In the Middle of Something Great
April 24, 2016
Written By Adam Buckallew
When Aaron Collett talks about the plot of land he farms outside Warrensburg, Mo., he does not talk about simply an operation of row crops and cattle. Nor does he talk about simply a means of living. He talks about his family.
The land and his family are as intertwined in the past as they are into the foreseeable future.
For Aaron, this farm is his family.
At 61 years old, he is the second of three generations currently contributing to the success of the Collett family farming operation.
His father, Wallace Collett, started the operation as a young man.
Wallace, now 85, was freshly arrived home from two years of service in the U.S. Army when he settled on 240 acres near Warrensburg in spring 1954. Though he rented the land, he owned the six head of cattle he kept on it.
Between his small herd and the variety of crops he raised, Wallace’s success in farming began to bloom.
Over the years, Wallace and his wife, Sallie, cobbled together a growing operation. They purchased nearby properties and inherited land from Sallie’s family. Together, this formed the core of the family’s current acreage.
Aaron is the oldest of Wallace and Sallie’s three children. Much like his father, Aaron cut his agricultural career teeth on rented land. After spending his formative years learning from his dad, Aaron rented land his freshman year of high school and began growing his own row crops.
“The next year, my dad and I went in 50-50 on 40 head of cattle,” Aaron says. “I ended up renting more ground, buying a tractor and farming full-time after I graduated from high school in 1973.”
Throughout it all, MFA Oil was a key partner in the Collett farming operation.
When Aaron was still a boy, his dad became a member of the MFA Oil Cooperative. In a pinch, Wallace was even known to fill in as a tank wagon driver and help during the winter at the MFA Oil filling station once located on Business 50 in Warrensburg.
Aaron joined the cooperative in 1973, the same year he graduated.
Both Aaron and his dad have served as delegates or delegate-alternates for the past 40 years.
“MFA Oil is all I’ve ever used on our farm,” Aaron says. “We’re proud to be MFA Oil members.”
Enduring family farms are becoming rarer these days, but the Colletts seem to have something special going.
Aaron and his wife, Colette, have two grown children, both of whom stayed close to home.
Their son, Curtis, now 24, is eager to work alongside Aaron as much as possible.
“I’d like to keep the family tradition of farming going,” Curtis says.
Along with his wife, Tabbatha, Curtis contributes to the farm on a part-time basis. He works as a mechanic at a local Chrysler dealership, but wants to join Aaron full-time on the farm when enough work exists to justify him leaving his mechanic job.
The time may be soon.
Aaron plans to build three broiler chicken barns this spring. They will house 132,000 chickens, which will provide not only additional revenue but also fertilizer for crops. He also hopes the addition will create new jobs for his son and daughter-in-law.
“It’s taken nearly a year to get through all the paperwork and approvals, but we’re looking forward to adding the broiler operation to our farm,” Aaron says.
As part of the preparations, Aaron has worked closely with his local MFA Oil plant manager, Larry Eggen, on propane needs of the new barns. Each one will be equipped with three, 1,000-gallon propane tanks to provide heat for the chickens.
“It’s really going to be quite the operation once we get everything going,” Aaron says.
If all goes well, he may add more barns in the coming years.
Reason to hope
Aaron is a new grandfather, with a second grandchild due soon.
If the farming gene is as strong in the fourth generation as it was in the first three, the Collett farm and their MFA Oil membership could be around for a while yet—something Aaron is all too pleased to think about.
“It would mean a lot to us if we could keep the farm in the family for generations to come.”