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couple in front of fence they builtSquare One


Scratch— that’s exactly where Mackenzie Oswald and James Howell Jr., started from earlier this year when they planted the seeds for a beginning in agriculture.

It’s been a mighty big year for the Urich, Mo., couple. Each of them graduated from college this past spring and each started a new job in May— MacKenzie in an Overland Park firm and James as a construction inspector with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

And, of course, they bought their first farm — 40 acres of grassland they plan on being the nucleus of a future in the beef cattle industry.

“We’d like to have more cows and more acres but it’s a start,” James explains. “With all that’s gone on this year we wanted to be comfortable, both with the workload and the finances.”

And there has been plenty to do, especially when you consider they both work full-time. They fertilized the grass — predominantly a brome and orchardgrass mix with plenty of red clover — and they took a hay crop. They’ve completed the perimeter fence and turned in 13 recently purchased Angus-Gelbvieh X cows.

Before all that happened, James and Mackenzie harvested some of the walnut trees on the property to help pay for improvements. Now, they’re working with NRCS on water development and subdivision fencing so the grass can be intensively managed to increase carrying capacity.

The financial impetus for the new agricultural enterprise came from FCS Financial in conjunction with the Farm Service Agency. MacKenzie and James worked closely with Tara Vermillion, a financial services officer in the Harrisonville office.

“We’ve had a good working relationship with Tara and FCS Financial,” MacKenzie says. “It’s business-like but it’s also personal and I appreciate that.”

Since MacKenzie and James have off-farm income, monthly payments were set-up to fit their cash flow. Additionally, they make those payments online, which suits their sometime crowded schedules.

“The service is good and it’s nice because you feel like they have your back,” MacKenzie adds.

For now, James and MacKenzie intend to grow the calves they raise up to about 800 pounds. James watches the market closely and, currently, that looks like a good spot in the market to merchandise their calf crop. As the operation grows, they’ll reassess that strategy but for now, the couple plans to focus on raising quality cattle.

But in the meantime, there’s plenty of work to be done.

“It’s not easy starting from square one but every time we come out here and work on the place it gets a little better,” James concludes.

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