Annual "Salute to Agriculture" Breakfast
The Chillicothe FFA Chapter, along with the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce, welcomed community members in a Salute to Agriculture breakfast Friday morning at the Mervyn Jenkins Expo Center. FFA members served the guests a breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage and fruit. The program opened with remarks by Claire Shipp, Chillicothe FFA president, and comments by Mitchell Cooper, representing Woody's Automotive Group, the event's sponsor.
Marshall Stewart, vice chancellor of Extension and Engagement at the University of Missouri, was the keynote speaker. He has served in this position since August 2016. Throughout his 30-year career, he has been recognized for his expertise in leadership development, strategic planning, legislative affairs, educational, youth and agricultural education and advocacy. In his address, Stewart noted the goal of making University Extension programs accessible to all Missourians, punctuated the need for broadband internet service in rural areas, and emphasized the importance of education, health care and a good economy in Missouri. The goal of Extension, he said, is to provide all the pieces of the comprehensive land grant university as a robust opportunity of research and innovation for all Missourians. He cited the findings of a recent study on the economic impact that University Extension programs provide.
"My job is to serve all Missourians and figure out how to take this institution, make a platform so that everybody has access to this institution," Stewart said. This includes areas such as research, innovation, and technology, to ensure that businesses grow, education is what it should be, and health services are provided across the state. He said the three basic areas of concern for Missourians are the economy, education system, and health care. Missourians, he said, agree that they want the economy to be stronger so that the next generation will have a better quality of life than the generation before them. He said Missourians want the education system to be strong. "They want to make sure young people and adults are prepared with workforce development skills that will allow them to get jobs not only for today, but for the future," he said. Finally, Missourians want quality health care across Missouri. "There are health care deserts across the state," he said, adding that many areas in the state do not have what Chillicothe has in its access to health care. "We can do better," he said. These three things are tied together and when one areas is thriving, the other two areas are thriving. "You show me a great health system, I'll show you a good economy and a good education system," he said. "You show me a good education, I'll show you a good economy and good health care. You show me a good economy, I'll show you good health care and good education."
These three things are also somewhat reliant on broadband internet services, he said, noting that approximately 70 percent of rural Missourians do not have access to broadband internet service. "If we donít figure that out as a state, we are going to lack," he said. "Broadband is the modern day rural electrification."
Stewart also talked about the importance of agriculture and reflected upon the individuals who were influential to him as he studied agriculture. He urged the young people in the room to acknowledge the people who have been influential in their lives. "There are people who put you where you are and they take you places," he said. "I encourage you not to forget that." He also talked about the places agriculture can take a person and how agriculture can help develop one's purpose. "There is no more noble profession than you can be in than serving people through agriculture," he said. "I know what it means to be learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve because those are things imbedded in me by people who took me places and gave me purpose," he said. "We can talk about technology and expansion, but it's really about the people of agriculture doing the right things in the right places for the right purposes to feed the world."
Stewart, originally from North Carolina, told those gathered Friday morning about the first time he heard of Chillicothe, Mo. It was during a leadership conference he attended in Washington, D.C., as an FFA member when he learned about citizenship and Congressman Jerry Litton, who was from Chillicothe. Stewart reflected that many years later, he met Ed Turner, of Chillicothe, who had served as Litton's chief of staff. In closing, Stewart challenged the young people to be purposeful in their lives, enjoy the places they go, and to not forget about the people in their lives.