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Callaway County farmer credits influence of 4-H Clubs

Rodney Garnett of Holts Summit, left, a tractor buff and former John Deere dealer, discusses John Deere tractors with Benson Lehman during this year's Callaway County Fair. Garnett is a big advocate for local 4-H groups,

Rodney Garnett of Holts Summit, left, a tractor buff and former John Deere dealer, discusses John Deere tractors with Benson Lehman during this year's Callaway County Fair. Garnett is a big advocate for local 4-H groups,

As a resident of Callaway County, Rodney Garnett of Holts Summit has learned a thing or two about people who live in the county.

“Callaway County people as a general rule are extremely friendly,” Garnett said. “If you treat them right, they’ll treat you right.”

The influence of 4-H Clubs in the county, Garnett said, has helped shape his character as well as many other Callaway County residents.

At age 77, Garnett said he knows many men and women with businesses in Fulton and Callaway County who are former members of various county 4-H Clubs.

In the 1960s, Garnett said, there were 36 clubs scattered around the county with more than 800 members.

Garnett served as a commissioner of Callaway County for 18 years, most of it as presiding commissioner and part as western district commissioner.

He also helped start the Callaway County Fair.

With a strong interest in farming, Garnett is a graduate of the former Jefferson City Junior College and the University of Missouri, where he received a degree in agriculture in 1959.

While attending college, Garnett participated in the International Farm Youth Exchange program. He traveled to Norway and stayed for six months in 1957 with a Norwegian farm family.

That sparked a lifetime friendship with the family and others in Norway.

While serving with the U.S. Army in Germany, Garnett used his leave time to visit Norwegian farm families.

Garnett grew up in the Jamestown area and he still owns the family farm at nearby Marion. He also farmed extensively during his lifetime in Callaway County. “Even when I had other jobs, I always had cattle,” Garnett said.

In 1958, Garnett married the late Maxine Neiderheldman of Callaway County, who died 35 years later in 1993.

Garnett has four children. They are Christy Garnett, who retired after a 30-year teaching career; LeAnn Peace, director of the Missouri Kidney Foundation; Melody Parry, who is associate publisher of Inside Columbia magazine in Columbia; and Scott Garnett of Holts Summit, a traveling iron worker.

After Maxine’s death, Garnett was married to the former Barbara Azdell for 18 years. She died in 2012.

In addition to helping start the Callaway County Fair, Garnett has been active over the years in 4-H ham breakfasts and other 4-H events. Several years ago, he arranged the Missouri State Tractor Pulling event at Hensley Field in Fulton. The event later moved to the State Fair in Sedalia.

“We also arranged to have the State Corn Picking Contest at McCredie,” Garnett said.

Garnett said he was elected as county commissioner through friendships and dealings he had with people throughout the county while volunteering with 4-H Clubs and serving as an assistant county extension agent. He also sold agricultural chemicals and operated a John Deere farm implement dealership.

He encourages youngsters to become involved with 4-H activities. “Youngsters today need to become active in organizations like 4-H clubs. They need to make as many friends as they can. It can help them later in life,” Garnett said.

The best advice he has for youngsters, Garnett said, is “to treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

Garnett is a deacon and Sunday School teacher at the Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit.

Since his retirement, he has developed a hobby of restoring antique tractors. Garnett has accumulated about 20 of them and the list is growing. One of the old tractors he has acquired is a 1947 Ferguson TE-20 tractor built in England.

During a recent Callaway County Vintage Tractor Drive through the southern part of the county to view areas damaged by the Flood of 1993, Garnett was the lead driver of the group.

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