EDITOR’S NOTE: This article includes additional reporting from Southwest Baptist University.
BOLIVAR – Recognizing agriculture as the “top economic driver” in the state, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said earlier this year that the industry “accounts for nearly $94 billion in economic impact and nearly 460,000 jobs in Missouri.”
John Murphy, an agronomist who leads the new agriculture program at Southwest Baptist University here, likewise values the economic impact of agriculture for the state of Missouri. More than that, he sees agriculture as a vocation that can bring glory to God, and he sees SBU’s new minor in agriculture as an opportunity to teach students how faith can impact their careers.
Agriculture, Murphy said, fulfills part of God’s purpose for mankind, as described in the early chapters of Genesis – namely, to act as “good stewards of the gift of creation that God gave us.”
“I believe,” he said, “that we are to use the land, and we’re to use the resources that God gave us. But we’re also called as Christians to use those resources in an appropriate manner, to conserve His creation – to care for people and to provide for people through agriculture.”
Although SBU’s new 21-hour agriculture minor officially begins this fall, SBU students have already had opportunities to study agriculture with Murphy.
Murphy locally owns and operates an 800-acre farm with 200 head of cattle. Students already are using his farm to conduct research projects, with a team of students winning a national research award.
Through the agriculture minor, students will gain first-hand knowledge of working with and handling cattle, feed preparation, daily farm management, equipment maintenance, planter and sprayer calibration, field scouting and harvest. The minor can pair with any major, Murphy said, but it fits best with majors in the sciences, business, communication and intercultural studies.
“We’re going to sit in the classroom and learn and then be out in the field practicing what we learned,” Murphy said. “Labs will be very hands-on and production-oriented. We also will utilize field trips to farming operations, seed dealers, feeding operations and mills.”
Job opportunities for graduates from SBU’s agriculture program are abundant, Murphy said. Besides returning to the family farm, they can go into animal nutrition, certified crop advisors, irrigation, employment at local feed and seed stores, as well as many more opportunities, including jobs in the government.
Through the program, Murphy hopes students approach the field of study from a Christian worldview, focusing “on that idea that we need to be good stewards, that we need to adopt new practices, that we need to work to be the best that we can at providing for people.”
To learn more about SBU’s agriculture minor, contact Dr. Murphy at (417) 328-1995 or jmurphy@SBUniv.edu; or visit https://www.sbuniv.edu/academics/programs/agriculture.php.