Q&A with Travis Harper

Travis is a field specialist in agronomy.

a man on a bicycle wearing a red helmet and an orange shirt crosses a finish line on a downtown street
A man is bent down collecting samples from the grass and putting them in a container.
Travis collects soil health samples from novel endophyte fescue plots.

What do you do in your current role with the University of Missouri?

I am a field specialist in agronomy. I’m involved in several programs, including Private Pesticide Applicator Training, Missouri Grazing Schools, Heroes to Hives, Native Warm-Season Grass Group, Beginner Farmer/Rancher, Missouri AgrAbility, Master Gardener, and Master Pollinator Steward. I also often work with cover crops, novel-endophyte fescue research and demonstration, and soil fertility.

How long have you worked in this position?

Fifteen years.

What is your favorite part about the work you do?

A large tractor-like piece of equipment is in a field of hay
Travis seeds native warm-season grasses in Warrensburg.

My favorite part about the job is taking research-based practices from the University, presenting them to Missouri farmers, having them trust me enough to implement said new practice, and then having that practice work out for them, improving their operation, their bottom line, and sometimes even their quality of life.  There’s nothing better.

How are you helping MU A&E Extension reach our #2xAg2030 goal?

I work every day helping Missouri farmers increase the productivity on their existing land, decrease expenses involved in crop production, and increase the value of their products. I also work extensively getting new people into agriculture that don’t have a background in agriculture

A group of people stand outside in a grassy field in beekeeper gear.
Travis enjoys teaching veterans about beekeeping as part of the Heroes to Hives program.

and/or have not really been involved in commercial agricultural production previously. One of my favorite things is working with Missouri’s military veterans to take an agriculture-based hobby into more of a commercial endeavor through the Heroes to Hives program.

What is something your CAFNR and MU Extension teammates may not know about you?

I am a competitive gravel cyclist on the weekends. When we were sent home at the beginning of Covid, I put on some weight and decided I needed to get in shape. I always wanted to try mountain biking, so I bought a mountain bike. I loved it but discovered you can only mountain bike about three months out of the year.

In his free time, Travis is a competitive gravel cyclist.

Asphalt roads are scary, so I started cycling on the gravel backroads of Missouri. I bought a new bike, and the owner of the bike shop told me he had a gravel race coming up and I would get a free pint of beer if I completed the race, so I entered and have been doing it ever since. Entering races forces me to train so I don’t embarrass myself. I’m planning on riding the entire Katy Trail this October, and I’m doing a ride from Texas to Kansas in 2023. My most recent race was in Gridley, Kansas, on July 2nd.  It was lightning, pouring down rain and the gravel roads turned into mud. Bikes were getting sunk in the road. More than half of the racers dropped out of the race. I was fortunate that my bike didn’t break down, and I ended up winning that race.

What is your hometown, place of high school graduation and degrees/universities?

My hometown is Talala, Oklahoma, and I graduated from Oologah High School. I received my BS in Extension Education from the University of Arkansas, and my MS in crop, soil and environmental science from the University of Arkansas.