Agriculture and education go hand-in-hand for retired principal Junior Roweton
Junior Roweton has had two great loves in his life; education and farming. He feels fortunate to have worked in both for the past four decades.
“I grew up in Halfway,” he said. “Both sets of my grandparents lived there, too. Ninety-eight percent of what I know about farming I learned from my dad Alvia, who was also a farmer, and my grandparents.
“Today, what I do is all about the grass. I’m strictly a grass farmer. This last year, we had a lot of rain and that made for a lot of good grass. I ran about 500 cows on the 1,620 acres that I own and on another 1,000 acres that I rent. Any of the years where the grass isn’t good, I cull pretty hard, like if a cow doesn’t produce a big calf.”
Growing up, Junior played basketball and went to Southwest Baptist University when it was still a junior college, many years ago. He then went to Drury.
“I coached JV basketball at Parkview (High School) and that’s when I bought my first farm, outside of Springfield, Mo., just 10 acres to live on,” Junior recalled.
That was the beginning of Junior’s double career. He went on to coach at Bolivar, Mo., and led his the girls’ basketball team to a state championship, which he admitted was “pretty exciting.”
Junior noticed land around his home was being sold for housing, so he sold and brought the money back to Halfway to begin buying more farmland. He retired from his education career 20 years ago, finishing the last 10 years as the principal at Halfway.
Junior keeps his breeding program simple. He does not work in AI or to any extent with EPDs or delve into the latest computer research or similar technologies. He runs a basic operation with a commercial herd.
“I learned to do the best with a mixed herd and while I have a lot more black cows than when I started, I still have cows of just about every color imaginable out there in the field. I keep about 30 bulls, all black, and I leave them in year round,” Junior explained. “That means I have calves all year round, too. Sometimes I have good weather and sometimes I’ve run into some bad.
“I maintain a pretty low-key operation, which keeps costs down. I don’t do feed supplements, if I can possibly help it, and I buy hay. Overall, I found that to be more economical than trying to do it myself and maintaining the hay equipment. A couple of years, it was pretty expensive, but overall that’s been the best. I try to keep a bale on hand over the winter for each cow. I don’t play the market but rather, go by the calendar.”
Keeping it simple also means working cattle the old-fashioned way as well.
“Every six months, I hire three cowboys for four days, to round up the cows, work the calves and such, so that’s eight days a year. These days I sell at the sale barn in Springfield although over the years, I’ve sold at Buffalo and Joplin.”
Working a full-time job, a job that isn’t just 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., can make farming difficult, but for Junior it was worth it.
“Everyone says you’ll never get rich being a teacher, but teaching fed the family and the years the farm made money, then I could buy a little more land and expand the operation to what it is today,” he said. “I never neglected the education responsibilities for the farm work, which meant I worked on the farm a lot of evenings, well after dark, on weekends and vacations, but cows are pretty flexible so it worked. In the past, my wife Kathy helped by keeping up all the home chores and freeing me up to do the rest.
Junior’s sons, Brad, Lance and Brock, have followed his path into education. Lance is the superintendent at Halfway and Brad and Brock coach at Bolivar and Willard, respectively.
“The boys used to tease in school, with me they had to work twice as hard as anybody else,” Junior added with a laugh. “They have all chosen similar careers and when we get together, we like to hunt and fish. They tell me, it’s because we all like the same things. My stepson, Kane, lives in Colorado and drives a snowplow at Breckenridge, Colo. He’s a mountain man. We all really enjoy the outdoors and that includes a total of nine grandchildren.”
Junior also has 18 to 20 acres in farm ponds of crappie, bass, blue gill and catfish. They all enjoy fishing at home, as well as sharing that experience.
Each year the sixth-grade students from Halfway come to Junior’s farm to spend a day fishing and then take their catch back to school for a fish fry lunch later in the week.
While his sons have chosen education and help their father in the farming operation when needed, two of them own rental property as their second careers, rather than farming.
However, Junior said his sons already know which farms they will be inheriting in the future and their plan is for Brad to operate the farms, be paid a salary and they will all share in the rest of the business operation.
“Because of the high cost of land these days, it is really hard for young people to get started if they don’t have someone to help them along the way in the beginning.”
Junior has enjoyed his double career and knows he is blessed to have a plan to keep the farm going, even after he is no longer able to do such a labor intensive job.
“Work on the farm is easier today than it once was with two F-350 trucks, both with hay beds and of course, with cell phones,” he said. “These days when I get a truck stuck, I can call somebody. The best part has been that I could always solve all my problems at the farm. The cows are always happy to see me and they don’t talk back.”