2016 Conference Archives

Bringing Back the American Small Farm Conference

Anita J. (Janie) Dunning
Missouri State Director, USDA Rural Development 

Janie Dunning was appointed Missouri’s State Director of USDA Rural Development by the White House in July 2009. As State Director, Ms. Dunning guides an organization with 110 staff providing housing, community facility, energy efficiency and business development assistance across Rural Missouri. In Fiscal Year 2014, Rural Development invested in excess of $760 million in loans and grants in rural communities and businesses in Missouri. Ms. Dunning’s distinguished federal service career began in 1968 in the community of Kahoka in northeast Missouri where she was raised. She started with Farmers Home Administration. During her tenure, she has seen the agency go through many changes including name changes to the current agency name, Rural Development. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience having worked at the county, district and state level.

Grant Gillard
Beekeeper, Past-President of Missouri State Beekeeper's Association 

Grant F. C. Gillard began keeping bees on the family farm in Glenville, MN, after graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in Agriculture in 1981. Since 1993, he combines his passion for beekeeping with his pastoral duties at the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, MO. Grant currently operates around 200 hives and produces honey for local sales in southeast Missouri. He also produces nuts, loves to catch feral swarms and has published several books on the topics of beekeeping. He received the Missouri State Beekeeper of the Year Award in 2012. Grant is married with three grown children. His wife Nancy has taken an increasing role in selling honey at the farmer’s markets.

Patrice Gros
Foundation Farm

Patrice Gros runs Foundation Farm, a 5 acre USDA certified organic farm in the Arkansas Ozarks just north of Eureka Springs. Over the last 20 years, he has progressed towards a full no-till (machine-free) system which produces high yields and profits. On an half an acre of actual cultivated ground, his yearly production exceeds $70,000. Crops are grown continuously through the seasons outdoors and inside high tunnels. All of the farm’s 25,000 lbs of produce harvested yearly is sold within a 50 mile radius. Patrice also trains farmers and gardeners in the field and through workshops and lectures. Over 50 trainees have gone through the farming school program and several have started their own farm.

Mark L. Kennedy
Livestock Specialist, USDA

Mark was raised on a diversified family beef, dairy, and catfish farm in central Arkansas and received a BS degree in animal science and forages from Arkansas State University in 1977. He was employed by USDA – SCS/NRCS from September, 1978 until January 3, 2014 when he retired. He served at various locations in Arkansas and Missouri. From 1995 until he retired, he was the State Grazingland Specialist for USDA-NRCS in Missouri, headquartered in Houston, Missouri. He is a Certified Forage & Grassland Professional through the American Forage and Grassland Council. In 2004 he received the Missouri Forage and Grassland Council’s Grasslander of the year award. In 2006 he was awarded the NRCS National Pastureland Conservationist of the Year award. He received the Merit Award from AFGC in 2011. He is a past board member of the American Forage and Grassland Council and currently serves as its vice president and a past board member of the Society for Range Management Southern Section. He is currently on the steering committee of the National Grazing Lands Coalition. Mark currently owns Kennedy Grassland Services, LLC (a grassland consulting business) and has contracted with the MFGC/GLCI to teach at grazing schools, assist with forage conferences, field days, workshops, and provide training to NRCS and SWCD employees. Mark and his wife Anita live on a small farm near Houston where they raise beef cattle and meat goats.

Rusty Lee
Lee Farms, LLC

Rusty Lee has been owner/operator of Lee Farms, LLC in Truxton, Missouri since 1999. Rusty and his wife Teresa, along with their two children, William and Doralynn, represent the 3rd and 4th generations to cultivate crops and raise livestock on their Warren County farm. Lee Farms, LLC specializes in producing 20 acres of high-quality, locally-grown produce for the St. Louis region. Lee Farms, LLC markets their products through both wholesale (grocery stores and restaurants) and direct consumer channels including a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Rusty has Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Georgia in Agricultural Systems Management and Agricultural Engineering. He also holds a master’s degree in Agricultural Mechanization from the University of Missouri.

Scott McWilliams
Agritourism Farming

My wife and our family own and have operated McWilliams Pumpkin Patch for the last 18 years on our family farm. I have a colorful professional background: 40 year adjunct professor at MSU; retired Army Colonel, built fish hatcheries in Afghanistan; and presently a Wildlife Biologist with Missouri Department of Conservation. Our family operates a livestock (cattle, hogs, sheep, goats and fowl) and grain farm to include raising 25 acres of pumpkin, squash and gourds.

Marilyn Odneal, M.S.
Missouri State University at Mountain Grove

Marilyn Odneal is a Horticulture Educator and Vineyard Manager at the State Fruit Experiment Station and MSU Winery and Distillery, in the William H. Darr School of Agriculture, Missouri State University, Mountain Grove. Current research involves raspberries as a high tunnel crop and has worked on research projects involving berry crops. She teaches courses in horticulture and wine appreciation at Missouri State in Springfield. Marilyn received her M. S. in Plant Horticulture from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1981.

Jim Protiva
Peace Valley Poultry

Jim and Judy Jo Protiva moved from Livermore, CO, in 1987 to West Plains to pursue farming. In 1996 they finally got up the nerve to try pastured poultry and in 2000 bought the 117 acre farm they call home. This year they will process about 10,000 chickens and 450 turkeys that were moved every day on pasture. The grass is harvested with cattle and sold as grass finished. Jim worked construction part time until 2014 and used his skills to build a poultry processing plant on the farm.

Pete Hummert
Hummert International

Pete Hummert graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia, in the fall of ‘79 with a BS degree in Horticulture. He is V.P. of Finance at Hummert International located in Earth City, MO a suburb of St. Louis. Hummert International is a commercial distributor of horticultural supplies, equipment and greenhouses, serving the horticulture industry since 1934. Pete started working full time at Hummert International in December of ‘79. He currently focuses his efforts in greenhouse design and sales and is the Greenhouse Sales & Design Manager. He and his wife Fern have three children – 26, 24 and 19.

Wendy Lombardi
Missouri Ozark Veterans Agriculture

Wendy Lombardi is a disabled Veteran of the Desert Storm era. She works with other Veterans, many with disabilities, helping them to find purpose and fulfillment in Agriculture to provide safe food for their families and neighbors. With a Masters in Wellness, Wendy created the Army’s first Pregnant Soldier Wellness Program, and subsequent Wellness Manual to assist this high risk population in caring properly for themselves and their unborn children. Clean, safe food is the first building block to achieve maximum health for any/all. Then, after proper exercise, working in an emotionally satisfactory situation is paramount. Wendy assists Veterans in achieving these goals, and helps them form area cooperatives to meet the local food needs.

Caleb Arthur
Missouri Sun Solar

Caleb Arthur, a 29 year-old Houston, MO native, founded Missouri Sun Solar in 2012 with an idea that solar power should be available to everyone. From its humble beginnings, Arthur’s company has expanded to be the number rated residential solar company in Missouri by Solar Power World. With a passion for the solar industry far beyond a business model, Arthur was also elected President of Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association (MOSEIA), a nonprofit organization which works for and with solar companies to advocate for pro solar energy legislation for our state. Arthur also works closely with RenewMO, a grassroots nonprofit organization that advocates for renewable energy in Jefferson City. Arthur began Missouri Sun Solar in Houston, MO with help from his brother, Luke Arthur. In just four years, the then two employee company now employs nearly one hundred Missourians and five offices across the state; Houston, Springfield, Columbia, Lee’s Summit, and Ellisville, MO. Solar energy technology, affordability and support allow Caleb to help Missourian’s harness the power of the sun. ​

Ted Keller 
Missouri Sun Solar

Ted Keller, also known throughout the Ozarks as Tornado Ted, has been a weather personality in Missouri for years. Ted has been blessed to have spent nearly all of his adult life in the Ozarks forecasting weather of every possible type! He has 27 years of television experience that ranged from live tornado coverage to blizzards and flooding. He also spent time teaching classes in weather and also severe storms at Missouri State University. Ted most recent experienced radio work forecasting weather and covering severe storms for KTTS in Springfield. He comes to Missouri Sun Solar with an extensive knowledge of Missouri weather, meteorology and solar energy in general. As a Missouri Sun Solar energy consultant and ambassador, Ted educates Missourians on solar savings and benefits. “Solar panel have decreased in price tremendously over the years. Folks are quickly coming to realize that solar is the renewable energy source of the future. I think we’ve reached a “critical mass” where now so many people are beginning to talk about solar power and are having systems installed that rapid growth seems likely,” said Ted in a recent interview. “Solar power is clean and efficient. There are no moving parts. It is a way of reducing reliance on the grid and that means less burning of fossil fuels. In a coal burning state like Missouri, that is a big deal! Knowing that I will play a role in spreading solar power into the Ozarks gives me a good feeling. It’s a different kind of satisfaction compared to warning people about severe weather. It’s sort of a legacy so that decades down the road I can say, ‘Hey, see those solar panels still pumping out electricity? My company helped make that happen!’

Clyde Fenton
Fenton's Berry Farm

Clyde Fenton began picking strawberries on his uncle’s farm in upstate New York as a teenager in the 1970’s, segued into managing that small fruits farm, and has been involved in berry-growing ever since. Clyde considers himself a small diverse farmer, and along with his wife Veronica, has owned and operated Fenton’s Berry Farm near Harrison, Arkansas, since 2002. Fenton’s Berry Farm produces strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, along with a variety of vegetables. The Fentons market their products through you-pick (blueberries and blackberries), the local farmers’ market, some wholesale, and in 2015 opened their own produce market south of Harrison. Clyde’s 25 years of experience growing strawberries gave him the opportunity to partner in working with the Wal-Mart Foundation’s National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative, in cooperation with the University of Arkansas, growing hydroponic strawberries at a local community college. He has also grown a wide variety of lettuces hydroponically in a greenhouse nutrient film system. Clyde has recently completed the academic requirements for a Master’s degree in Agricultural Education and Extension through the University of Arkansas.

Patrice Jennings
Ozark Farmers Agriculture Cooperative

Patrice Jennings is the manager of the Ozark Farmers Agriculture Cooperative. With her husband, Craig, they own and operate Three Oaks Farm, a blackberry u-pick and vegetable farm in West Plains. She is a co-founder of Ozark Farmers Co-op and has been actively coordinating farmers in the Ozark area to provide local produce for our area and is currently working on bringing a food hub to West Plains.