Boone Manary offers customers fresh-from-the-farm sweet corn. Photo by Brenda Brinkley.
Boone Manary offers customers fresh-from-the-farm sweet corn. Photo by Brenda Brinkley.

Teen grows and sells sweet corn as part of his SAE

MARSHFIELD, MO. – Farmers in the Ozarks are busy raising cattle and crops and hard-working kids. At least that’s the case on the Manary farm in Webster County, near Marshfield, Mo.

Boone Manary is just such a kid. His parents, Matt and Julie Manary, are raising their children with strong work ethics. Boone is 16 years old and has three sisters, Tatum (22), Riley (18), and Miller (12).

Lately, Boone might be found in a parking lot in Marshfield selling corn out of the back of his truck. Raising corn is a family tradition. “My sister, Riley, did it for her project when she was in FFA. I started just helping her. Once I got in high school, we both did it as a project. Then she graduated,” Boone explained. “My great grandpa, Argus Manary, always grew it.”

Boone is a junior at Marshfield High School where he serves as FFA secretary.

As one of his SAE projects (Supervised Agricultural Experience) Boone raises and sells corn. He plants about 2 acres of Obsession Two corn. 

“It’s a Pioneer seed. It looks like Peaches and Cream; it’s bi-colored,” he said. “I’ve been helping with the corn since I was in seventh grade. 

He has already experienced the good and the bad.

“This year it worked pretty good. We caught a couple of those little showers at the right time and it worked out. Last year, we didn’t have any that made because it didn’t rain,” Boone explained. “If it doesn’t rain, you have nothing at all. You can try to water it, but it takes a lot of water. You don’t realize how much water it takes to grow anything.”

Fortunately, he had a much better year this year. 

“Last time we had about this much, we sold 19,000 ears,” Boone said. He is expecting it to be close to that this year. “It depends on how much we get picked.”

Boone spends mornings in the corn field before it gets too hot.

“Probably an hour or an hour and a half. It just depends on how fast it gets hot. The corn is all hand-picked,” he explained. “I compare it to milking cows for two weeks. You have to get out there and do it or it’s going to go to waste. It’s not something you can say, ‘Oh, I’m gonna do it tomorrow,’ because there’s a time window.”

The hardest thing about raising corn is keeping varmints out of it, because even if it grows good and everything works out, you still have to worry about that no matter what, Boone said.

How much of the crop is lost to wild animals depends on where the field is. 

“If it’s close to a patch of woods it’s going to be worse,” Boone said. “You could lose a good 10 percent if you’re not picking it faster than they’re eating it.”

While this is one of Boone’s SAE projects for FFA, he said, “I couldn’t do it without my family. I could never get it all picked by myself.”

When it comes to the corn, Boone hopes to continue the project, and pass it on.  “Hopefully, I’ll do it again next year, if it works out. My little sister is in seventh grade. I hope when she’s in FFA that she does it,” Boone said.

Boone didn’t plant all his corn at the same time, so he could stager production. 

“We planted a patch at the end of April. We planted the second patch at the beginning or middle of June,” he said.

Boone said they usually get two ears of corn per stalk, maybe three.

“Two good ones and maybe one at the bottom that isn’t any good,” he said.

While 2022 wasn’t a good year at all for his corn crop, Boone thinks there are lessons in failure.

 “I think it’s good for somebody to learn how to work hard and have to do something with your hands. It can also be pretty lucrative if it works out,” he said.

The best farming advice he’s ever received is “take pride in what you do. Take pride in working hard,” Boone said.

The greatest influence in his life when it comes to farming is Boone’s dad, Matt Manary. 

“He bought his grandparent’s farm and that’s what he does full-time. He also does custom work,” Boone said.

 In FFA, Boone has more than one SAE project. 

“You don’t have to just have one. I have multiple things down. Working for my dad is one. Whatever you do to make money is considered your SAE project,” Boone explained. He cuts and rakes hay, and helps his dad. Boone also has bottle calves,  bought seven head of Longhorn cattle.  

“I got a loan from the USDA office; a youth loan. I found the Longhorns on Facebook, of all places. I got one that wasn’t with that group. But I bought a set of them with calves,” Boone explained.

 He is not a stranger to Longhorn cattle. 

“Dad has around 80. I have been around them before,” Boone said.


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