Family Comes First at This Cattle Ranch

By: Rachel Raines

The Barnitz family believes their cattle ranch isn’t just about the profit you get from beef.

Starting with only 12 acres in 1868, the Barnitz family has come a long way in building their family farm over the past decade.  With over 1,000 head of cows, the Barnitz cattle ranch is one of the largest operations around.

Although the family takes on this large responsibility, they refuse to cut corners.

“We make extra steps to make sure we do everything we can for our live stalk,” Frank Barnitz, owner of the Barnitz family ranch, said.

While at the cattle ranch, we saw three baby calves that had been rejected by their mothers that the Barnitz family decided to take care of.  The family will bottle feed these calves until they are able to live on their own.

The pride and love that the Barnitz family has for their cattle operation is contagious.  In years to come, the family hopes more people will come visit their farm.


Oh, What a Trip!

By: Rachel Raines

After more than 75 hours of field reporting, my brain is fried from an information overload.  This weekend we traveled more than 500 miles across the state of Missouri, visiting sites and landmarks that I would have never thought to travel to, and meeting people from numerous different backgrounds.  This trip was incredibly planned and easily one of the best learning experiences of my lifetime.

My main highlights on the trip were visiting Fort Leonard Wood, driving the elk tour, canoeing on jacks fork and visiting the cattle ranch.  Each of these events were so interesting and places I could have spent endless amounts of time.

Today we visited the cattle ranch and jacks forks river.  Both of these stops had so much heritage to learn from.  I especially enjoyed riding down the river with JB Forbes and watching him take photos on the water.  The colors of rocks, the dead trees and the numerous amounts of fish and minnows truly brought out a scenic story on the float trip.  Visiting the cattle ranch was exciting as well.  We witnessed the operations of a passed down family farm and heritage and passion behind their day to day operations.  The family was extremely compassionate about their work with cattle and so proud to tour us thru their pastures and animals.

Now that the trip is over, I can not help but look back and appreciate everything we did.  I feel so blessed to have met and worked alongside such great faculty and active members of the agriculture community.  In the days to come I hope to take the facts I learned on this trip and apply them to my future work and life.

Who’s to blame for water quality issues?

The Current River snakes it’s way through Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. Float down it and you’ll likely see turkey vultures riding thermals overhead. Cicadas on either side of the river chirp and oak trees sprout out of rock.

“It’s a trout fisherman’s paradise,” Dennis Kopp said.

Kopp, a retired entomologist professor at North Dakota State University, pointed out the mayflies, an indicator of high water quality, hovering above the river. There were too many to count. 

The water looks the way Mother Nature intended. It appears clear enough to see the mossy rocks at the bottom. Trout swim underneath the canoe.

And there it is—someone’s Bud Light can; the sure sign of our collective impact on the environment.

The signs of our impact aren’t always as apparent as a beer can at the bottom of a river. Rebecca Landewe, Current River project manager said her team collects water quality samples as one way to gauge the quality of the water.

Human and horse excrement increase the level of bacteria in the water. In turn, more algae grows causing oxygen levels to decrease. This hurts the water quality for other wildlife who live in or otherwise depend on the river.

It’s a safe assumption on July 5th you won’t see as many mayflies.

Edited by Erin Schell


A Few Good Men – And a Young Woman: A Reflection

by Annette Jenkins

Baling twine has many uses other than holding hay bales together. Trust me, I know. Young Kenadee Barnitz uses it as a belt to hold up her jeans and tie temporary gates closed, something this farm girl is all too familiar with. She’s the same age as my little sister. I am overwhelmed with the feeling of belonging.

A massive red barn similar to my family’s stands in the middle of the lot. Black grease spots the floor, signs of farm machinery being repaired throughout the years. No doubt the five generations of hardworking men who have walked through this barn since 1868 have gotten their hands dirty with who-knows-what.

Walking across the lot, I feel at home. The dust and stench of manure and pigs waft to my face and my father’s warm smile and baritone voice comes to mind. “Ahh. Smells like money.”

I see the same equipment, animals, collected deer antlers, feed sacks, and dirty pallets. A Kawasaki Mule like the one we drive at home is crammed with nine five-gallon buckets overflowing with grain and corn. 14-year-old Kenadee will have to help her father and grandpa unload them to feed her baby hogs, then bottle-feed the newborn calf in the barn whose mother had died at birth.

She’ll use her baling twine to tie the empty buckets to the fence when she is finished with the chores, then head inside to work on biology homework for school the next day. After school, she’ll go to basketball practice and come home to repeat her same chores. The life of a “farm kid” is about the same every day. You grow to miss it as you get older. What I wouldn’t give to go home this second and help my father with the duties I abandoned when I left for college.

Kenadee will look after this farm when her father Frank leaves it to her, just as his father George left it to him. The three of them work together on the daily grind to run the farm to the best of their ability. My mind flashes to my own sister, also going to school and doing my chores. I respect and envy this young girl so much. I am humbled, and I call my sister-in the middle of her homework-to thank her for her hard work.

More Than “Getting the Story”

photo credit Cody Lee Heyveld

photo credit: Cody Lee Heyveld

I realized Saturday how beautiful our landscape in Missouri is. I felt one with nature, for the first time in a long time. Sunday I dug deeper and started to see all the connections of the weekend-long adventure.

I traced the connections between water quality, trees, insects and cattle. Each time we reviewed the topics, something new came up.

photo credit Cody Lee Heyveld

photo credit: Cody Lee Heyveld

Rebecca Landewe, Current River project manager, mentioned the importance the nature we have in Missouri. It was the light bulb I needed.

“I see my job as protecting the last ‘great places,’” Landewe said. “[The Nature Conservancy] doesn’t take the advocacy approach. We know we are a part of nature. To think we’re outside of the fence and nature is on the inside is just wrong. That’s our job, to bring down that fence.”

photo credit Cody Lee Heyveld

photo credit: Cody Lee Heyveld

It made me realize that my job as a journalist is more than “getting the story.” It’s about capturing the experience and serving it communities through their TV screens.

Stories are better with people

By Bridgit Bowden 

Yesterday was a real reminder that stories are better if you understand the people in them.

I can’t think of a better end to the FRI than visiting the Barnitz farm.  Their strong ties to the land, passion for their work, and candid attitude was refreshing for me.  I was especially struck by 14-year-old Kennedy, who was so happy to be inheriting the farm and so proud of her family’s work, even at such a young age. 

This weekend we learned about a lot of serious issues.  We spoke to a lot of people that work for government agencies.  We figured out that every story has more than meets the eye.  

One of my main takeaways from the FRI is learning how to peel away the layers of a story, and not accept everything at face value.  At the heart of any story are the real people, and meeting the Barnitz family reminded me of that.  

A bug’s life and what it means for the river

By Brooke Holman

A haze of tiny insects hovers above the Jacks Fork River, swarming the gravel bank as they migrate.

With the dark trees in the background you can see swarms all around. Their buzzing is barely audible over the flowing current, crunching of gravel, the pulse of cicadas singing, and clanking of oars on the sides of canoes passing by. Areas of ripples appear on the surface of the water as the fish jump up to feast among the bug buffet.

“This is a fly fisherman’s dream,” said Dennis Kopp, an entomologist and curator in the National Insect Collection at the Smithsonian Museum.

His eyes remain fixed on one of the insects as it floats closer. With a quick jolt of his wrist, he snatches the insect like a quittage seeker catching a snitch. He opens his hand to reveal a tiny mayfly sitting in his palm.

“These bugs are really happy today. This is the only day that they can fly around having sex,” said Dennis.

These species of mayfly only live for one day, and Sunday September 22 was the one lucky day out of the year that they mate.

“This is an indication of river health and minimal aquatic disturbance,” said Rebecca Landewe, Current River project manager at the Nature Conservancy.

The forested riparian area, which is the area of land alongside the river, benefits the river’s water quality. Deep roots reaching down from the trees help prevent sediment runoff and erosion, and stabilize the soil. Forest management efforts are in place, but some land in the watershed is being converted to agriculture land. Weaker root systems and increase in nutrient and sediment runoff are affecting water quality downstream. Most of the conversion land is owned by private land owners.

“You may not realize how biologically significant the Ozarks is,” said Steve Mahfood, environmental consultant.

Rebecca said there are species here that don’t exist anywhere else. That’s one reason why different organizations and government agencies are working to conserve the area, while keeping it open to the public. Private land owners also play a large role in conservation of the area, and are targets for forestry education by groups such as the Nature Conservancy.

“If all of it is gone, it’s not going to reappear magically,” said Steve.