The 13th annual Southwest Missouri Agriculture Tour, hosted by Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, will have an emphasis on urban agriculture, gardening and agri-businesses when it rolls out on Aug. 10 and 11. Stops also include two of Monett's major food producing factories, beef herds, miniature horses and a local vineyard and winery.
"The 2009 agriculture tour will take a new look at an old practice that is making a popular comeback - gardening," Blunt said. "As with past tours, the southwest Missouri agriculture tour will be as diverse as the region's rural economy. The 60 participants will get a firsthand look at the practices and the technologies that make southwest Missouri's billion-dollar agriculture economy vital to the region's overall economic health."
The tour will begin at Springfield's Nathanael Greene Park to see the vegetable bed that produces hundreds of pounds of produce each year for charity. The tour will also observe Joplin's Franklin Technology Center's FFA urban agri-science program which includes gardening, aquaculture and landscaping.
In Monett, officials from the Tyson poultry plant will explain its state-of-the-art, award-winning wastewater program. The tour will also visit the Dairy Farmers of America cheese plant in Monett to see curds and whey being made.
The ag tour will also inspect Mike Meier's rotational grazing dairy farm south of Monett, Rod and Christine Lewis's beef farm located in western Lawrence County, Jim and Sharon Shepherd's poultry farm west of Marionville, and the new veterinarian technology program at Crowder College in Neosho.
The second day of the 2009 Agriculture Tour begins with a visit to a ranch that breeds, raises and trains national grand champion miniature horses east of Springfield. The tour travels just north of Springfield to a winery, a 15-acre vineyard and an urban farm that produces organic vegetables, chickens, and pork.
Visits will also be made to a dairy and a beef farm north of Morrisville. The beef farm is using switch grass for forage. Switch grass, a native grass normally used in conservation programs, is also being considered as a source for alternative fuels.
Buses secured for the tour are booked with business, industrial leaders and educators that Blunt has invited for the trip so that they can learn from the various stops. Others are welcome to accompany the tour by providing their own transportation.