This story appears in our MU CAFNR/Agricultural Experiment Station Research Magazine.
One of the most important changes during the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station (MOAES) restructure was the consolidation of the research farms into four Research, Extension and Education Centers (REECs) – each with its own director.
Hiring committees were formed for each REEC, and, in tandem with CAFNR leadership, directors have been hired for each Center. To go along with new directors, the MOAES has also put a focus on hiring resident faculty at the newly formed REECs. So far, six new resident faculty have been brought in, with plans to add others.
“It’s great to have the leadership team in place,” said Shibu Jose, CAFNR associate dean for research and director of the MOAES. “The philosophy and expectation with our four directors is that they are visionary leaders who will help drive the MOAES to distinction.”
Jay Chism, Aaron Brandt, Jeff Case and Dusty Walter were hired as directors of the Southwest REEC, Fisher Delta REEC, Northern Missouri REEC and Central Missouri REEC, respectively. Walter is joined by three assistant directors due to the size and complexity of the Central Missouri REEC. Tim Reinbott is the assistant director for natural resources, Andrew Biggs serves as the assistant director for crops and Bryon Wiegand is the interim assistant director for livestock.
“This group has been tasked with being thought leaders for each REEC,” Jose said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for them to lead us in this new phase of the MOAES.”
Chism is no stranger to the southwest Missouri area, as he served as the Southwest Regional Director for University of Missouri Extension for nine years before joining the Southwest REEC (SW- REEC). The SW-REEC covers more than 22 counties, addressing many different agricultural industries such as beef, forage and horticulture.
Chism’s background is in horticulture and agronomy. He received his bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University and attended the University of Missouri for his master’s in horticulture. His family operated a horticulture business near Joplin for more than 17 years prior to his working for the University.
“I am excited to share the innovation and research that is being done at the SW-REEC with farmers in southwest Missouri,” Chism said. “I’m thrilled to be part of this team.”
Brandt grew up in Linn, Mo., and earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural business, crop and soil science from the University of Central Missouri and a master’s in agronomy from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Before joining the Fisher Delta REEC (FD-REEC), he worked as an agronomic research specialist at Bayer Crop Science based out of Harrisburg, S.D.
Brandt will lead the research opportunities at the FD-REEC, which include projects centered on cotton, rice and soybean, among other crops. The FD-REEC includes five locations, for a total of 1,119 acres, in a 12-county area that forms the Missouri Bootheel.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to join the Fisher Delta REEC,” Brandt said. “I am excited to come back to Missouri and I am looking forward to playing an important role in Missouri agriculture.”
Before being hired to lead the Northern Missouri REEC (NM-REEC), Case was vice president at Enterprise Bank and Trust, managing and building the agricultural lending portfolio throughout Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. He also served as state director and Midwest regional chairman for USDA Rural Development from 2017-21 and has worked as vice president for both Rabo AgriFinance and FCS Financial. Case has also been an adult agricultural education instructor, coordinating joint education programs with the University of Missouri.
Case is a two-time CAFNR alumnus with both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural education coming from Mizzou. He received a Master of Business Administration from William Woods University and served in the United States Army.
The NM-REEC encompasses five locations, for a total of 4,200 acres, in northern Missouri: the Cornett Research Farm in Linneus; the Lee Greenley Jr. Memorial Research Farm, Grace Greenley Memorial Research Farm and Ross Jones Research Farm in the Novelty area; and the Thompson Research Farm in Spickard. Case has been part of research projects at the Lee Greenley Jr. Memorial Research Farm over the years.
“I believe in our land-grant mission of empowering people and strengthening our communities and I believe the REECs play a vital role in the application of research findings,” Case said. “In this position, I am looking forward to having the opportunity to be a leader in fulfilling that mission and serving agriculture.”
Walter is a three-time alumnus of the University of Missouri, as he received his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD from the School of Natural Resources in CAFNR. Walter was previously the director of natural resources management for the MOAES and also served as superintendent of the Wurdack Extension and Education Center, and co-superintendent of the Land of the Osages Research Farm, before being named director of the Central Missouri REEC.
Walter will help direct the research, extension and education opportunities at the various properties within the Central Missouri REEC, which includes several farms in and around Columbia. These farms focus on agronomy, soils, horticulture, livestock, agroforestry and forestry research.
“I am excited to take on this new role,” Walter said. “We are poised for innovative changes and continued good work in the MOAES. Working with our partners, we’ll provide a research platform that supports Missouri agriculture and offers an inviting space to engage the surrounding communities.”
Four resident faculty also have been hired at the Fisher Delta REEC – Bradley Wilson, Justin Chlapecka, Justin Calhoun and Chase Floyd. Wilson joined CAFNR as an assistant research professor, where he focuses on developing, funding and conducting field experiments that improve cotton production practices in southeast Missouri. In a new partnership between MU and the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council, Chlapecka will lead rice agronomy research efforts, and also serves as an assistant research professor in the Division of Plant Science and Technology. Calhoun serves as an extension state specialist in soils and cropping systems. He is also an assistant extension professor in the Division of Plant Science and Technology. Floyd will be joining the team early next year as a plant protection specialist and assistant professor.
Kelly Nelson, a professor in the Division of Plant Science and Technology, has been a resident faculty at the Lee Greenley Jr. Memorial Research Farm, part of the Northern Missouri REEC, for more than 20 years. He is now joined by two new resident faulty members, Gurbir Singh and Gurpreet Kaur. Singh is an assistant professor and state extension specialist in applied soil science-agroecology and landscape position management. Kaur is an assistant research professor in the School of Natural Resources.
Jose added that there are plans to add more resident faculty throughout the MOAES.
“To help with that new philosophy, we have invested in bringing in resident faculty who work directly at our farms,” Jose said. “We have great examples of individuals who have been successful in those roles, and it’s exciting to see the new cohort of faculty joining them. We want those faculty to build relationships out in the communities they serve and become the go-to person for any questions our stakeholders have.”