Missouri's specialty crop beginning farmers cultivate resilience during COVID-19


  • Amy R. Patillo University of Missouri Extension https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6891-400X
  • James Curtis Millsap Millsap Farm
  • Patrick Byers University of Missouri Extension
  • Jamie Gundel University of Missouri Extension
  • Katherine Peregoy University of Missouri Extension
  • Amy Lake University of Missouri College of Education
  • Sarah Denkler University of Missouri Extension
  • Eric Meusch University of Missouri Extension
  • David Burton University of Missouri Extension




COVID-19, Coronavirus, Disruption, Extension, Food System, Online Training, Pandemic, Small Farmer, Beginning Farmers, Specialty Crop, StrikeForce


The pandemic placed extraordinary demands on agricultural producers and created unexpected challenges for southern Missouri farmers, and pushed the University of Missouri Extension (MUE) to implement new and innovative approaches to help farmers persevere through the crisis. In surveys and reports, farmers have indicated several changes caused by the pandemic that impact their businesses, such as increase in local food demand, reduction in on-farm labor, and limitations on hosting on-farm visits with customers. The MUE StrikeForce project team, a U.S. Department of Agriculture strategic initiative, continued to serve farmers by developing alternative educational opportunities that incorporated social distancing and other preventative actions, and were of immediate use to farmers in a crisis. Several of the educational approaches, including video conferencing, online teaching, digital recordings, video repositories, social media communications, pick up and drop off locations, and the use of multiple online viewing platforms such as Zoom recordings have proven to be effective in helping farmers sustain their businesses and have substantially increased access to programming across the state. The convenience of accessing education and learning opportunities online also appealed to more participants. Overall, online educational delivery was positively received by producers, demonstrating the efficacy of digital learning when paired with offline resources and support from the StrikeForce project team. After the pandemic ends, MUE will continue to implement these approaches. Nevertheless, the traditional Extension approach of one-on-one consulting and farm visits cannot be completely replaced by online educational programming. The pandemic has highlighted inequities faced by many rural Missouri farmers that lack dependable internet or cell phone network access, and had no access to StrikeForce programming when face-to-face visits were paused.


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Author Biographies

Amy R. Patillo, University of Missouri Extension

Associate Extension Professional, Field Specialist in Labor and Workforce Development

James Curtis Millsap, Millsap Farm

Farm Owner, Farmer Mentor, Trainer and Twilight Tour Host

Patrick Byers, University of Missouri Extension

Extension Professional, Field Specialist in Horticulture

Jamie Gundel, University of Missouri Extension

Assistant Extension Professional, Field Specialist in Agronomy

Katherine Peregoy, University of Missouri Extension

Project Coordinator

Amy Lake, University of Missouri College of Education

Senior Evaluator, Assessment Resource Center

Sarah Denkler, University of Missouri Extension

Extension Professional and Regional Director

Eric Meusch, University of Missouri Extension

Extension Instructor

David Burton, University of Missouri Extension

Extension Professional, County Engagement and Community Economic Development Specialist

Logo for COVID-19's Impact on the Food System



How to Cite

Patillo, A., Millsap, J., Byers, P., Gundel, J., Peregoy, K., Lake, A., Denkler, S., Meusch, E., & Burton, D. (2021). Missouri’s specialty crop beginning farmers cultivate resilience during COVID-19. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(2), 225–239. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2021.102.052