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Agri-Ready profile: Shelby Lager

A young farmer brings the power of beef to northwest Missouri.

December 19, 2023

5 Min Read
Shelby Lager pouring a bucket of feed in a pasture surrounded by Hereford cattle
YOUNG FARMER: Shelby Lager has farmed all his life in newly designated Agri-Ready Nodaway County near Maryville, Mo. Today, he focuses efforts on growing his registered Hereford cattle and row crop operation. Photos by Tannah Terry Photography

by Emma Alexander

Shelby Lager’s perspective and values about agriculture came from years of advice growing up on the farm.

“One thing Dad has taught me since I was old enough to remember is the importance of conserving our soil,” the young Nodaway County farmer says. “We can farm whatever we want out of our ground for this year and maybe the next. But if we don’t conserve our soil, it won’t be there to support the next generation.”

That guidance is even more poignant since his son, Hesston, was born. “We are utilizing no-till practices, cover crops and terraces to conserve the ground for my son’s generation and generations to come after him,” Lager adds. “We have already seen positive results using these conservation methods.”

His grandfather purchased the family farm in northwest Missouri in 1957. Lager grew up farming that same land with his dad, Robert. And today, while their farming operations are separate, they support each other to get the work done.

Shelby Lager, his son Hesston and his wife Tannah pose in a field with combine harvester in the background

The Lager family farms in newly designated Agri-Ready Nodaway County. Missouri Farmers Care, a joint effort by Missouri’s farming and agriculture community, launched the Agri-Ready County program in 2015.

An Agri-Ready County designation allows young farmers, such as the Lagers, to invest in the future of the farm knowing their efforts are supported by the community and county government.

Lager is developing a registered Hereford beef herd, while his dad focuses on the commercial side of the business. Both men raise corn and soybeans. Still, farming is a family affair for the Lagers, as Shelby’s mom, brother, sister and uncle also help with the operations regularly.

Early access to ag

Lager’s interest in raising cattle started at a young age when he and his siblings started showing livestock in 4-H and FFA. For him, caring for his cattle and watching them grow fits perfectly into the row crop enterprise as something he looks forward to between planting and harvest seasons.

He shares his love of agriculture with his wife, Tannah. The couple hope raising registered Herefords will provide an opportunity for Hesston to experience showing cattle when he gets older.

Hereford cattle grazing a pasture

To lay a foundation for that goal, Lager is putting into practice more of that family-farm guidance. “Mom and Dad have always shown an example of being heavily involved in our community,” he says, “so I am glad to serve on the board of our Nodaway County Cattlemen’s Association.”

Making their mark

Lager plays an integral role in the planning and execution of the annual banquet hosted by the Nodaway County Cattlemen’s Association.

Each February, the association raises thousands of dollars in a single night to help support its local communities. Donations are given back in a variety of ways, including scholarships for college-bound youth. Funds are also used to promote beef.

The Nodaway County Cattlemen’s Association is a leading partner with the Mo Beef Kids program and uses funds raised to purchase and donate ground beef and all beef hot dogs to school concession stands across the county. The goal of both organizations is to place more beef into school lunches in Nodaway County.

A package of beef hotdogs and a baseball cap with the Nodaway County Cattleman's Association logo

Lager says the group also donates beef to serve at civic, youth and philanthropic events throughout the year. For these programs, the association purchases beef from local suppliers to further support the local economy.

“Our goal is to help beef be on the menu for as many local events as possible, and that it is served in our schools as often as possible,” Lager says. “We believe that we should give back with beef visibly in our community to honor the support that the community provides to our group at the annual banquet.”

For more details about other unique outreach projects from the Nodaway County Cattlemen’s Association, click here.

Shelby and Tannah are also members of the Missouri Corn Growers Association and the American Hereford Association.

The couple hopes to set an example in agriculture life and community service that will sustain the family farm for the fourth generation.

Alexander writes from Olga, Mo.

Farming in an Agri-Ready County

In 2024, Missouri Ruralist will profile farmers enhancing agriculture in Agri-Ready-designated counties across the state. This is the first in that series.

The Agri-Ready County designation is a voluntary program and recognizes counties that actively support Missouri agriculture through establishing an environment and county policies conducive to agricultural business success. A county commission must apply to be designated as an Agri-Ready County. There is no cost to counties to become an Agri-Ready-designated county.

To receive the Agri-Ready designation, a county must meet the following requirements:

  • county commission attests to willingness to promote agricultural stewardship, growth and opportunity

  • not have any health or zoning ordinances that discourage, limit or restrict agricultural operations

  • defer to the Missouri Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources for all environmental permitting of agricultural operations

  • not impose additional agricultural bonding, permit fees or insurance requirements

  • not apply definitions to agricultural operation more stringent than state laws or regulations

  • allow land application of nutrients at agronomic rates based on data from the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

  • allow the use of biotechnology crops and crop protection products in accordance with their federally labeled use

  • not have any regulations or ordinances that discourage, limit or restrict agricultural processing facilities

Agri-Ready counties will renew their status annually.

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