, son Nathaniel Hutchinson who farms for William Family Farms, Jennifer Hutchinson, a junior nursing major at College of the Ozarks, and Samantha Hutchinson, a senior who is home schooled.
“All of the children own part of the herd and they all help on the farm and take part in the work and the responsibility,” Sharon Hutchinson said. “Our cow/calf operation just kind of morphed and evolved over the years.
“The girls had some little calves and they all were involved in 4-H when they were younger, but we’ve really only been doing this for about the last six or seven years, she added. “My dad gave us a cow when he was getting out of the business and we borrowed a bull and that’s really how it all got started.”
The couple have been married 29 years and have lived on their farm for the last 27.
With the exception of Sharon and Samantha, all of the family has other employment, Don Works for Central Missouri Co-operatives.
“Mom (Sharon) and Samantha do the majority of the day-to-day work on the farm,” Don Hutchinson said. “When I get home I find out what else needs to be done in addition to all they have taken care of.
“I think it’s important for a family to be together and this gives us the opportunity,” he added. “I hope that someday this will be handed down to the children.”
Farming for the couple is generational as is community involvement, which was taught to the Hutchinson’s by their parents.
Both Don and Sharon are very involved in their church, St. Paul’s Lutheran, and the 4-H community and for many years, Don Hutchinson was a member of the MU Extension Council.
He was recognized for his work on the council earlier this year at the University of Missouri Extension of Pettis County’s annual meeting.
There he also received the Mergen Spirit Award, which is given to the individual in Pettis County who maintains the goals and works to keep an awareness of the Extension in the Community.
The community involvement aspect is a very important part of each farm family who is selected according to Tracy Feller, director of constituent relations for MU Extension said.
“Each county may select a farm family and for the first time in the 50 years we have been recognizing the families we have a representative from each of the state’s 114 counties,” Feller said. “There is a set of criteria that is used and one part of that is community service.
“I think the fact that we have a representative for each of our counties including the urban areas such as St. Louis shows the growth in agriculture,” she added. “Agriculture is not just row crops but includes urban gardens, wine production and forestry today.”
There are five organizations that sponsor the Missouri State Fair Farm Family Recognition: The Farm Bureau, The Department of Agriculture, The Missouri State Fair Commissioners, The MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and the MU Extension.
“I really can’t see myself doing anything else,” Don Hutchinson said. “It’s definitely not a nine to five job but there is never any boredom or questions of what should I do today.
“Sharon and I are both from small rural agricultural communities,” he added. “It’s very much a part of who we are and want to be.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.