Don Schlesselman: #Power to Serve

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Full-time farmer, Don Schlesselman, can be found in many places other than his generational family farm near Concordia in Agri-Ready Designated Lafayette County where he raises corn, soybeans, hay, and beef cattle. Some of his acres were first acquired by his ancestors who arrived from Germany in 1857. Don is willing to balance the time he needs to spend on the farm with his willingness and POWER to serve his community and his industry.

Don was a volunteer firefighter for thirty years before retiring from that service to his community. Word has it that he had experience on the local county fair board and Extension Council, too. He is currently serving as the Vice-President of his Lutheran church congregation. In the civic arena, Don is the Chairman of the Lafayette County Planning and Zoning Board and Vice-Chairman the Concordia Special Road District Board. He is a member of the Lafayette County Cattlemen’s Association where he represents his county at the state level and is a member of the Santa Fe Agri-leaders Young Farmer Association chapter, two organizations that amplify his industry and vocation. Perhaps most notably, Don was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for FCS Financial and has been serving on the Board of Directors for MFA, Inc. since 2014. He was recently chosen by his peers on the MFA, Inc. board to serve as their chairman.

“It was a great honor to be elected by my fellow farmers to serve on the MFA, Inc. Board. I was even more humbled to be chosen by my colleagues on the Board to lead them as their Chairman,” Don said.  

Don’s family has a history of serving in their church and community, but he will never forget an admonishment from a favored uncle. “Uncle Wilbert told me that we have to be willing to be an advocate for what we do and the products we produce. The world is full of opinions that may not be the whole truth. It is important that we are willing to share the truth about agriculture and try to positively affect policy for the future of agriculture. Sometimes it is hard to talk about all of the different things I am involved in, but I feel compelled to serve. I have been awarded fabulous opportunities across our state and country. I got those opportunities by being willing to be involved.”

As a member of the Santa Fe Agri-leaders, Don excitedly described the Test Plot Fundraiser that the group hosts each year. “We offer an opportunity to seed dealers to display up to three varieties of their seed in both corn and soybean test plots each year for a fee. The money raised provides scholarships to local students going on to pursue agriculture. The test plots are in highly visible places in Lafayette County so everyone can watch them grow. We invite farmers to tour the plot and visit with the dealers about the results of the growing season. The tour is a fun event that also includes educational speakers, a meal, and a contest to guess the highest yielding varieties.”

Don has taken intentional steps to be a good steward of his land. His acres have been primarily no-tilled for nearly two decades and he utilizes cover crops to protect his soils. He has invested in technologies like auto-steer and GPS which reduces fuel use on the farm. He also employs tools such as yield maps and scouting programs to reduce his dependence on fertilizers making his farm more environmentally and economically sustainable. “The ultimate goal is to sustain the family farm so that future generations can carry on our tradition of agriculture if they choose to do so,” Don said.

Don and his wife, Beth, are grateful that their son, Steven, purchased the farm next to theirs where he lives with his wife and Don’s three favorite grandchildren. Don and Steven farm together and share equipment. Don and Beth’s daughter, Diane, works as an athletic trainer locally. The family are members of MFA Inc., FCS Financial, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, and the Young Farmers Association which are all partners of Missouri Farmers Care.