It’s often said if you want something done right—do it yourself. That’s the farmer and the Show-Me-State way—and one philosophy that Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn emulates. In just a year, she’s shifted her day-to-day focus from her family’s Clarence, Mo., diversified hog, cattle and grain farm, straight to Jefferson City, Mo. There, she’s taken a proactive approach to agricultural outreach, promotion and policy in the state.
But don’t mistake her for a political figure—her boots are about as dirty as farmers’ boots can get. As an appointed official, Chinn never imagined being an “ag-vocate” would lead to her new position. But the call to influence change for farmers in her state, as well as the future of the next generation of farmers, pulled at her.
“Each day, no matter what I do, I look at everything through my mom lens: Is it good for my kids? Is it good for their future? Because we want to pass our family farm on to them,” she says. “As director of agriculture, I do the same thing. It’s not just about my family or my farm. It’s about every Missourian, every Missouri farm and every kid who wants to come back home to their family farm. We’ve got to make sure we can bring the next generation home because they are the future of agriculture.”
Early in her TV reporting career, “U.S. Farm Report” host Tyne Morgan interviewed Chris Chinn to help tell agriculture’s story after negative perceptions of concentrated animal feeding operations were voiced in the state. Earlier this summer Morgan and Chinn recounted the backlash from those early TV interviews and discussed Chinn’s new role. Listen to “No Man’s Land” podcast above.
Telling the story
Chinn is most known for her social media and relationship-building between the agriculture community and the general public. Several years ago, she was one of the spokespeople for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers’ Faces of Farming and Ranching program, focusing on educating consumers about modern farming practices.
“As a hog farmer, my first priority is to help people understand what hog farming is today, why farmers have moved their hogs indoors, and clear up some of the misunderstandings out there,” she says. “A lot of people think if they see a hog barn, it means it’s not a family farm anymore. That’s not true.”
Now, Chinn is careful to take an inclusive approach in outreach and promotion, not just in pig production, but in all types of agriculture.
“At the department of ag, it’s our job to promote all types of agriculture, no matter how big, how small or what type of farm it is,” Chinn says.
While that can be challenging, she says it’s important farmers appreciate each other. “We all know that what works on one family farm may not work on their neighbor’s family farm.”