Kate Lambert’s non-farming extended family still talks about the Christmas Eve night when she and her husband unexpectedly had to drive six hours back to their farm to tend to a favorite ewe that was having trouble giving birth.
Lambert never thought twice about her responsibility to their farm and animals.
Across Missouri, farm families like the Lamberts own 90 percent of farms and understand that the farm comes first at certain times of year, such as planting, harvest, lambing or calving. Lambert, who was born and raised within 60 miles of Chicago, admits it took a few years of marriage to her farmer husband, Matt Lambert, to learn and accept the farm’s demands. Today, her commitment to the farm, her husband, two boys and the agriculture industry intertwine.
“I always had these big ambitions of going to law school, sitting in a big office somewhere doing something ‘important,’ whatever that might be,” says Lambert, a loan officer with FCS Financial, part of the Farm Credit System. “Now, the level of fulfillment of working on the farm and working with families at Farm Credit, plus the satisfaction of raising a crop are unmatched. You combine that livelihood with a lifestyle and the way we’re raising our kids. Like any farm family, it’s what our family lives and breathes. I can’t imagine doing anything else or being anywhere else.”
Rooted in Tradition
The Lambert family operates Uptown Farms, a traditional north-central Missouri farm near Laclede. Three generations (grandfather, father and son) work together to grow corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. They also raise commercial Red Angus cattle, registered sheep and Great Pyrenees dogs. The fourth generation – Mace, 6, and Meyer, 3 – gather and sell eggs and sweet corn locally, a tradition their dad started at age 6.
Days on the farm start early and end late, and the Lamberts do as much as they can as a family. That means tractor and combine rides together in spring and fall. The boys help with age-appropriate livestock chores every day. And sometimes “dining out” means a family meal in a cornfield.
“That’s really important for me to take dinner to their dad and take him lunch on Saturdays,” Lambert says. “They need to see that Daddy is working, and he’s not just gone from home.”
Every spring, the tractor shuts down for a few hours to honor Mace and Meyer’s birthdays in May, a busy time for planting. Each boy chooses his favorite restaurant for a weeknight dinner or lunch after church on Sunday. It’s sacred time, Lambert says.
A Labor of Love
The Lambert family loves the land and continually looks for better ways to care for it.
“I’m so proud,” Lambert says. “My father-in-law was one of the first people in Linn County to adopt no-till practices in the late 1980s.”
No-till means planting into the previous years’ crop residue without disturbing the soil. When Matt returned to the farm after college, he expanded on that innovative tradition with the introduction of cover crops, plants grown during the winter months to deter soil erosion and improve soil health.
The cover crops, including turnips and cereal rye, reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the spring and summer, build soil health, and keep their farm focused on the future.
“There are a lot of pieces to true sustainability,” Lambert says, “but nearly all farmers have the ultimate goal of leaving their farm to their children and grandchildren.”