Lincoln University’s College of Agriculture, Environmental and Human Sciences helps push Missouri agriculture forward.

It is no secret that agriculture is an integral part of life. For years, Lincoln University’s College of Agriculture, Environmental, and Human Sciences has fostered the growth of passionate students who are dedicated to agriculture. At Lincoln, educators recognize the importance of the role of farming and equipping students for success. 

As a land-grant institution, Lincoln University stands distinct, benefiting from both state and federal funding, which are pivotal in fulfilling its three-pronged mission.

“The three-part mission includes agriculture research, agriculture extension, and agriculture education,” says Lincoln University Farm Superintendent Chris Boeckmann, who oversees Lincoln’s three farms. 

Alan T. Busby Farm, George Washington Carver Farm, and Freeman Farm cover roughly 800 acres of land, and all three are used for research, extension, and education. The Alan T. Busby Farm is unique in that it is entirely organic.

“Being certified organic with 280 acres makes Busby Farm the largest certified organic research farm in the lower Midwest,” Chris says.

Certifying a farm to be organic is no small task. Lincoln went through a complex three-year process to transition the farm. While having been certified organic for 10 years, there are still numerous yearly tasks that must be completed to remain certified.

“Farming organically is a whole different mindset,” Chris adds. “You have to be more in tune with what is going on with animals and work with nature. We have to take more of an ecological approach and think about why this is happening and what can be done about it.”

Beyond being utilized as research hubs, the farms also provide jobs and hands-on experience for students by having them help take care of the livestock, greenhouses, and aquaculture. 

“We try to hire as many students as we can,” Chris says. 

Haley Borgmeyer, a junior at Lincoln’s agriculture college, has been working on the farms since she was a freshman. One day, she plans on taking over her family farm. 

“The college of agriculture has definitely given me a lot of opportunities to gain more information through other farmers,“ Haley says. “I even go out and see other things that I don’t see on my farm. It has given me something to take back and help our farm grow.” 

Haley is passionate about all aspects of the agriculture industry as a whole — including the parts of farming that aren’t as hands-on. 

“My degree will be in ag business,” Haley says. “I am learning different things and seeing how other ag business companies run. I think business will be a big part of what I do after college.” 

“Farming organically is a whole different mindset. You have to be more
in tune with what is going on with animals and work with nature.”

Chris Boeckmann, Lincoln University Farm Superintendent

Students also get the opportunity to help with ongoing research projects and work with principal investigators and researchers to get necessary data out to producers. 

“Research is conducted and then extension services take the results to determine how that can be presented to the average producer in the state of Missouri; then, they can apply that to their operation,” Chris says.  

Lincoln’s diverse research portfolio encompasses a variety of agricultural subjects.

“We will work with cattle, but our expertise is more in small ruminants such as sheep, goats, and aquaculture,” Chris says. “We are even doing a lot of research and demonstration with industrial hemp and quinoa to determine which varieties grow best in different parts of the state.” 

And whenever certain projects produce a surplus of crops, a large portion is donated to the community. 

“We’ve had research plots with quinoa, tomatoes, zucchini, and all different crops,” Chris says. “Whenever the researchers harvest those crops and collect the data, then typically those crops are made available to food pantries.” 

Some of their harvested crops can also be found at Lincoln University’s Farmers market, providing an opportunity for visitors to shop in support of Lincoln students and other local vendors. Other community opportunities include Lincoln’s field days, demonstrations, and workshops throughout the year. 

Field days are topic-driven to discuss research activities and findings. Lincoln’s annual, and biggest, field day occurs at the beginning of June, drawing in producers from around the state and those interested in learning more about the farms with a tour of research plots, research facilities, and research equipment. Field day events also include pasture walks to observe livestock grazing and a tour of the aquaculture facility. Following the morning tour, attendees can engage with researchers by attending research presentations. Producers and attendees can take this opportunity to learn about practices that can be implemented on their farms. In 2023, Lincoln hosted a small ruminant field day, an industrial hemp field day, and a quinoa field day.

Lincoln also hosts activities to engage elementary and high school students. They offer a sheep shearing workshop and a chance for National FFA Organization students to compete against one another during the Future Farmers of America (FFA) Career Development Experience. The event offers about 15 different contests, which bring in anywhere from 800-1000 FFA students for the day. In addition, leaders of Lincoln’s agriculture college step out into the community to be involved with the Jefferson City Jaycee Cole County Fair. 

“Being certified organic with 280 acres makes Busby Farm the largest
certified organic research farm in the lower Midwest.”

Chris Boeckmann, Lincoln University Farm Superintendent

“Last year, I went out to the fair and mingled amongst the 4H and FFA members, talked to them about their plans, and made them aware of what Lincoln has to offer,” Chris says. “We also bought some animals from them to make sure they got some reward for their hard work.” 

While they are proud of what they are currently offering to their students and the community, Lincoln’s agriculture college is continually looking for ways to grow and improve. This year that will include the addition of a small ruminant meat processing plant. 

“We plan to break ground on this facility soon at the Freeman Farm,” Chris says. “It will be a state-inspected meat processing facility that will have the capability to slaughter, process, and package meat from small ruminants, beef, and pork — including organic meats. We will use the facility to meet the needs of our research and extension programs as well as offer meat science courses for our students and certificate courses to train individuals interested in learning more.” 

While there are still many issues facing farms today, Lincoln remains dedicated to providing a promising future through continual research, education, and community enrichment. Lincoln’s agriculture college is not only preparing students for their essential roles, they’re making a significant and lasting contribution to society as a whole.