Diversification Drives Success of Feemster Farms
October 6, 2023
Written By Adam Buckallew
Under the sweltering heat of a late-August morning, Jordan Feemster and his wife, Courtney, are preparing the newest addition to their farming operation. Feemster’s Twisted Corn Maze, located on the northern outskirts of Springfield, Mo., is set to provide family fun and a new source of revenue for the Feemsters.
The opening of the agritourism attraction has been a learning experience for the family.
“We thought it would be easy, but it’s not,” Jordan said. “The hot weather certainly has not helped. We’ve already discovered several things we will do differently next year.”
Finding ways to boost income has been critical to supporting the family’s dairy farm, which has operated for at least 100 years and includes Greene County’s oldest milking parlor.
“Dairying is a lot of work without much money,” Jordan said.
As profit margins in the dairy industry have crumbled over the last 20 years, many small dairies throughout the United States have closed. In 2000, there were 83,000 licensed dairy farms in the country. Today, there are fewer than 30,000.
To minimize their costs, the Feemsters grow as much of the feed for their cows on the farm as possible. The family uses pasture-based rotational grazing for seven months and raises corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa, which they grind and mix to cover the rest of the herd’s feed needs.
Jordan manages the dairy with the help of his sons, Dalis and Colten. They move their Holsteins to fresh grazing paddocks every 24 to 48 hours. With their distinctive black and white marking patterns, the cows happily graze on fields mixed with pearl millet and Sudan grass that border the corn maze.
Hay and Sweet Corn
Large round hay bales have been cut to sell to beef cattle producers in an adjacent field. The Feemsters cut up to 3,000 bales of hay per year. The hay bales are a mix of fescue, orchardgrass and clover.
“We ship a lot of round bales, which is a large source of our income,” Jordan said.
An annual crop of sweet corn is yet another supplemental revenue stream for the farm. The Feemsters started growing a half-acre of peaches and cream corn nine years ago and have steadily increased their planting to 6 acres in 2023. Jordan says the six days of sweet corn picking are brief but intense.
“We handpick our entire crop in less than a week,” Jordan said. “It’s total chaos for six days but worthwhile.”
The Feemsters have built up a loyal following of more than 2,000 sweet corn customers who eagerly await harvest each summer. When the family pulled up with a 24-foot trailer full of sweet corn to sell in mid-July, they were greeted by a throng of enthusiastic buyers.
“We sell our corn in a large church parking lot, and every space was full,” Jordan said. “The corn sold quickly, and the trailer was empty in under an hour.”
Running the Farm
For the last two years, Jordan has been gradually giving more responsibility to his sons and letting his oldest, Dalis, make more decisions. Colten, who is studying at Ozark Technical Community College, pitches in roughly 20 hours a week between his classes.
The local MFA Oil bulk plant in Rogersville, Mo., ensures the Feemsters are well-supplied with fuel, propane and lubricants to keep their various farming operations going.
“Any time we need fuel, they get it to us quickly,” said Jordan, who has served as a delegate for the company for more than 10 years. “I enjoy buying from cooperatives like MFA Oil and keeping as much of our business local as possible. We use MFA Oil lubricants in all our equipment.”
With so many varied agricultural pursuits, there’s never a shortage of things that need to be done on the Feemsters’ farm.
“Luckily, my wife and I are both workaholics, so it works out well,” Jordan said with a chuckle. “Everyone has their role to play.”