A Helping Hand on Public Land
Dick Snyder pulls into a parking lot at the Poosey Conservation Area in Livingston County. Although it is a beautiful spring morning, he’s not here to hunt or fish. He’s here to work. Dick opens the gate and quickly jumps into the cab of his tractor. Rain is in the forecast, and he still has 150 acres of soybeans to plant and even more to plant back home.
Dick Snyder is just one of more than 360 Missouri farmers who contract to farm approximately 68,000 acres of land from the Department of Conservation for raising crops, grazing, and hay and seed collection. As they work the land, these farmers also help the Department improve wildlife habitat and maintain areas for the benefit of the public.
A full-time farmer who currently raises corn, soybeans and wheat on more than 3,000 acres in Livingston County, Dick has been permittee farmer at the Poosey Conservation Area since the early 1980s. That’s when he saw an advertisement in the local newspaper and successfully bid to farm cropland at the area.
One of three permittee farmers at Poosey, Dick farms 535 acres of cropland on the area. As part of his contract, he also plants sunflower and grain plots and leaves a percentage of the crop unharvested.
Farming and Wildlife
Dick said one of the biggest challenges about farming on a conservation area has been working with small fields. The Department maintains small crop fields because they provide better habitat for wildlife like quail and rabbits than large, expansive fields.
“It was hard to get equipment into some fields,” Dick said, “but the Department has helped out by constructing larger field crossings and openings on the area.”
A combination of row crops, field borders, fallow fields and shrub thickets provide excellent habitat for quail, rabbits and songbirds. The area manager at Poosey depends on permittees to keep farmable land in production.
“We couldn’t plant all the crop fields and food plots and maintain the area without their help,” said Phil Sneed, a Department resource forester who, along with three other Department staff, work with permittee farmers on the area.
The team also manages several other conservation areas and works with private landowners in 10 counties.
At the Whetstone and Reform conservation areas in Callaway County, Eugene “Butch” Richards has been contract farming 1,300 acres of cropland for three years. He also farms an additional 600 acres of private cropland.
Butch, who has been farming near Tebbetts since