No matter where you live in Missouri, you are affected by the state’s largest industry, agriculture. According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the industry brings in $88 billion each year to the state. Nearly 100,000 farms cover about two-thirds of the total land acreage of Missouri and provides nearly 400,000 Missourians with jobs. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce honors the agriculture industry and the influence it has on the Missouri economy at the annual Agricultural Recognition Banquet where hundreds of Boone County farmers and ranchers attend. The 60th annual banquet showcased the importance of the industry to the mid-Missouri economy. It also spotlighted the contributions of individuals to the agriculture community. None more than the 2019 Agriculturalist of the Year recipients Nick and Rachel Schlotzhauer.
“Nick is very passionate about farming. He started working for Hilgedick Farms when he was 15 (years old),” Nick’s father Rod Schlotzhauer said. “Through hard work and determination, and a little help, he has been able to buy some land of his own, a combine, a couple of tractors and various implements. He is a mentor to people who are starting in the organic side of farming and is willing to talk to anyone who is interested.”
Nick and Rachel don’t come from a long list of family members that have farmed the land before them. They are first generation farmers and succeeding in a difficult and competitive industry. They are one of few organic corn and soybean producers in mid-Missouri. They’re critical thinkers who go above and beyond the levels of compliance to remain certified as an organic farmer. However, Nick and Rachel don’t spend all of their time farming. They’re constantly giving back to the community trying to make it a better place. Nick voluntarily mows Friedens Cemetery in Hartsburg, Peace UCC Church, City of Hartsburg, as well as several older individuals’ yards. He also helps harvest Ashland’s FFA fields for fundraisers.
The Schlotzhauer’s are just one of many noteworthy individuals in the agriculture industry. Since 1960, the Chamber has hosted the Agricultural Recognition Banquet to honor the industry. This is an opportunity to recognize the importance of agriculture to the region. The Agriculturalist of the Year award has been one of the most prestigious awards given out to industry leaders since 1993. Many award recipients have been important and prominent figures that have been on the front line of advancing the industry in Boone County.
“Agriculture is much more than many realize or understand, it is a vital industry that allows us to have a wonderful community, state and quality of life,” Chamber President Matt McCormick said. “It’s important for the rest of the Columbia business community to support and partner with agriculture businesses in order to keep jobs local and to continue to grow the economy.”
The other awards given out at the banquet were to Elizabeth Brooks from Southern Boone High School for the Don Day Agribusiness Scholarship and to Vicky Miserez for the 2019 Friend of Youth Award.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce was established in 1905 and is a voluntary, member-supported organization of business, industrial and professional people who are dedicated to developing, promoting and maintaining a sound and healthy economic climate for Columbia. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is recognized as a 5-Star Accredited Chamber by the United States Chamber of Commerce.