It was not all sitting around the beach enjoying the sun and sand for Tony Morgan during his winter break trip to Hawaii. The agriculture travel seminar, his second through Crowder College, opened his eyes to the impact regulations and tourism can have on the agriculture industry. His first ag travel seminar was to Peru.
The 2017 Missouri Farm Bureau ambassador says that trips to other food-producing areas of the world shed a light on what can happen to American agriculture if farmers and the next generation of farmers are not vigilant in advocating for their livelihood.
"These trips are a great way to see agriculture from a different perspective," Morgan says. And the Hawaii getaway was eye-opening.
New ag experience
He visited the fourth-largest of the island chain, Kauai. Dubbed the "Garden Island" because of its climate, waterfalls and vegetation, Kauai is just 526 square miles and a favorite of tourists.
During the days spent on the island, Morgan learned that the average size of a farm there was 5 acres. If an individual is farming 10 acres, he says, that is considered "huge" by other farmers on the island.
"They import close to 90% of the food they consume," he says. Tour guides shared that food production on the island is just enough to sustain the local population for six days in the event of a catastrophe.
"Because of the tourism industry raising the price of land for locals, many farmers are being squeezed out, because everyone wanted to buy a piece of paradise," he says. "There are now limitations of what they can and cannot grow, and what they can and cannot use to grow crops."
EXPERIENCING AG: Tony Morgan spent part of his winter break from Crowder College traveling to Hawaii to learn more about agriculture production. He found that away from the sandy beaches, farmers struggle to produce food for the state's residents. He says that experiences like this one teach him the value of Missouri's agriculture production system, and ignite a spark in him to advocate for agriculture.
He pointed out that regulations have made the island a GMO-free and all-natural growing atmosphere. "These regulations have really limited production for the people and farmers," he says. "It really hits you that agriculture, how we know it, can be taken away." He added that his trip last year to Peru solidifies his point of view that technology and advances made in the U.S. feed people around the world. "We don't have to use an ox and plow," he says. "We can farm more than 5 acres; we are doing our jobs of being productive and efficient."
Morgan, a young farmer from Lamar, hopes to share those messages and experiences with individuals he meets as the new Missouri Farm Bureau ambassador.
Morgan is from a diversified farm in Barton County, where the family raises corn, soybeans, wheat and a little barley. The family also operates a commercial cow-calf herd and finishes its own calves. In addition, the Morgans have a small farrow-to-finish hog operation with 45 sows. The Morgan brothers also ventured out to own a small registered Angus cattle herd of 30 head.
A sophomore at Crowder College, Morgan wants to return to the family farm and be involved in production agriculture. "My goal is to go back to the family farm and expand the family farm with my brothers," he says. "We want to be the less than 2% involved in food production."
Along the way, he says, opportunities like being the Missouri Farm Bureau ambassador give him the chance to advocate for agriculture.
"We need to be involved in agriculture organizations, because they are fighting for our future," he says. "Agriculture organizations are fighting people who are against agriculture, those who want more regulations, and those who want to limit agriculture's possibilities. We are fighting for a livelihood, the ability to make profit and live a lifestyle we want. And when we as young people become involved, we begin to fight for ourselves, our friends and neighbors down the road and the next generation of farmers."