The Popcorn Machine

CAFNR student owns and operates his own business

During his freshman year, Gavin Spoor planted his first crop. Six acres of soybean in Martinsburg, Missouri, about an hour outside of Columbia. Gavin, now a junior and studying agricultural systems management in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, knew he wanted to be a farmer since he was a kid, when he rode tractors with local farmers.

“I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Gavin says. “I just wasn’t sure how to do it.”

With his grandfather, the only other farmer in his family, having passed away before Gavin was born, he had no other connections to the industry. But that didn’t stop him, and with the help of Farm Credit Services of America, Gavin was able to get loans for the equipment necessary to start, and two years after planting that first crop, “Spoor Farms” has grown into his own business, with about 115 more acres.

Originally, Spoor Farms only grew corn and soybeans. Yet because the market for those crops were down, last year Gavin started looking for a new crop to sell. He considered vegetables, but, “being a full -time college student, I didn’t have time to sit out by a vegetable stand all spring and fall.” So instead, Gavin discovered there was a crop that not only had a long shelf life, but also could be farmed with similar equipment used for regular field corn.


Fifteen of Spoor Farms 120 acres are now devoted to growing popping corn, which Gavin both sells in local grocery stores and ships all over the country in sacks, jars, bags, and on “Poppable ears,” or kernels that can be popped and enjoyed right off the cob.

Throughout the development of his business, Gavin has documented his process and shares his story along with messages of encouragement and inspiration to his more than 6,000 followers on Instagram. In his spare time, Spoor also makes trips to local elementary schools and high schools, giving talks and presentations to young students about what he does and how he does it. By showing others the steps involved in his farming process, he hopes to show people “where their food comes from and how we’re trying to grow a safe and healthy food supply..”

With all on his plate, Gavin says balancing his life as a full-time student and life as a farmer/entrepreneur can be difficult. “It’s very hectic,” Gavin says. But friends, study groups and “just having a good support network,” has made it easier.

While Gavin has always wanted to be a farmer, another motivating factor for creating his own business has been to help pay off student loan debt. His advice for those also seeking solutions to their own financial worries is to “get creative” and to take advantages of the opportunities afforded through the internet and social media. “My business probably wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago,” Gavin says.

On Gavin’s Instagram profile, there is currently a quote in his bio which reads “Dreams only work if you do.”

“I love that quote,” he says. “You can have big dreams but if you don’t work to make them real, then it’s just gonna remain a dream.”

Along with growing his business and continuing to educate others, Gavin’s dreams include one day starting a scholarship fund to help get as many people into agriculture as possible, including those who may not have come from a background in farming.

“I want to help kids like me get involved with it also.”