Columbia Chamber honors longtime MFA employee for agriculture work

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | 9:49 p.m. CST; updated 9:57 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 3, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Chamber of Commerce awarded the Agriculturalist of the Year award to the retiring president of MFA Inc. at its 50th annual Agricultural Recognition Banquet on Tuesday evening at the Columbia Elks Lodge.

The banquet is held each year to celebrate individuals who have contributed to agriculture. Don Copenhaver, 65, accepted the award and praised the 49 people who won the award before him.

"It's a great honor. I've had the opportunity over the years to help present this same award to some of the other participants, so I have very good company."

Copenhaver has worked with MFA for 47 years. He began as an accountant and worked at various positions for the company until he became president in 1998.  He will retire this year, and Vice President Bill Streeter will take over the position.

Copenhaver said he enjoyed his time with the company but felt it was time to retire and give someone else the opportunity to be president. Staying with one company for his whole career was important, he said.

"Working with MFA has allowed me to stay close to the farming industry I love," he said.

One of Copenhaver's favorite memories was introducing President George W. Bush for a speech in 2002 at an MFA facility in Springfield, Copenhaver said.

"While we were standing behind the podium, the president looked over and asked me if I was nervous, and I said, 'It's not every day I get to introduce the president,'" Copenhaver said. "So it was a neat experience that I will remember for a very long time."

The other main award at the banquet, the Agribusiness Scholarship, was awarded to Will Garrett, a senior at Rock Bridge High School. The $1,000 scholarship will go toward funding his college education. Garrett intends to study animal science at MU.

The scholarship will be renamed after this year in honor of Don Day, who worked with the extension service at MU for 41 years and was an active member of the agribusiness community. It will be called the Don Day Agricultural Scholarship.

The Agricultural Recognition banquet dates back to the '50s, when Columbia was more of an agricultural community.

"I think it kind of started from the idea that the business people would invite the farmers in the town, and then in the summertime, the farmers would reciprocate and invite the business people," said Tina Bernskoetter, a member of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

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