Lori Simmons takes on new roles at C of O, including a crash course in livestock

Lori Simmons has experienced huge changes in her responsibilities and gained new skills recently at College of the Ozarks (C of O) in Point Lookout, Mo., because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lori has worked at the university for five and a half years and currently has two job titles: Kranzush Garden manager and agriculture public relations supervisor.

As garden manager, she supervises 10 students in planting and tending the college’s produce garden. 

“I manage a farm that farms around 25,000 pounds of produce a year, and we are the produce part of the farm-to-table program for the Keeter Center,” she explained.

Under Lori’s second title, she and her public relations student assistant, Elizabeth Leverich, communicate with the public on C of O’s agricultural programs and activities. 

Like much of the country, however, her typical day changed drastically with the advent of the COVID-19 crisis. The college sent all students home in mid-March to protect their health and then had to figure out how to maintain the campus with the majority of its workforce gone.

“Taking care of the animals was deemed most essential,” Lori explained. 

The spring garden was postponed, and Lori soon found herself working with livestock for the first time. 

“I grew up in a greenhouse nursery, and in our area, there was no livestock,” Lori said. 

She was initially posted at the hog farm and beef farm, but she has spent most of her time at the dairy farm for evening shifts.

The college keeps around 100 head of cattle on the beef farm, mostly registered polled Herefords, with some black Angus. Milk from the dairy is typically consumed by students, faculty, staff, visitors and locals. Without the time to process it anymore, however, the dairy’s milk is now being picked up by Hiland.

Lori has learned many new skills. “I had to learn how to sanitize the tank, how to put the filter in, and how to set up and break down the whole system.” 

About 60 cows are milked a day at C of O’s dairy. 

She still performs the minimum required garden maintenance, however. 

“Typically I have a lot of students to help me mow and weedeat and do the things we need to do to take care of the landscaping.” But with the students gone, “I’ve found myself behind a pushmower,” Lori remarked.

Lori is not the only C of O employee taking on new responsibilities in response to the crisis. From the admissions department to the career center, nursing, athletics and even the laundry staff. 

“We’re just having people from all over show up and say, ‘we want to help,’” Lori said.

With everyone pitching in, the college has had no issue manning its most important workstations.

Her homebound student workers, however, including two graduating students, are close to Lori’s heart during this time. 

“I feel like we’re all missing each other pretty bad. We have a really good community in our workstation,” explained Lori. “So we’re staying in contact through GroupMe, or just texting one another. We’ve always maintained pretty good contact.” 

Lori has also been participating in the college’s Bobcat Care Team campaign, writing and calling students to ensure they have adequate housing and food during the crisis.

In May, Lori’s official title at C of O will change to the community service coordinator at the Christian Ministires Department. Through all of her changing responsibilities, however, she maintains a special appreciation for farmers. 

“So be encouraged to keep going,” she continued. “We have valuable lives and valuable work. So I want to say thank you to all the farmers for getting up every morning to go milk the cows, and continuing to plant, and to raise beef cattle, and to raise hogs, and all the farming that we need.”

As a public relations manager in agriculture, Lori is familiar with the negative impression the public can have of farmers.

“I really want to encourage farmers to tell their stories,” she said. “If we’re telling our story and people are understanding why it is that we farm the way we do, we’re more likely to have people be friendly and grateful toward us and have a better understanding.”



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