2018 MFGC Conference Guest Speakers
David and Mariah Boatright are restoration agriculturalists. Their farm mission statement is to restore the health and vitality of the land and to nourish the families who eat of its bounty. To accomplish this they utilize high density, multispecies grazing (cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens) across 460 acres of rolling Missouri hills. But, they have come a long way. When they graduated high school, their goal was to make a living in agriculture. With little to invest in a farm enterprise and simultaneously paying their way through school, they learned to get creative. They began managing farms for a real estate company, custom grazing cattle, and putting their savings into a small herd of 30 hair sheep.
Today, David and Mariah both work full time on the farm grazing cattle for their landlords, managing their flock of 400 hair sheep, several hundred laying hens and meat chickens while operating Fed From The Farm, an online metropolitan buying club serving central Missouri. They are currently working towards transitioning back to the family farm as they raise their growing family.
Jim Grace was raised on a northwest Missouri cattle, sheep and row crop farm in Gentry County. His early interest in the power of forage-based farming was sparked while working on dairy, beef, and sheep farms in New Zealand during an International 4-H Youth Exchange Program while he was in college. Degrees in zoology and range management followed.
Today Jim and his wife Betty, along with their two grown children, operate Grace Native Seed, a family-owned seed and plant materials business, and they raise and background cattle on their 600 acre farm near Albany. Grace has been using MiG for 27 years.
Dean Houghton is a fourth-generation farmer from Caldwell County, Missouri. He and his wife, Jerilyn, graze cattle and sheep on the family farm near Polo, MO.
The Houghton family were named the 2005 national Hampshire sheep breeders of the year. They were founding members of Mountain States Lamb, a new-generation cooperative based in Douglas, Wyoming, that serves the New York market as well as national retailers.
The 640-acre farm is devoted primarily to forages, with cattle and sheep co-grazing on paddock systems. The cow-calf operation backgrounds its calves, and direct markets to an Iowa feedlot under a private agreement.
Houghton is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a degree in agricultural journalism, and has served for the past 20 years as Corn Belt editor of The Furrow, John Deere’s farm magazine. He previously worked for Farm Journal and Successful Farming.
He has reported from all U.S. states except Hawaii. Houghton also has been on assignment in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, and Brazil. His work also includes conservation reporting. He produced the writing and photography for the National Pork Board’s Environmental Stewardship project during its 10-year duration. He now produces the Conservation Legacy Awards under the direction of the American Soybean Association, which includes a feature film presented at the annual Commodity Classic event.
Houghton is recognized as a Master Writer and a Master Photographer by the American Agricultural Editors Association. The association also named him as a Writer of Merit, becoming only the ninth person in the history of the AAEA to be named to this lifetime achievement honor.
Wallace “Wally” Olsen grew up in and spent his whole working life in ranching. Over that time Wally saw the crash of 74, lived through the ag crisis of the 80s and the best of times in the cattle business of the last few years. One of Wally’s mentors, Orville Burtis Sr., told him that the only way to learn to make money in the cattle business is to go broke. When you ask Orville how many times he’s been broke he said the bank only knew about once.
In 1987 Wally had the privilege of going to work for the Kelley ranch as manager. This is one of the best ranches in the world, for ease of operations and stability. While working for the Kelley ranch in the cow calf program and a stocker cattle program as well as sheep and goats.
Two life-changing experiences that Wally had the privilege of experiencing were attending a Ranching for Profit School and meeting Bud and Eunice Williams. Both of these experiences ingrained in Wally the need for profit. Ranching for profit gave Wally a great understanding of business which was lacking in his college education.
Utilizing Bud Williams Stockmanship has helped in the number of cattle that got sick and the amount of labor needed to take care for them. Sell-Buy marketing has greatly improved the control that Wally has. It has removed the dependency on price and moved the importance to the margin which Wally has control over.
Eight years ago the family that owns the Kelley Ranch made the decision to get out of active ranching. They were nice enough to lease Wally and his wife part of the ranch. For this Wally is thankful and know the timing was a blessing.
Wally has a friend by name a Chip Hines and his grandma said it’s hard to put an old head on new shoulders. Helping young people get started in agriculture is a passion of Wally. It is very easy to acquire knowledge but moving that knowledge to wisdom and passing it on is the key.