Cody Garver strives to be the best in all he does
ST. JAMES, MO. – Cody Garver is proud of his farming roots in the Phelps County, Mo., community of St. James. The 250-acre family farm has been passed down through the generations since 1868.
“I lived in town until I was 12 years old,” Cody, 17, said. “Both of my parents (Dale and Lori Garver) grew up on a farm, and they made sure I got full exposure to agriculture. I can remember going with my dad to do side jobs building fence or working cows as a 10-year-old kid; that’s where I got my start.
“Agriculture has taught me how to be efficient and be a good worker, like showing up on time, even if it means you are a little early. It’s taught me to work long days, and agriculture has allowed me to learn so many different things and has opened up career opportunities.”
After the passing of his grandfather, Everett Garver, Cody’s father and uncle, Gregg Garver, inherited the family farm.
“They are now the fifth-generation owners,” Cody said of his father and uncle.
An active FFA member, Cody serves as the St. James FFA Chapter President and the Area 14 President. Cody said seeing his brother Jared get a blue corduroy jacket made a tremendous impact on him.
“Growing up, I got to see him and his accomplishments, so he was a big motivator for me,” Cody said. “My brother’s freshman year would have been my second-grade year, and I knew the minute he got involved that I wanted to be a member of that organization.
“FFA allows you to explore yourself and become a better leader. The most important skill I have learned in this organization is being able to become a public speaker. My freshman year, I struggled to get up in front of the class and give a presentation. I wouldn’t make eye contact and would stutter and mumble. By my sophomore year, I was a state finalist for my fall speech.”
Cody’s Supervised Agriculture Experience is working at Garh Farms, a 500-acre cow/calf and feeder calf operation that includes a large forage operation.
“With the forage side, there are local landowners who don’t do anything with their properties anymore, and my boss mades a deal with them where we will fertilize their fields and try to get the land in better condition if we can harvest the hay.”
Cody has been working with the farm since 2017. There are no “typical” days for Cody at work; it all depends on what needs to be done.
“It might be servicing or fixing equipment, or it might be fixing fence,” Cody explained. “This operation is still fairly young because my boss didn’t run cattle for about 30 years but started up again in 2015. We have built pipe lots, put up a lot of barbed wire, and doing pasture improvements. We work to eradicate invasive species like honey locust, multiflora rose, thistles, and any sprouts growing up in the fields. In some places, we work to plant better forages. We frost seed clover in the winter and spend a lot of time fertilizing. We do a lot of fertilizing because we want to put the nutrition back into the soil that we take out. In summer, we hit the hayfields pretty hard, and we put in a lot of waterer and water lines because we don’t like the cattle drinking out of ponds; waterers are a much cleaner and efficient system.”
His experience at Gahr Farms helped Cody earn the 2021 Missouri FFA Forage Production Proficiency.
“That was the highlight of my FFA career,” Cody said. “Because I am from Area 14, I was at the end of the getting the area winner plaques, and Paxton Dahmer (National FFA Central Region Vice President and Nevada, Mo., native) shook my hand to get a picture. He just had this look on his face, and I didn’t know why. Then they announced the state winner was from Area 14; I was in shock. I felt like my jaw was going to hit the stage. I looked down at the plaque to make sure it was actually me, and sure enough, it said state winner, not area winner. It was the most amazing feeling.
“I didn’t realize my SAE was that strong. I was on the grasslands team that won state my sophomore year, so it really helped me identify different forages and grasses, stuff that I learned and could help my boss manage his fields and pastures.
In his application for the state award, Cody outlined the forages he has worked with, weed control and eradication measures, and the use of soil tests to improve soil health and quality through fertilization.
“I can make hay from the bottom up,” Cody explained. “I can get a field in the right condition so it can produce. I can come in with a mower, wrap it up with a baler, haul it and put it in the barn. Something I would like to experiment with at is a stand of warm-season native grasses, like Big and Little Bluestem. I have also wanted to incorporate a management-intensive grazing system. Right now, we rotate pastures, but not to the extent of a management-intensive system.”
Cody’s application earned a Gold rating at the national competition, just outside of the national finalist rating to advance.
Thanks to FFA, Cody said he found his niche, and he encouraged other young people to give the organization a try.
“FFA has something for everyone,” he said. “You might not be an agriculturalist right now, but you want to be; this is the place to come.”
After graduating this spring, Cody plans to attend State Technical College of Missouri in Linn, Mo., to obtain an associate’s degree in agriculture business, then attend the Kentucky Welding Institute for a welding certification.
Before he embarks on his career as a pipe welder, Cody has one more goal.
“I want to be a state officer,” he said. “I am a very goal-driven person, and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do the best I can. I have two mottoes I live by: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, and if you always do what you’ve always done, then you will only be where you’ve always been. Going into FFA, I had big goals, like running for state office, but I didn’t think there was any way possible; FFA taught me what I need to know to even be in the running for it. I got to watch my brother get his State Degree when I was younger, and I just saw how energetic they were and that they looked like they were having fun. I said when I got into FFA, I would be one of those people. FFA has transformed me.”