Brent Hoerr: Corn Grower, Land Steward and Leader

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“I have farmed all my life. This is what I always wanted to do. It has been my life’s dream,” said Brent Hoerr, a row crop farmer from #Agri-Ready Designated Marion County near Palmyra. He is the current president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association. Brent doesn’t just grow corn and soybeans, care for his land, conserve his soil, or responsibly facilitate wildlife management. He has been building relationships and sharing his knowledge as an advocate for agriculture for fifty years.

Brent has spent many seasons growing the seeds for next year’s planting. Seed growers like Brent earn a premium for their harvest since extra standards apply to keep the seeds clean for winter storage. As a seed grower, Brent has gotten a first-hand look at new plant genetics that seed companies are developing. “Our crops have changed over the years. Plant technology is why we had better than expected yields for our crops despite the drought in 2023,” Brent shared. 

Brent’s farm is in the bottomland along the Mississippi River. Flooding is a frequent concern because only a levy separates his farm from the powerful waters. “The most productive thing we can do with river bottom land is to farm it. The way we farm along the river is different than other places in the state due to the additional threat from Mother Nature,” Brent said. 

“During the flood in 2019, we had a 4,000-acre lake in front of our house. Water came within 200 feet of my front door,” Brent remembered. Floods in 1973 and 1993 also affected his farm and emboldened him to become an advocate for river issues. Brent noted most of the protections for farms along the river are rooted in river management policies developed through relationships. “It is important that we build relationships and share our knowledge base with legislators and other policymakers so that an understanding of our farms can be applied to policy decisions,” Brent said. “I have advocated for better and smarter flood control strategies throughout my career.”

Brent became active in the Missouri Corn Growers Association as a young farmer still in high school by participating in the National Corn Yield Contest. After many years of membership and ten years of volunteer service on the Missouri Corn board of directors, he currently serves as the organization’s president. Through his service to the growers, Brent has advocated for crop policies in other states and around the world. He has contributed to the Sustainable Ag Research Action Team (SARAT) for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and the Innovation & Sustainability Advisory Team of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC). He recognizes the balance of markets between crop producers and livestock producers is crucial. “The imbalance of markets is often caused by disasters we cannot control. Imbalance can also be caused by trade, something we can influence through advocacy,” Brent said.

Brent is a dedicated advocate off the farm, as well as an attentive caretaker of the farm. “It is important to learn how to take care of our soil. We grow crops in the soil, but it is amazing to see the life contained in the soil. We can learn to mimic nature, not just take it over. Our soil is what everything is built on,” Brent said. He protects and conserves his soil with cover crops that help the soil hold and filter water more effectively while they increase soil biology. “Cover crops have allowed us to reduce herbicide use. The first time I planted a cover crop, I did it wrong. But I did it, and I learned from it,” Brent said. “The best learning comes from surrounding ourselves with smart people who will challenge us to think differently and learn.”

Brent’s favorite part of farm life is riding his 4-wheeler in the spring and fall to see how everything is growing. He is happy to provide habitat for wildlife in areas of his farm that are unsuitable for crops. Brent has been building a duck pond that draws birds to his property to rest. He welcomes local hunters to help wisely manage wildlife populations. “When the river gets high, the deer help themselves to more of my corn. Deer hunters are great partners in responsible wildlife management,” Brent said.

Brent looks forward to the succession of his family farm. His grandson, Danny, and the granddaughter he is looking forward to meeting this spring will grow up on the family farm because Brent’s daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer and Parker, are beginning farmers. “Farming is a capital-intense profession, but there are ways to get started. Farmers want to see their farms passed on. Anyone willing to work can get started in agriculture,” Brent said. Brent’s son, David, is following his dream to become a first-generation soldier in the U.S. Army. 

Brent’s wife, Charlotte, is his business partner. She handles the accounting on the farm and serves as a strong communicator. As president of the Marion County Farm Bureau in 2017, Brent was an integral leader in advocating for Marion County to become #Agri-Ready Designated. Missouri Corn and Missouri Farm Bureau, of which the Hoerr’s are members, are longstanding partners of Missouri Farmers Care.