Every year, the Missouri State Fair sets a day aside to recognize a farm family from every county in the state — all 114, plus the city of St. Louis. This year, the Carrender family was chosen as the Cole County Farm Family.
The Carrenders — Andy and Brittany, and their children Gretta, Abe and Wyatt — run a commercial beef farm in Osage Bend, but Brittany said that's not where their animal collection stops. They also have goats, hens, horses, rabbits and dogs running around.
Running a family farm means the family puts in the work.
"The family farm is definitely the family farm," Brittany said. "When cows get out or when goats need to be vaccinated or wormed, it is a family event. Just last night, we were chasing some cows that had gotten in the wrong pasture at 9:30, 10 o'clock at night — all of us together."
But working on the farm is something the children enjoy, and their involvement in agriculture doesn't stop at the family farm. Although they are home-schooled, 15-year-old Gretta is an active member of the Blair Oaks FFA.
"She's a huge advocate for agriculture," Brittany said. "She loves talking to anybody about it and sharing her knowledge that way."
Thirteen-year-old twins Abe and Wyatt have their own interests, too. While Abe is interested in beef production and nutrition, Wyatt loves spending time outdoors and hunting.
"They've all found their own little niches in each area," Brittany said.
Not to be outdone, Brittany and Andy have their own extra-curriculars outside of full-time jobs and farming.
Brittany is the co-leader of the Osage Bend 4-H club, as well as the representative for the club in the 4-H Council and the 4-H Fair Board. She also leads a 4-H group on goats and is part of the alumni board for the Blair Oaks FFA.
Andy is a leader for a beef group in 4-H, an alumni member of Friends of FFA at Blair Oaks, and works part time for MFA.
One of their farm's animals — goats raised for meat — came from a 4-H project but soon grew.
"They multiply really easily and quickly," Brittany said. "Before you know it, you've got 20 goats."
The Carrender family farm goes back decades. Andy's parents bought the property in 1960, and the family has owned it ever since. Originally it was a dairy farm, but they changed over to beef production a few decades back. About 20 years ago, Andy and Brittany bought the farm.
Now, they raise beef cows. Twice a year, they calve, then raise the calves until they can be weaned. Another couple of weeks, then the calves are sold at auctions to feed lots or growers.
The family was nominated for the award and was chosen to be Cole County's Farm Family by the University of Missouri Extension in Cole County and the local Farm Bureau.
Brittany said they had no idea they'd been nominated until they got the call telling them they'd won.
"We were surprised because we know there's a lot of deserving families out there, but it was really appreciated," Brittany said.
The Carrenders were already going to the fair to show animals, but they were invited to receive a meal and were given a plaque at 61st annual Farm Family Day on Aug. 12.
"It was really nice. I know there's a lot of really good farm families, especially in our area," Brittany said. "Everybody works so hard to make their farms run efficiently and well, and it was really nice being thought of in that way."
Brittany hopes recognition like this for Missouri's farm families will bring awareness to the importance of local farming and knowing where food comes from.
"If it just brings awareness to someone who doesn't quite know where their food comes from, that'd be great," she said. "It makes you proud and makes you just want to do a good job."