OZARK, Mo. -– Southwest Missouri is growing, and it’s impacting Christian County farmland. Residents say land has been squeezed out by new homes and businesses.
What sets apart the Christian County fair from others, is its emphasis on agriculture. Organizers say, the fair is adapting as agriculture changes.
Jennifer Hancock, a 4-H educator in Christian County, and her student Codey Powell, who is the president of the Christian County 4-H Leader’s Council, said the county’s growth has a lot to do with agriculture changes.
“The town has become more of a city,” Hancock said. “It’s more of a suburb of Springfield.”
Powell added, “We are like the largest growing county in the state, Christian County is, so with all this growth, we get less and less farmland.”
The teacher and her student are both learning to adapt to their town turned city, but how?
“We’re really teaching them a lot this year about the agriculture field and what it all has to offer,” Hancock said.
According to Powell, it’s a lot.
“Agriculture is everywhere, whether you see it or not,” he said. “My shirt’s made out of cotton, it had to be farmed somewhere. The food that you eat this morning, this afternoon, and tonight, it had to be grown somewhere. And agriculture is not something that’s just growing anymore – it’s technology, it’s education.”
Hancock agrees farmland isn’t gone altogether, it’s just changing.
“The poultry has really picked up though, because people can have their chickens in their backyards here in the city of Ozark,” she said.
Hancock said there’s a new program recognizing farms that have stayed in the same family for 100 years. She said the family must go through a rigorous verification process, which includes providing the deed.
” It’s really neat that we had one this year, just a few months ago in Christian County.”
As Christian County celebrates its century farm family, it knows youth also play an important role in the future of farming.
“I will be after an agriculture education major, so I want to come back and I want to be an ag teacher, because I think math is boring, English is hard, and I don’t work good,” Powell said. “Agriculture is something you have relationship with the kids that a normal teacher wouldn’t.”
Although the fair ends Saturday night, Christian County organizations say they will be focusing on agriculture year-round.