Broader Horizons for Bradford

Events, research collaborations, focus on sustainability, lead to impact on local community – and beyond

Between hosting more than 18,000 community members at events each year and hosting more research plots – many with a focus on sustainability – than any other location in Missouri, Bradford Research Center, part of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is a haven of collaboration.

Bradford Superintendent Tim Reinbott says it is the most exciting time to be in agriculture.

“This is the best environment for collaborations across disciplines I’ve seen in the 42 years I’ve been involved in agriculture,” he said.

Corn variety planting at Bradford.Corn variety planting at Bradford.

A wide variety of applied and basic research projects are conducted at Bradford. The obvious ones deal with weed reduction, crop variety testing, genetics, drought simulation, soil quality, water conservation, composting, biofuels and ways to increase crop quality. But you may be surprised to learn Bradford is ahead of peer institutions on methods of propagating indicator species, such as bobwhite quail, into farmland. Bradford holds a Bobwhite Field Day every June where they teach landowners how to ensure healthy habitats for the entire food chain.

They and other CAFNR research centers are learning more about the Monarch butterfly, its migration, breeding and eating habits, to help sustain this important species. Bradford is very involved in research on important pollinators, such as the honey and bumble bee. These and other programs are making Bradford a model for how wildlife and agriculture can be symbiotic. Passing this knowledge on to the community helps everyone work together to sustain healthy ecosystems and to implement new and better agricultural practices, Reinbott says.

A major part of Bradford’s sustainability efforts include collecting campus food waste to use in their full cycle compost system. Right now the compost fertilizes Bradford’s garden plots, and the food goes back to the campus dining halls. Reinbott would like to see the compost being marketed as well. He also hopes to one day to be able to supply fresh produce to the University Hospital cafeteria.

Bradford is essentially a 591-acre outdoor classroom but is not just for Mizzou students and researchers. In 2014, 161 events were held at Bradford or by Bradford faculty and staff, touching more than 18,000 people. In addition to catering to Mizzou students and the adults in the community, there is a heavy educational component geared towards K-12 students. Entire classrooms visit Bradford, like during Agricultural Education Field Day when more than 2,000 students from 64 schools descend upon the farm. These students drive two to three hours to take part in this fun and interactive day on the farm. Tim and his staff enjoy seeing them learn where their food comes from.

Bradford's annual sweet corn tasting.Bradford’s annual sweet corn tasting.

“The parents get involved, too, asking so many good questions that we have a hard time keeping on schedule. That’s a good problem to have at these events,” says Reinbott.

Bradford’s annual tomato and sweetcorn festivals have become such favorites with the community that they have almost outgrown the facilities. Event attendees enjoy tasting numerous tomato and sweetcorn breeds and rating the ones they like best. Tim dreams of the day they can take their show on the road.

“I would love to visit urban and suburban areas of the state to let them know how agriculture affects their lives,” he says. It takes a lot of man hours to make road trips and organize one of these festivals offsite, but this would be the perfect avenue for spreading the word about agriculture and the innovative research at Bradford, Reinbott says.

The sweetcorn festival would not be possible if not for generous donors such as the Meyer family from St. Charles, Mo. They started giving to Bradford’s sweetcorn research program in honor of the patriarch of the family, Marvin Meyer, who was an avid sweetcorn grower.

Reinbots gets very excited when describing ways students can become more entrepreneurial. He hopes in the near future students will be making salsa for the festival-goers to taste and decide which one should be marketed.

The Tomato Festival at Bradford celebrated its 11th year this fall.The Tomato Festival at Bradford celebrated its 11th year this fall.

Another way Bradford helps the local community is through a breast cancer awareness endeavor.  Proceeds of their pink pumpkin sales are donated to the local Ellis Fischel Cancer Center to fund mammograms for women who cannot afford them.

Bradford’s impact doesn’t stop at the local, state and national level, it has an even broader, international impact. Reinbott and research staff are working with underdeveloped nations on new planting methods, soil rehabilitation and learning about new crop breeds. They plan to teach citizens of Ghana about new soybean breeds, developed at MU, that will grow well in that region of Africa. Like others, Reinbott was heavily influenced by the work of Norman Borlaug. Reinbott is emphatic that Bradford should serve as a model for other university research centers to do the hard work it takes to influence nations.

Reinbott wants people to know: “Bradford’s research affects the entire world.”

Interested in helping further Bradford Research Center’s mission? Learn more here:

(Editors’ Note: After this story was written, Reinbott was named director of Field Operations for Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station.)