Vision and Commitment
By Brandelyn Twellman
Farming is a family affair on the Rone’s farm, Rone Farm Partnership. Lewis and his son, Justin, work side by side, full time on the farm. Coming from a long line offarmers, their appreciation for the agricultural industry runs deep.
“I come from farm families on both sides,” Justin said. “It’s not just growing up on a family farm that sparked my interest in agriculture. It’s growing up in the Bootheel. It’s a very ag-centric economy down here. I don’t even consider the farm my first job – it was just part of growing up. When I did get my first jobs off the farm, they were at the Delta Center and Bunge. So, even if I wasn’t on the farm, I was doing something else in agriculture.”
In addition to growing soybeans, corn, cotton, rice and wheat in New Madrid and Pemiscot counties, the pair is heavily involved in volunteer and leadership roles throughout agriculture. Justin said while they farm other commodities, he and his dad are primarily soybean farmers. Their passion for the crop is made evident through their dedication to the soybean industry and its organizations.
Lewis began serving on the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council (MSMC) Board of Directors in 2008, representing growers in District 7. He retired from the board this summer after serving the maximum 12-year term.
Coming back to the farm in the late ‘70s after obtaining a master’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri (MU), Lewis has been farming in the Bootheel ever since. His roots in production agriculture have helped shape his involvement in MSMC.
“The highlights of my time on the board include supporting a robust public variety breeding program with the hiring of Dr. Chen and Dr. Scaboo, and the roll out of the high oleic program,” Lewis said. “Soybean-based biodiesel also has its roots in MSMC checkoff dollars. And, high oleic soybean oil, with its roots in MSMC, has the potential to grow into a significant demand opportunity.”
This progress made throughout his 12 years of service were his motivation to continue.
“I stayed on the board the full four terms because I felt that every year the board was improving upon itself in terms of accomplishing the goals they set to benefit the Missouri farmer,” he said. “With MSMC, our checkoff dollars are being invested to both grow demand and provide opportunities to keep costs down. We are truly working to grow our farmers’ bottom line.”
Lewis believes this growth will continue, benefitting Missouri soybean farmers.
“I only see positives for the future of MSMC,” he said, “especially with the new building built to help educate the public about the soybean.”
He said getting involved in the work of the Merchandising Council and speaking up are important aspects of its continuous growth.
Big Shoes to Fill
Growing up on the family farm in Portageville, Mo, Justin continuously found himself following in his father’s footsteps.
Whether it was a passion for farming or a heart for volunteerism throughout the industry, Justin saw the example his father set and was inspired to pursue a similar lifestyle. This is shown in the way Justin gets involved the agricultural industry today, including replacing his father on the MSMC board to oversee soybean checkoff investments.
Justin made his way back to the farm in 2012. He and his wife, Lesley, are now raising their two young children on the farm.
Before returning home, Justin had been working as the legislative director and counsel for Jo Ann Emerson, a former member of Congress for eastern Missouri, after graduating from MU with a degree in agricultural economics and from the Washington and Lee School of Law. His involvement in both the agricultural industry and his community took off upon his return to the Bootheel and farming full-time.
“I’m involved in Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri, the Pemiscot Port Authority, my county Farm Bureau board and the local Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative,” Justin said.
He was also a member of Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow Class XV and
is currently a member of the Bar in Missouri and Virginia. He’s excited to add the MSMC board of directors to that list.
“I see a lot of value in the Merchandising Council and the MSMC board,” he
said. “I see a lot of value in the work they’re doing to help farmers grow their bottom line. But, it wasn’t until I saw my dad serving on the board that I had a real knowledge of the things the Merchandising Council does, and how it contributes to the economy and supports Missouri soybean farmers.”
The value Justin sees in the work of MSMC, combined with the opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps, made stepping into Lewis’ spot on the Board an easy “yes.” He believes the other individuals involved will help shape his experience.
“I am most looking forward to learning from the other board members,” Justin said. “Learning from how they see the soybean industry progressing in the future, and how we can work together to bring about great things for soybean growers. It’s the people on the board and the staff on the Missouri Soybean team that will be one of the most exciting parts about this experience.”
He is looking forward to learning more about all aspects of MSMC and its work, including education, research, new uses, market development and more.
Justin added that he believes getting involved in roles like serving on the MSMC board is important to move the agricultural industry forward as a whole.
“When we organize, we have the opportunity to talk through issues amongst ourselves and, in turn, advocate for the agricultural industry with a more united voice.”
He looks forward to doing just that on the MSMC board.
Photos courtesy of the Rone family and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. Find the entire August issue here.