Brett Hurst: Uniting Production Agriculture and Law Into A Career

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Brett Hurst had every intention of returning home as a partner in his family’s farm operation near Tarkio in #Agri-Ready Designated Atchison County when he left for college at the University of Missouri – Columbia in 2000. He studied longer than he anticipated when a series of unexpected events led him to apply for law school. Brett was able to begin his law career close to home in 2009. He never gave up on his desire to be a part of the family farm. Today, even as he serves as an Associate Circuit Judge in Atchison County, he is elated that he recently became a partner in his family’s farm. Brett’s perspective proves that agriculture and law can be great career partners. 

Brett grew up near Tarkio, on the farm that his great-grandfather established when he settled in the area after the turmoil of the Great Depression. “Mom and dad always said they would be happy for my three brothers and I to return to the farm full-time as soon as we had a four-year college degree,” Brett remembered. Brett graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia with an agriculture business management degree and acceptance to law school in Lansing, Mi. His parents encouraged him to pursue the opportunity of law school, too. Brett frequently returned to the farm throughout his years in college and law school to help his family with anything from planting to harvest.

The Hurst family grows corn and soybeans. Grain crops were one of the industries that created $211 million in output, more than 900 jobs, and contributed $68.1 million in household incomes in Atchison County according to the 2021 Economic Contribution of Missouri Agriculture and Forestry study. The Hursts own half of the acres that they farm. They have rental and sharecropping agreements for the other acres, some rooted in relationships that began when Brett’s great-grandfather settled in the area. “Seasons like harvest can be grueling but I love to operate a tractor or the combine. I use the time to listen to music and podcasts. I enjoy being outside and working with my family,” Brett shared.

Upon graduation from law school, Brett returned to Tarkio. He spent his days studying for the bar exam until he had all he could handle. Then he would make his way to the farm to help the family wherever he was needed. When he passed the bar exam in October of 2009 and opened his law practice, Brett still spent more time on the family farm than in the office. Family and friends spread the news about Brett’s services and with God’s blessing and a little time, Brett’s law practice took off in 2010. 

As a lawyer and farmer, Brett has an interesting point-of-view on agricultural issues. When briefings and court cases have come through the judicial process concerning high-profile agricultural issues, Brett’s insights have been a valuable resource to clients and neighbors. Locally, he aided many families navigating the legalities of estate planning through his practice. Brett served his clients in a variety of legal matters until he was elected to become the Atchison County Prosecutor beginning in 2015, giving him another point-of-view. 

Brett was appointed by Governor Mike Parson to serve as the Associate Circuit Judge in Atchison County in March 2022. Brett successfully faced a contested election that same year and started his first full term in 2023. “Law is a career where there is something different to do every day. Being in a rural area, law intertwines with agriculture all the time, even to the point that voters voted me into my position understanding that I am a farmer,” Brett said. Brett sets his own schedule which includes court dates in Atchison County as well as nearby Holt and Nodaway counties. When the farm isn’t busy, he is in the office five days a week. During seasons of planting, fertilizing and harvest, he can work at the farm until he is needed in the courthouse. Brett credits the clerks at the courthouse for the great service and support that they provide to him and constituents. 

Brett and his wife, Shelby, reside in Fairfax with their two young daughters. They have been blessed with the opportunity to become financial partners with Brett’s mom and three brothers in the family farm enterprise. Brett serves as a deacon at the Tarkio Baptist Church and volunteers as a member of the legal committee on the church board. To give back to his community more, he will soon join the Fairfax Masonic Lodge and Fairfax Kiwanis Lodge. Brett is a member of Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Soybean Association. Brett’s family has a long tradition of leadership and involvement, including with the Missouri Corn Growers Association, of which Brett is a member and of which his dad, Kevin, served as President. These organizations are all partner members of Missouri Farmers Care.