The Brassfield family has been farming in Howell County, Mo., for decades

Jim Brassfield grew up on the family farm in rural Howell County, Mo., on a dairy operation owned and operated by his parents, Leon and Freda Brassfield.

Like his brother Mark, who lives just down the road, Jim never moved far from home.

Today, he farms with his father Leon on adjacent farms, raising commercial beef cattle, pigs and hay.

“I milked for 30 years but we got out of the dairy business in 2008,” Jim said as he outlined their operation and its history.

When asked if he missed the dairy business, he simply grinned. “I miss the check every two weeks, that’s all,” Jim said.

The dairy cattle have been replaced with a beef herd and a few pigs.

“We have about 150 head of commercial Angus and 10 to 12 mixed breed sows on 1,000 acres, both owned and rented. We keep about 100 acres in hay, alfalfa, some of which we sell and some we use for our own livestock. We try to sell 40 steers a year to individuals for butchering.

“We’ve had up to 200 head but have dropped back for now. Just have too much to do, keeping up with it all. We have steers now ready for the meat locker, ready for sale this fall.”

The Brassfields have recently added participation in one of the local farmers market to their regular activities.

“They needed someone at the Savers’ Parking Lot location so we sell beef and pork there. There are three different farmers markets here in West Plains. The Go Farm market, the one where we sell, meets twice a week and like everything else in this business, it’s pretty time-consuming.”

Leon, Jim’s father, shared his views on life on the farm from a senior vantage point.

“It’s a good lifestyle if you are willing to work hard. I’ve done it all my life. Years ago, hogs were a big business for us,” Leon said. “We had 150 sows, which is not big by today’s standards but back then, it was big for that type of business in this area. It’s a good way to raise kids. We raised five kids here and now have 20 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.”

The current area drought has added yet another challenge to Jim and Leon’s regular farming operation as it has for so many other smaller Ozark producers.

“We aren’t feeding hay yet like some farmers, but so far this year, we’ve only gotten about half the hay crop we usually get so that’s going to make for problems down the road,” Jim continued. “We won’t have enough to sell or to feed our own if nothing changes.”

“It’s pretty depressing with everything being so dry right now,” Leon added. “We sure hope it starts raining soon but we’ll just have to see what the fall brings.”

Jim and his wife, Lisa, an office manager at a local doctor’s office, have three grown children, including daughter Jamie, who comes home to help drive the truck during haying season.

“They all help out,” Jim continued. “My son is the manager of a tire store in West Plains. I think he likes the farm life but he makes better money where he works now. When we were getting out of the dairy business, I asked him if he wanted to take it over because I would have left it to him and helped him. But he was only 18 and he wasn’t interested in continuing with milking at that time.”

Jim and Lisa also have two grandchildren and one of them is very interested in the family legacy. “

“Jack is only 3 1/2, but he loves the cows,” Jim concluded. “So who knows? There may be Brassfields continuing to farm here in the future.”


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