Like many farmers, Ron Flatt has been through depressed commodity prices, the farm crisis of the 1980s and droughts. While many of his Boone County neighbors chose to get out of the business, Flatt was a pioneer for innovations in agriculture to improve his efficiency and increase returns.
Flatt and his family were awarded for their persistence when they were named Boone County Chamber of Commerce Agriculturalists of the Year.
Flatt Family Farms, near Hallsville, consists of more than 5,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. Flatt has been farming in Boone County since 1958, when he moved at the age of 10 with his parents from Illinois.
He graduated from high school in 1965. Two years later, he married his wife, LaVerne, and they started their farm together.
“We bought our first equipment in 1967, and then the first farm was purchased in 1973 when we bought 189 acres,” Ron Flatt said.
Although Ron Flatt’s family had been farming for most of his lifetime, it was a whole new experience for LaVerne.
“I wasn’t a city girl because my parents lived in the country, but we didn’t farm,” she said.
Despite her inexperience, LaVerne had plenty of opportunities to become adapted to farm life by driving a truck in the fall during harvest.
“It wasn’t all that challenging until he put me on a tractor,” she said.
As the Flatt farm grew, so did their family. Wendy was born in 1970, Brian in 1971 and Missy in 1974. “From the very beginning, the whole family has been involved in our farming operation,” Ron Flatt said. “The kids helped out when they were in high school and have continued to stay involved.”
“In the final selection, we look for families that have at least two generations involved in agriculture,” said Leigh Nutter, director of volunteer services for the city of Columbia. Nutter serves as chairwoman of the chamber’s Agribusiness Committee.
“We like to see that they are involved in agricultural organizations and their community,” she said.
Although all members of the Flatt Family still contribute to the farm in some way, Brian Flatt has remained closest to the family’s agriculture ties. After graduating from high school in 1990, Brian attended college at Northwest Missouri State for two years before making the decision to go home and farm.
“I’ve always enjoyed working on the farm. Some of the best times I had were working the hardest I ever had,” he said. “Even when my kindergarten teacher asked me what I wanted to do, I always said I wanted to be a farmer.”
Through the assistance of his family, Brian Flatt got his own operation started by renting ground and trading labor to pay for inputs. Brian Flatt, his wife, Tisha, and their 5-year-old son, Jadon, now own their own farming operation in Boone County. Between Ron and Brian Flatt, the family farms 5,130 acres in Boone and Audrain Counties.
Area agricultural groups such as the county Farm Bureau, Boone County Cattlemen’s Association of Missouri, and Farm Service Agency are invited to nominate agriculturalists they feel are deserving of the award. The final selection is made by the 12-member Agribusiness Committee.
“We also look for families that see farming as a business and are known for being innovators in agriculture,” Nutter said. The Flatts credit their success in agriculture to their optimism and willingness to try new innovations.
“In 1975, we were the first farmers in the area to try no-till,” Ron Flatt said. The Flatt operation consists of 100 percent no-till wheat and soybeans and 70 percent no-till corn.
The family has also been involved with a number of research projects through the University of Missouri, and Ron Flatt is an investor in the Northeast Missouri Grain Processors Ethanol Plant at Macon.
“We’ve done some strip-tilling, which I don’t really know of anyone else doing, and we’ve been treating beans for quite a while now, which is still new to a lot of people,” Brian Flatt said.
The Flatt family plans to continue using new technologies and expanding their farming operation. Most of all, the family wants to make sure their business remains a family operation.
“Flatt Family Farms includes the whole family,” Ron Flatt said. “Without the entire family, this wouldn’t be possible.”