Justin and Stephanie Oaks, along with their three boys, are proud to call their Harris, Missouri farm diversified, to say the least. On their 200 acres in Sullivan County, the Oaks family raises cattle, hogs, row crops, and hay. Justin, a fifth-generation farmer, is also a local seed salesman, adding more diversity to their operation’s portfolio.
“We have a little bit of everything,” said Justin Oaks. “We bought this farm in 2003, shortly after we were married and we’ve been here ever since.”
Saying their farm is a family operation may be an understatement. While Stephanie teaches at Newtown-Harris High School, her family’s farm is down the road, allowing for the Oaks to continue lending a hand when needed. Now that their three sons are getting older, their responsibilities around the farm have started to grow.
“It is definitely a family operation,” said Justin Oaks. “The kids help a lot with the hog operation. Our operation is fairly labor-intensive, so there’s a lot of carrying buckets and checking waterers. They’re pretty much entirely responsible for the chores with the show pigs.”
The diverse nature of their farm has provided the Oaks the opportunity to meet and network with people from all across the state in different parts of agriculture. This allows them to show their children how their own farm affects agriculture throughout Missouri.
“Missouri leads the nation in different areas of agriculture,” said Stephanie Oaks. “It’s nice to be a part of a state that has such a far-reaching area that it provides for the rest of the nation.”
Keeping their sons involved in the family farm is important to Justin and Stephanie. As the seasons change and their kids get older, there seems to be an unlimited amount of things to learn and be involved with on the farm.
“You’ve always got something interesting, different, and exciting going on at the farm,” said Justin Oaks. “I think it’s a great way to raise kids. It gives them a lot of options and experiences that a lot of the world is missing out on.”
“I think the diversity of the skillset that you acquire from being raised on a farm can take you anywhere,” said Stephanie Oaks. “That’s how we feel about raising the kids on the farm and helping them to be successful in life.”
Even if their sons decide to not stay with the family farm in the future, the Oaks hope they take the lessons and skills they’ve learned and share them with people who may not be as familiar with agriculture.
“This is what I’ve known my entire life,” said Justin Oaks. “To farm for life is to farm for your livelihood and for the betterment of your family.”