"You're at least at the top," David Baker, dean of agricultural outreach and extension for the University of Missouri, said Tuesday night as 11 new century farms -- farms that have been kept in the same family for at least 100 years -- were added to Saline County's tally.
The Saline County Com-mission and Saline County University of Missouri Exten-sion Office celebrated these century farms Tuesday night at the Saline County Courthouse.
"The state [of Missouri] is number two in the nation in family farms, second only to Texas," said keynote speaker Tom Payne, vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at University of Missouri-Columbia. "... And Texas is a wee bit bigger than Missouri is."
Payne told the audience Tuesday that, as agricultural markets became more and more competitive, he felt the role of the small family farmer will increase.
"The future is challenging," he said. "Agriculture is beginning to have some impacts, and it's not going to go away. So how are we in Missouri going to stay productive in agriculture? I think the answer is the family farm. ... I think we're going to go back to family farms that are producing products, not commodities."
Payne said he felt that the future of U.S. farming lies in specialized crops and niche farms producing harvests that aren't mass-produced commodities, but specialized ag products such as value-added items.
"The thing that gives us an edge in the United States is technology," he said, adding that the foundation of that technology is higher education.
Payne called on farmers to hold universities responsible for meeting the future needs of agriculture and asked that they voice agriculture-related concerns to the University of Missouri. He said the university's goal is to serve them.
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