Small farmers in the Ozarks are having to make tough decisions

Published: Aug. 27, 2022 at 9:40 PM CDT
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MILLER, Mo. (KY3) - Farmers across the Ozarks have been struggling with drought and high costs, causing some farmers to leave the business.

Joseph McLaughlin is a small hobby farmer in Miller, and high prices have all but stopped his operation.

“All the prices are so high,” said McLaughlin. “I’m thinking the next two, three years, all we’re gonna do is move the field down to kind of control the weeds.”

Joseph McLaughlin came to Miller from California with dreams of being a farmer. But weeds have been taking over with high prices on fertilizer and herbicides. McLaughlin said the drought made his soil the worst he has ever seen, adding to the weeds issue.

“The costs of it took everything away,” said McLaughlin.

It will cost him tens of thousands of dollars to get rid of the weeds. McLaughlin said he now wants to use his land for good.

“Sharing your abundances, share what we have, and kind of make it so that it’s a place that people with special needs kids can come here, sit, relax, and know that it’s safe,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin said he plans to turn his pastures into a special needs haven, with a petting zoo and conservation area, an idea he got from his granddaughter with autism.

“They can pet cows and goats and chickens and lambs and whatnot,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin said he has a message for other struggling farmers, who only see gloom and doom.

“Keep your foundation, keep your focus but if you have to change just a little bit to go from being a cattle farmer to a hobby farmer to a special needs refuge, just keep going with it,” said McLaughlin. “Don’t give up. You only fail the last time you try.”

The farmer said he has contacted special needs organizations and local schools across southwest Missouri to make this new dream a reality.

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