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BOONE LIFE: MU welder, his family run a farm in Hallsville

Saturday, December 10, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:14 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 21, 2011

HALLSVILLE — If you travel the 10 miles from Columbia to Hallsville, then kick up some gravel and dirt after turning on Owens School Road, you'll pass a broad stone mailbox on the right.

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It marks the home of Mark and Melanie Morris, their three children and pet longhorn cow, Daphne.

There are plenty of other animals on the property as well — red wattle pigs, woolly sheep, free range chickens, sheep dogs and stock dogs.

Every animal on the Morris property pays its way. The chickens lay eggs to be sold on Melanie's trips to Columbia; the pigs and sheep are on course to be a main course; the dogs are there to work.

Daphne, however, is a pet – albeit an unusually large one.

"She's the pasture diva," Melanie Morris said.

Daphne comes when she's called but otherwise placates herself on grass. In fact, so does almost every other animal on the 250-acre farmstead – a diet carefully planned by the Morrises.

They operate their grass-fed livestock with a sustainable and local bent, in part to trim operational costs and in part to produce healthier animals with a higher quality of life.

Since Mark works full time at MU as a welder and Melanie spends her weeks as a housewife and community volunteer, most of the farm work has to wait for the weekends.

The weekends offer the added benefit of making sure all three Morris children — Tyler, 16, Justin, 12, and Blake, 4 — are around to help.

The family togetherness that comes from re-pasturing sheep within the confines of portable electric fences and moving the chicken coop with a tractor is a blessing that Mark and Melanie don't take lightly.

In fact, working the farm together with their children is something they look forward to after a busy week when most people are searching for rest and leisure.

They've owned the converted crop-farm for six years, and they intend to expand their heads of cattle and sows to numbers that would eventually allow Mark to retire and raise livestock full-time.

Eventually, they hope to hand off the reins to their sons.

"It is a lot of extra effort, but that being said, I believe it's worth it," Melanie said.  "Knowing where it came from and how it was treated. That to me makes a big difference."


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